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wundayatta's avatar

What does your religion do for you?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) October 10th, 2011

Over the years, I have gradually stopped (except for rare occasions) trying to argue with people about the validity or sense of their religion. In my experience, this never is productive. It is mostly an exercise in letting loose my inner attack dog. It’s a small dog, but every once in a while, he does get loose.

I have found it much more interesting to find out from people what their religious beliefs do for them. I have found that when I do this, there is more commonality than difference. It’s just that I do similar things in different ways. The major difference seems to be in the need to proselytize. Even then, maybe we are similar. Sometimes I want to proselytize and other times I don’t need to. I’m not sure what causes the change. Maybe it’s just a need for entertainment, since I know proselytizing makes no difference.

I really want people to stick to the subject of what they get out of religion. I don’t want anyone to argue with anyone about this. There is no right and wrong about feelings. You feel what you feel and no one should tell you otherwise (although if your religion wants to argue with feelings and that helps you, then let us know).

But this is personal, not argumentative. Be specific. How does your religion help you? Has it saved your life? If so, how? What was the circumstance. Has it given you a connection with the numinous? If so, how? What were the circumstances of this experience? Please don’t tell us what happened. Show us!

For example, please don’t say “I felt God.” Show us what you felt. Was it in your chest? Your head? Was it a buzzing? A knowing? Did you feel full? Or were your insides pulled out? Was it like being run over by a truck? Or a giant marshmallow? I’m not making fun—I’m just trying to give examples of images that will get to the feeling more than an interpretive word like “God” which means very different things to different people.

In fact, I will ban words from answers such as “god,” “soul,” “spirit,” “jesus” (or any other name of a deity), or words that are names or interpretations. I want experience, not interpretation.

Sorry for being so long. It’s important for me to frame this question in such a way that I can understand. I feel pretty stupid sometimes because I never had religion growing up and I have little experience. So treat me as a young child—very naive—who wants to understand what you feel and what that does for you.

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12 Answers

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. What you call religion I call my relationship, what id does for me is keep me grounded so you and everyone else will not get played or worse. If I thought it was just me and so long as no one discovers how I f***** you over, you would be at every opportunity. My true man nature would be full front and center. I would no more care about you only in the sense you can help me get to where I wanted even if you were duped into it. I would be out for me and the few I cared for, the rest of you would be in the way and needing to be squashed out of the way or broomed aside if you were not a plus to my agenda. My relationship teaches me that I cannot live my life like that because the byproduct or cause and effect of doing so will be quite costly.

snowberry's avatar

I feel at peace pretty much all the time. There are times when I lose my cool (like when I was felt up by the TSA people), but when I sort things out and get over the drama I find that peace was there for me even for those times, if I had just paid attention.

GabrielsLamb's avatar

Thankfully, I gave that up for lent a long time ago.

Paradox1's avatar

My Catholic faith provides me with strength and wisdom in daily living. Despite wanting to change, I never really did until I started reading the Bible again (Wisdom, Proverbs, Sirach). I can say without a doubt that building my faith and discipline through and because of my religion has helped me infinitely in all aspects of daily living. I am able to discern what is important and what is trivial in this life. I am able to practice self-control and therefore long-term happiness. I don’t worry unnecessarily and most of the time I am at perfect peace with who I am and where I am in this life. I have done in 6 months what before I could not do in 6 years.

My strength comes from God alone, and my glory will be in the fear of the Lord.There is no other way for me to say this w/o using the word “God,” but I suppose you could substitute other religions here, as there are many paths.

To some this may sound extreme, and maybe you think I am a religious nut. But I am honestly normal just like everyone else, (maybe with a higher drive and motivation) and I try my best not to judge others as everyone begins their journey’s in various different places. If you were to see and talk to me in the street you would notice my good qualities without even thinking of them as being the result of my religion, though of course they are also the result of other things as well (upbringing, school, etc).

I can confidently say that in my heart and mind, God exists beyond any doubt, and honestly, that is all that matters.
We have the power over the worlds we create. In order to be more religious and have a sense of God, all you need is the tiniest spark of desire, and hold on to it until one day that spark becomes a roaring blaze.

saint's avatar

Since I have none, nothing.

MRSHINYSHOES's avatar

Nothing. I don’t really have a religion.

wundayatta's avatar

@Paradox1 What does God feel like inside you? What images do you imagine when you speak of glory or fear of the Lord? Notice I do not ask what you think God is. This is more about the emotions that your idea of God provides you. For example, you say your religion gives you perfect peace. Does this happen automatically, or do you have to do some kind of practice in order to achieve this peace? And what does peace feel like in your life? Are there specific situations you can describe that would illustrate how you found peace and how it helped you at that point in life?

Paradox1's avatar

I don’t really think of images when I speak of those things. It is more of a belief that exudes strength and confidence. The peace comes from knowing that I have faith and trusting everything will be okay. You don’t need religion for this, but I think it does help. I guess I had to practice worrying less and trusting more in the beginning, but now its mostly automatic. For example I have a major life decision to make coming up, but I trust that God with furnish me with understanding for what is best for me and that everything will be just fine – I also know that I don’t know much, so that is why I feel it is important to have a sense of peace and trust in something outside of myself. When I start to worry I remember that I am whoever I want to be and God has given me this power of free will and strength to make circumstance rather than be the victim of it – then I worry less and am filled with serenity in this knowledge. I do constantly fear things… not fear God directly usually (tho at times), but more it is a fear of “what if I hadn’t learned what I learned, what if I was living this life unconsciously, what if I didn’t have my family” and it is a fear out of realizing how blessed I am and how it could be worse. So its sort of an appreciative fear. The other thing is that I am always (now) very appreciative for what I have, and that has made all the difference in the world. I may not be living my ideal life, but I am no longer unhappy in my situation, and its not because I’ve settled but rather because I’ve had the attitude of going with the flow of life (trust in God) rather than butt my head against it, recognizing that what I know is nowhere near complete and there is a reason as long as I stay devout and dedicated in my work while making proper decisions. Another thing if I could add is that the discipline I have found from trying to sin less has helped me lose weight, shed fat, and succeed in almost all other things that require self-discipline. These are not independent of each other.

Hope that helps

wundayatta's avatar

@Paradox1 That is very helpful. I find that it has many similarities to things I do in my life.

Your description is very helpful in giving me an understanding of what this Idea of God does for you. There is, I’m sure, a story in how you came to see this Idea as helping you find the coping mechanisms you have found. What you have said so far gives more complexity to this Idea. It works for you.

Again. Thank you.

Scooby's avatar

My religion is me, my family & very close friends, they have all played a part in saving my life over the years, Independently & jointly in one form or another……. I look to them when I need guidance, I have no time for religious twaddle, I’m a realist you see :-/

thorninmud's avatar

My religion functions as a prod in my life. It’s a regular, reliable call to wakefulness, without which I might be inclined to settle back into my old torpor or surrender to complacency.

But, because of my religion, I can’t do that. I regularly take vows reminding me of the unending effort I owe to the world. I have an institutional connection to a long line of predecessors who modeled a life of compassionate attention. I have people who will hold me accountable for living up to my commitments.

I’m naturally inclined to the kind of introspection and inquiry that’s formalized in Zen practice. In retrospect, I see that I was doing Zen before I ever actually got involved with the institution of Zen. But going up against one’s cherished ideas of self —which is what honest inquiry ultimately requires of us—pushes us where we really don’t want to go. Knowing my own weaknesses, were it not for the constant prodding of my religion I would have just taken an open-ended break from the work when I saw what it was going to require. I think that’s the case with most Zen practitioners I know.

Paradox1's avatar

@wundayatta First, you’re very welcome! and second, I guess the story is my life up until now. I was depressed after graduating from college, moving back home (with parents), becoming a psuedo-acloholic and anti-social. But now that has all changed, and honestly my life has never looked brighter than it does now. I say this not to boast but I firmly FIRMLY believe that proper actions and right thought lead to good results. So many people want an easy life and don’t want to work for what they want. It doesn’t make any sense because they simply cannot appreciate these things without understanding what they mean through effort. This goes for tangibles as well as intangibles, like religion. Of course things take time, but this is as it should be, and now I can value the good that comes my way as my mind is so much more open and appreciative of every little thing. I am not saying that what I found will help anyone, but the two single books that helped me the most were Sirach from the Bible (words of wisdom to live by) and As Man Thinketh by James Allen. (self-improvement and empowerment through thought)

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