Religion Vis-a-vis Human Nature – In Harmony Or Contradictory

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‍Religion and human nature have always been closely intertwined throughout history. People have long sought to understand the mysteries of life and the universe and have tried to find meaning and purpose in their lives. Religion has been a cornerstone in providing a sense of identity, community, and direction. Most importantly, it is a major remedy to the tragedy of life: death. It has given many a purpose that alleviates the impending sense of doom and fear followed by thoughts of the afterlife. Human nature on the other hand is innate, we cannot escape it, only live it out while our bodies are still active; we often forget that we are only conscious and thinking animals in the end. To put it simply, an abstract concept such as religion requires believing while human nature requires being, yet one compensates the other almost as if one could not make sense without the other. However, their only common point is that they use the human brain to exist. If religion is meant to guide and contain thoughts and actions, then how do religion and human nature co-exist? Can religion be reconciled with the human experience, or does it impose moral codes and rules that are at odds with our basic nature? Exploring the intersection of religion and human nature can help us to better understand the relationship between our faith and our humanity. It can provide insight into how our beliefs and our basic form are intertwined and can help provide a better understanding of how we interact with each other and the world around us.

Defining Religion And Human Nature

Religion is defined as a set of beliefs, cultural codes of conduct, practices that are held with conviction, and serves to provide a sense of meaning and purpose in life. Human nature can be broadly defined as the inherent qualities, attributes, and properties that make us “human.” Such things include our needs, our instincts, our senses, our consciousness, our reactions… The intersection of religion and human nature asks about how our beliefs and humanity are intertwined. Religion is deeply ingrained in our nature and can be a source of both strength and weakness; it is an idea that many hang on to in hopes of making sense of what hasn’t made sense. It also plays a reassuring role in the human scheme of life, paving the way to a supposed better place in the afterlife, and teaching beings how to act following a specific moral code. Understanding religion and human nature can help us develop a better understanding of ourselves and others in the world around us, granting us hypotheses to questions we might have such as: how are we here? How do we exist? Where do we come from? What happens after death? How can we guarantee that we will transcend to a better place after this experience? After the sufferance that is – supposedly – life? Many argue that religion has a defined set of morals and ethics that are now considered the most essential criteria for the functionality of society such as stealing, lying, killing…The list goes on, and everything that might’ve come to mind is most definitely given by religion. It’s about giving the being in this current realm a life and a certain blueprint to help them maneuver the obstacles of life. Moreover, religion differs from spirituality. The first is on a group basis, sharing a set of specific practices and beliefs while the second is more individualistic and does not necessarily require belonging or identifying with an existing entity. It is common to mix them up; one needs to be spiritual to be religious, but not the contrary. Interestingly enough, spirituality combines both human nature and religion. This solitary practice typically delves into a peace-searching adventure, often requiring the exploration of the self and the environment around us to better understand who we are and how we think. It is simply the discovery of the human purpose, or rather, the creation of an answer that might only fit the subject.

Religion: When? What? How?

Humans have long sought to understand the mysteries of life and the universe, and to find meaning and purpose in their lives. There is evidence of religious practices and rituals that date back to prehistoric times. While written history only ever appeared 5000 years ago, there were many other signs of religion, or seemingly types of spiritual rituals belonging to each group of people, depending on their culture and tradition at the time, creating their own belief system. Shamans were perhaps the earliest documented religious practitioners, who served their communities as a healer, a source of wisdom, and spiritual guides. Animals were also an early source of religion, with many cultures finding a spiritual connection to the natural world, particularly toward animals that symbolized certain characteristics, like the wolf representing courage. Early humans who lived in tribal communities developed systems of belief that reflected their connection to the world around them. They used rituals and practices to access the spirit realm and communicate with the spirits to gain insight, seek protection, and provide guidance. Religion provided a means of community healing, social cohesion, and identity. The questions about the space around us and the reason why we are who, where, and why we are have been present for as long as we have. And while the world has evolved and changed in the past several thousand years, the structure of belief remains the same. We’ve been looking for peace, reassurance, and comfort for as long as we’ve existed, and religion or any other type of belonging is one of many concepts that has been successful for many. 

Human Nature: When? What? How?

Roughly two million years ago, the first human being appeared on Earth. Whether he came through Darwin’s theory of evolution which discusses the development of the human body and mind from animal form to human form, or through the Adam and Eve religious theory that describes a heaven-based event of eating the forbidden apple and ending up on the planet we inhabit today, will forever be a debate. Nevertheless, the interesting aspect of it is that both explain clearly human nature. The latter, by definition, is the psychological and social characteristics of the species, especially in contrast with the world around them. Some of these characteristics include need, instinct, empathy, fear, introspection, knowledge, control…The list goes on, describing the attributes of a person. How does human nature function in society? Don’t we hold features that aren’t compatible? Within the same body, ego and soul are found. The first thrives on fear as it feeds off one’s perception of the self in a bigger realm, and the second is fueled by love, allowing us to experience the better parts of life. The balance between both, not perfectly divided, is backed by our perceptions and personalities, which is why we are all the same yet not at all. The complexity of the human being is almost too extreme for us to comprehend, with varying factors depending on other varying factors, we can never lessen the prevalent importance of human nature, as it is found at the root of all good and evil. 

Examining the Intersection of Religion and Human Nature

Religion and human nature are both complex and deeply intertwined aspects of our experience. Religion has climbed its way up to our top priorities, a member of the big titles of life. By providing a sense of relief and comfort, many have depended on it, finding peace within belief. It has been a source of strength and weakness in our lives, the daily experience often contradicting the words written in the books of believers. Human nature lives within each and every one of us, every individual dissecting his own life in search of meaning. One of our best attributes as a species is knowledge. The biggest difference between religion and human nature is that the first is exclusively based on believing something that cannot be seen, and the second is factually present within us. Therefore, the intersection of religion and human nature asks about how our beliefs and humanity are intertwined. How exactly do they differ? Do they really co-exist? Based on research conducted by Richard Allan Green, “religion comes naturally, even instinctively, to human beings.” Interestingly, one of the attributes of human nature is fear. Due to the power of knowledge and conscious thinking, we have quickly developed questions about the world around us, wanting to make sense of the creations we perceive. And so, opinions were split; some remain skeptical about religion and seek a sense of comfort elsewhere, while others follow what they consider holy. Nevertheless, it is human nature that has led us to believe in religion. Moreover, as previously mentioned, our egos and souls are essential in the equation. Religion supposedly feeds the soul, granting this sense of peace within belief, feeling safe in the present as the future gets established somewhere intangible. Egos, on the other hand, are a whole different story. We’ve always spoken about the ego, using it to justify certain negative actions that happened. Based on Freud’s work on psychoanalysis, also found in fictive literature, we come to learn that our egos are divided into 3 categories: the id, the ego, and the superego. In relation to Petrarch’s theory of Humanism, placing the human being at the center of the universe, we delve into the concept of the God complex. First, it is important to discuss the variables of ego; the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind containing all animal-like characteristics such as violence and sexual desires. The superego, otherwise known as the ideal self, is the part that tackles ethics and morals, creating positive images of the self, and presenting us with the best version of who we could be. The ego is the mediator of both, it is the most realistic and human part of us, dominating a lot of our choices and behaviors. Second, the way that this can be linked with both religion and humanism, is through the study of what is known as the God complex. God, or Allah, or whatever higher power we believe in, represents a powerful and superior energy. When a human being experiences a god complex, it backs up the school of humanism by showcasing a case of an inflated sense of infallibility and privilege in comparison to others. Isn’t it interesting how as a species we can experience a perception typically generated by fear, known as religion, that mentions the presence of this superior power called God, and that we humans who are supposedly his creation, are experiencing what we see him as? In simpler words, do we sometimes experience this god complex because of the image we have of him? Or is it purely an egotistical, and so natural, instinct to feel better than everyone else, almost at the level of God himself? And in the case where we do not believe in religion, and justify our intense feelings as the interception of the superego, ego, and id, how does our nature make us who we are?

Religion And Human Nature In Modern Times

Our world is experiencing an unprecedented shift in religious and cultural diversity. This has created an interesting and valuable opportunity to explore the intersections of these aspects of our lives. Understanding how religion and human nature are intertwined can help us to have a better understanding of the dynamics and diversity in our world. It can also help us to have a better understanding of how we can have more productive and meaningful interactions with one another. Human nature has always been a source of wonder, curiosity, and exploration. It has long been debated as to whether human nature is inherently good or bad, or if it is a combination of both. One cannot define what is good or bad, as it is a very subjective matter based on perception. Today, the world has evolved in many ways deemed unethical, immoral, and sinful. What has been abolished in the holy books, such as the LGBTQ community members, is now an accepted and normalized identity in some parts of the world. Human nature has pushed for more research and interpretation, trying to keep both religion and nature in the same bubble. This is currently happening, and the interesting part of it is that the exclusivity of both is gradually thinning, making it possible to be religious and to abide by the things we cannot change. This has led to a deeper understanding and seeking of the beyond, without discriminating against anyone, and has led to the rediscovery and reinterpretation of many ideas that have been adapted to modern times. This has created a more accepting and welcoming environment, only in some cases, granting anyone the chance to join a group with similar beliefs.

Conclusion – Key Take Away

There has always been an intersection of religion and human nature. Our beliefs and humanity are both complex and deeply intertwined aspects of our experience. There are many ways of exploring the relationship between both, taking into consideration time and space, human nature’s varying factors such as personality and the subcategories of the ego, religion’s differing interpretations, other philosophical theories to combine both, and an endless amount of probabilities. In the end, we realize that everything is linked and that one can find a common cell in every filament. Whether religion and human nature come hand in hand or if they’re incompatible depends on who’s checking and on what idea or perception is used to identify the mentioned points. 

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