University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Religion A Means to an End or Just a Delusion
Over the years, people have held different opinions about religions around the world. Many believe in the existence of a divine being like God, while others worship idols and other images that they consider as their god(s), without concrete proof that these beings do exist. Based on the statement by Sigmund Freud that “Religion comprises a system of wishful illusions together with a disavowal of reality”, one may come up with several arguments about religion. This notion held by Freud, which he contends that religion is merely a human delusion forms the basis of this paper among other views. It is in human nature to seek and understand the meaning of life and through the use of intangible concepts, religion attempts to provide answers to satisfy human curiosity.
Burke believed that different religions provide a framework by which people can understand the meaning of human life and the world. Each religion prescribes possible remedies to correct what it views to be fundamentally wrong and unsatisfactory about people’s existence (Burke 126), making religion an attractive way to attain satisfaction in life. However, the basis of such remedies lies in a realm that is transcendent of ordinary human experience, that is, more on the realm of supernatural (Burke 141). For example, monotheistic religions point to a supreme being who judges which people gets eternal life based on their obedience to his law. Religions of Indian origin on the other hand, provide an escape from an eternal destiny of suffering and limitation brought by the unending cycle of birth, death and rebirth (Burke 161). Such influential notion that obedience to a religion could give fulfillment may cause people to accept and believe in religious concepts wholeheartedly, without tangible proof.
Monotheistic religions describe an omnipotent and omniscient supreme being who governs human life through a set of laws. Believers may seek solace, comfort and the purpose of life by obeying this set of rules, often to gain good judgment from their God. However, such belief in a supreme being is typically based on human faith rather than concrete evidence of divine existence. For example, people in these religions believe that their God created the Earth and therefore, human existence. This notion can be challenged by modern scientific theories that explain the origin of the universe and human existence through logical and factual means, such as the Big Bang theory for the origin of the universe and evolution for how humans came to be.
Religions of Indian origin deal with the cycle of birth, death and rebirth. Rebirth is the religious or philosophical idea that the spirit or soul, after natural death, can start another life in another body (Burke 163). This never-ending cycle is brought by human’s self-centered desire, and brings eternal suffering to humans. Human existence therefore is to liberate one’s spirit from an egocentric self to end the cycle of birth, death and rebirth and free oneself from suffering (Burke 236). This largely deals with the spiritual dimension and is nothing more than a philosophical concept, which again is based on human belief and not concrete evidence. There has been no account of people who have been reincarnated, or proof that a soul does exist. It is another way to explain the meaning of life, which gives people purpose of living.
In conclusion, people hold different views about religion. In any case, religious views are just analogies, by the assistance of which we attempt to comprehend a shared phenomenon. However, the absence of convincing proof for the existence of God and the soul, and the presence of more plausible explanations for religious phenomena, prompts Freud and other skeptics to dismiss religion as merely a human delusion.
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