Religion is a complicated and loaded topic. On the one hand, a great many wars and violent conflicts have arisen due to religious differences. People have died, atrocities have been committed, and suffering has been caused, all because of differing belief systems. On the other hand, religion is also a source of great strength, community, and solace in the world. How can one idea have such different impacts, depending on context? The answer is also complicated, but, basically, humans and histories intertwine in ways we couldn’t possibly predict to weave seemingly impossible narratives. Some people see Jesus Christ as a beacon for compassion and love, while, in another time, belief in the tenets of Christianity led to the crusades.
Regardless, the truth remains that religion is the source of a great deal of strength and fortitude for many people the world over, and for good reason. Actually, for a number of good reasons. If you’re curious what some of the reasons are that inspire people to turn to faith and religious doctrine as away to make sense of the world, read on.
1. Enjoying Traditions and Rituals
One major reason that people turn to religion as adults is because they were raised within a faith tradition. If you were raised by parents who took you to Mass every Sunday, you’re probably going to take comfort in that as well. Also, if you were raised in a family that takes pride and finds meaning in religious traditions or rituals (keeping Kosher, celebrating Diwali, fasting during Ramadan, and more), you are more likely to find meaning or feel comfortable within those traditions and rituals as well.
If you were baptized, you may want your children to be baptized as well. You may find yourself perusing the wares of a church supply store looking for communion candles or Bibles for your family to use. You may celebrate Christmas with more of a focus on the teachings of Christ and less on the gift-giving aspect (although that’s a fun tradition to keep as well!), say, by attending a Christmas Mass. There’s certainly no shame in enjoying the ritualistic aspect of religion, and if that speaks to you, it’s not a bad idea to find strength in the rituals you were raised with.
2. Searching for Guidance
There are plenty of moments in life when we just don’t know who to turn to. We may feel that our family and friends are being too judgmental or that they just don’t have the expertise we need to get the answers we’re looking for. In these moments, a lot of people find comfort in turning to a person of the cloth to get guidance and advice.
For example, if you’ve recently gone through a divorce and are looking for guidance on how to move forward, finding guidance with your rabbi or pastor isn’t a bad idea at all. Actually, the leaders at your church, synagogue, temple, or mosque may be able to point you in the direction of someone in the community who is a counselor or an attorney who can help you through this time. They may know other people who have also have to face their first Christmas after a divorce, so that you don’t have to be alone during the holiday season.
3. Looking for Community
One reason that many people look for religion in their lives is to find a community of like-minded people to spend time with. Not only that, if you’re going through an exciting or difficult time, you may want to share that time with people who understand your spiritual frame of mind. There’s something about spending time with people of the same faith tradition that makes things easier—they just get you.
Often, couples who are trying to figure out how to conceive a baby want to surround themselves with other folks who may be struggling with conception as well. It can be so discouraging to be around people who seem to get pregnant by looking at one another across the room, especially when you’re on your third round of IVF (in vitro fertilization). Plenty of religious institutions host community support groups for people facing all kinds of challenges. You’d be surprised how much strength you can get from speaking to someone (or a lot of people) who understands both your spiritual outlook and your struggle.
4. Seeking Solace
Sometimes, the struggles are hard to understand and make logical, which is why people may turn to religion for a sense of a divine plan. Even if your loved one is incarcerated, or has been accused of a crime, if you believe that it’s all a part of God’s plan for the world, that can give you a sense of solace. If you need to find out how to see if someone is in jail, you don’t want to be doing it without the strength that a faith community or a belief in God can give you.
Incarceration is a tragedy, and it can have a dire impact on a whole community’s wellbeing, not to mention the psyche of the incarcerated individual. There are hardly terms with which to describe the brokenness that people who have been in jail or prison often experience. Nevertheless, many people find their way back to a faith tradition while locked up as well. There are also plenty of practicing religious people in the prison system and many prison chaplains to serve their needs. This just goes to further prove that religious values can serve people, regardless of how difficult their circumstances may be.
Religion has myriad facets, and it’s hard to talk about why people choose religion in their lives without understand the strength that comes from believing. The truth is that we need one another, and we need people who understand where we’re coming from in order to believe that they can stand by us once we find where we’re going. We also need to believe that, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the world does make sense. Sometimes, knowing that God has a plan can make everything that much easier to handle.