Psychological Self-Help

Navigation bar
  Home Print document View PDF document Start Previous page
 11 of 49 
Next page End Contents 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16  

meanings of life. If a person neither accepts the values and morals of
his/her family/community/church nor develops his/her own value
system, the rest of us may suffer in the form of crime, abuse,
violence, inconsiderateness, and selfishness. Thus, I believe we all
have a grave responsibility to decide upon and live by our own (but an
acceptable) set of morals. 
It may be that religions have not given us nearly as many morals
and values as commonly believed (although religion has obviously
given believers some meaning, in the sense that, for Christians,
believing in Christ and following "God's word" is thought to lead to
everlasting life). There is evidence that religions gradually incorporate
a society's morals and ambitions into what is proclaimed to be God's
will (rather than correcting society's wicked ways). Thus, a pacifist
religion--"turn the other cheek"--founded by the "Prince of Peace" has
repeatedly supported religious crusades, wars for economic gain, and
"just wars" wanted by leaders or the people. Even though it appears
that religions did not "invent" good morals, religions remain very
strong, far from dead. In fact, for believers, religion amply satisfies the
four powerful needs for meaning, e.g. purpose, directing many lives
and promising salvation and less fear; values, telling us what is right
and wrong; efficacy, offering the power of prayer and some feeling of
control over life and death, and self-worth, including feeling superior
to others and being loved, favored, and chosen by God. Religion helps
people handle life's misfortunes and our enormous fear of death. For a
brilliant analysis of religion's crucial role in denying death, read Becker
(1974). Religion also provides a sense of belonging and a social
support system. The payoffs of religion are so fantastic that if you
believe in a religion, it is extremely threatening to even question it, let
alone give up its alleged advantages. 
God is a delicate issue because some people need religion but
others do not. The realist must ask: Did an omnipotent God create
man or did insecure, frightened people create Gods? Most people
might give a knee-jerk answer but thoughtful consideration of this
question takes months or years. How you answer that question will
influence your behavior somewhat, particularly in terms of church
attendance, reliance on prayer, contributions to church activities and
buildings, and perhaps other ways. But your basic value system may
not change at all: People are just as honest, caring, gentle, good, etc.
when they no longer believe in God as when they did. Religion is not
the only basis for being considerate of others, being faithful,
unprejudiced, and living in harmony. These values are simply
reasonable and beneficial. With or without a religion, we all have the
same four needs to meet and most of the same moral choices to
make. We can find meaning for our lives without religion. We won't all
arrive at the same meaning, but we can, with effort, all be good and
do good in our own way. There is no one true meaning of life. Perhaps,
as Baumeister says, "the quest for meaning, not the answer, is the
real miracle of life." 
Previous page Top Next page

« Back