There are numerous religions in the world today; some of these have been around for thousands of years and some could be described as new in comparison. And as well as the religions that are clearly definable as religions, there are also other figures and establishments that are serving a very similar purpose.
However, these might not be noticed or perceived as having any similarities to religion.
Before we take a look at what these reasons could be, let’s look at the word religion and its meaning. In the dictionary the world religion comes from the Latin word Ligare and this means to bind.
So then, anything that connects one to something could be classed as a religion based on this meaning.
And as the saying goes ‘The map is not the territory’. Something can be called a religion, but that is just a word and it does not explain much of what is actually going on. It does not explain the psychology that is involved.
The word has gained a somewhat negative meaning over time and this is because of the behaviour of some of the people that have associated themselves with a particular religion.
Religion can be blamed; but it does not take away our own individual responsibility.
Is not important whether one believes in religion or not. The purpose of this is to look deeply at what might be attracting people to associative with religions and at the same time what needs this could be fulfilling within the person.
This is also not to say that what attracts people to religion is always dysfunctional.
It is just like when one is hungry; here one consumes food to appease the sensation of hunger. The desire to eat is not negative or dysfunctional; it is simply a part of life.
However, it would be sensible to look at why one is hungry and also what would attract one to certain foods. Sometimes these will be healthy foods and sometimes these will be unhealthy. One might be attracted to unhealthy foods, but instead of blaming the foods one can look at what is attracting them to the foods. This could be classed as being a conscious eater.
These views are my opinion and I do not claim to have all the answers or the only answers. My interest is not in the legitimacy of any religion or religion per se. What interests me is looking at the psychology of religion.
I believe that through the observation of how the ego mind functions, one will be able to gain a better understanding of religion.
The Ego Mind
This is the part of us that is conditioned by our experiences. Some of these can be traumatic and some of these can have very little effect on our lives. And what these experiences do is form how we perceive reality.
And the way it perceives life is though polarities. Here there are only ever two ways and the whole of life will be perceived through one of these ways. This is the good and the bad; the right and the worn and so on. Existence is then broken up into parts. Life becomes an expression of hierarchy and not wholarchy.
The ego fears change and this is because the only way it can function and exist is through things being the same. It feels safe with what is familiar. And if something were to change; it would mean death to the ego mind.
Its identity and only point of reference is the past and the present moment is always being interpreted based on past experiences.
One of the things that trauma does is create conflict and separation. One feels separate from what they desire and need. What the ego does is project these needs externally.
These needs can consist of the need to feel: connected, empowered, significant and safe; as well as the need for meaning and purpose.
So the ego mind has ultimately been created from pain and trauma. It is not a true expression of who one is. The true self is extremely different to the ego mind. Here one is also the observer of the mind and not the mind itself
But let’s forget about the true self for the moment and let’s continue with the ego mind. Here one has been cut off from who they truly are and is now living from the ego minds perceptions and projections.
A natural consequence is to project all of these needs and wants to an external source. And to the degree that one has not realised something within; will define how much someone looks without.
How Does This Usually Look?
It is not possible to look at every aspect here; so let’s look at the more common occurrences.
Higher Or Lower
With the mind working in polarities and higher being seen as better than lower, it makes complete sense for gods to often exist in the sky. This is because trauma can cause one to identify with their ego and feel inferior and below others. And if this happens and one feels inferior or below another, there will be the tendency to perceive others as being higher or superior.
As the ego fears change and therefore death it then becomes important for religions to promise an afterlife for example. This way the ego mind feels safe and can be sure that there is a tomorrow.
The ego mind also needs certainty and this is part of feeling safe. As if something is different it of course won’t feel safe. This also shows the importance of being right; as if the mind is wrong it could lead to death. And this surely shows why there is often the insistence on one religion being right and another religion being wrong. The individual’s ego is looking for external certainty to calm the uncertainty that is active within.
And if one feels separate from life and cut off internally because of trauma or perception, they will be drawn to anything external that promises connection and a sense of belonging.
Control And Empowerment
Religion is often seen as controlling. And through the different traumas, ones ego mind is likely to feel a lack of control and empowerment. One then needs to do or be more than others to compensate for this inner state. This often becomes a need to control another or others.
And a universal figure or archetype for empowerment is often the male or masculine figure. This of course, shows up in a lot of the different religions. The female or feminine energy typically represents nurturing; so that wouldn’t evoke the same experience that the male figure would do in people.
Purpose And Meaning
It is said that ones purpose and meaning is something one finds within. And is an expression of the heart and not the mind. However one of the things that conditioning and trauma does is cut one off from their heart. Ones attention is then more likely to be focused on the outside world and not on what is going on within.
So this would explain why religion is so popular in terms of purpose and meaning, it gives one what they have perhaps lost touch within or maybe haven’t ever known within.
It is my view that whatever the ego mind creates has very little to do with what is true. And this is because its primary function is to ensure ones survival. What it sees and what it needs from the world will usually be coming from what has not been realised within.
Because everything that is seen externally and this includes what is written in word and what is displayed in symbols, has come from a human beings mind. And this means that it has been filtered through their level of awareness and perception. This is what makes it important to observe the mind and to see how it functions.
That is not to say that religion cannot be a catalyst or a mirror for what is within each of us. It is my current understanding that what is true can only ever come from within. And perhaps there are some religions that do match what is true for people.
Not Just Religion
But let’s not leave this all to religion. As I have mentioned above, there are many things in the world that have the potential to fulfil the same purpose. These include: celebrities, the media, sports teams, governments and relationships.
They all exist because they are fulfilling a need; nothing more nothing less. Each of these external creations simply reflects what is going on within people’s minds and hearts.
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Oliver J R Cooper
Oliver JR Cooper
Author of 26 books, Transformational Writer, Teacher & Consultant.
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That which is contained within these articles is based on my own empirical understanding and is true for me at the time they were written. However, as I continue to grow, what I perceive as the truth will inevitably change and as a result of this - parts of these articles may not reflect my current outlook.