What Are the Benefits of Religion?

18 February, 2018
Q In modern time, religious beliefs and practices have come under attack. We often hear about how religion imposes difficulties and constraints on believers and non-believers alike. But can religion serve to benefit individuals? What does belief in God do for a person and for the larger community around him or her? And what about religions' rituals and practices associated with religion? Do they serve any good? We need to answer those questions.

Answer

Short Answer: Religion affords a sense of direction and objective in life for many people. God created us and made us noble, gave us a purpose, a reason to live, things to live for, and principles to live by. These are all important guiding precepts that are solely found in religion.

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Asalamu Alaikum Safiyyah,

You’re a religious person. What does religion do for you?

We often hear negative things about religion (or bad things so called religious people do), but there must be a reason why people continue to adhere to a religion. 

In my own experiences, there are certain ultimate questions, which couldn’t be answered outside of religion. 

Watch Dr. Shabir Ally’s Answer here

What about the belief in certain values? 

What about our belief that certain things are wrong?

Is there a way of finding that out in the universe?

If we explore the physical world, there is no way of finding out what is wrong or right. Right or wrong are not built into the physical universe.

That could only lay in the belief of God Himself or the knowledge of God Himself, so that when we say that something is right or wrong, we are hoping that our statement, that our belief about what is right or wrong, approximates what is already in the mind of God.

So, there is an objective grounding for what we say is right or wrong.

Otherwise, I can say that something is right and you could say that the same thing is wrong. And there is no way that you or I can prove or disprove each other. 

In fact, worse than this, there is no way that we could actually assure ourselves that what we think is true and right, is actually true and right.

So, how do you explain the fact that we have religious people, people from the same faith, who differ on interpretations of what is good and what is bad?

Yes, we will differ within the same religion and more so between religions.

One religion may say that something is right and the other may say that the same thing is wrong. And then the question is, who is right?

But I am going deeper than this.

I am saying that when each person within his or her religious tradition believes that what they are saying is true, their belief is grounded in the further belief that what they’re saying is true according to what is in the mind of God.

They’re trying to approximate the mind of God. 

So, there is a standard by which one can compare?

There’s an objective standard there. It’s almost like shooting an arrow.

Do you shoot an arrow, then go find where it landed, and draw the target around it and say, “OK, my arrow has hit the target”?

Or do you have an actual target, and then make an effort to hit it?

In the case of religion, when we say that something is right or wrong, we are trying to approximate the mind of God. Therefore, we have a real target we’re trying to hit. 

Whereas, if we didn’t have this, then anyone can say that something is right or wrong. It is as if they’re looking at where their minds lead, and then they’re saying, “OK, where my mind landed is where my target is”.

The mind is the end all, be all.

In religious thought, we’re saying, that it doesn’t matter what the minds of human beings altogether think. That’s like shooting the arrow and then drawing the target around it.

What matters is what is in the mind of God. That is our target. We can approximate that.

Now, in religious thought, we do believe that God has inspired human beings with intellect. And we need this intellect to help us collectively approximate God’s mind.

So, if a few individuals, have an aberrant view; most people together of good clear thinking will actually arrive at moral principles and good conclusions that will approximate the mind of God.

But here too, we’re falling back on the idea that there is a target, the mind of God, that we are trying to approximate.

What are the sort of benefits religion serves, either to individuals or to society as a whole?

Religion, for many people, affords a sense of direction and objective in life.

If we did not have the sense that God created us, then we have to conceive of ourselves as being on one spec within a large galaxy that is our Earth. And it seems that we are here for no reason.

We just happened to develop in a long series of evolutionary processes. And here we find ourselves. And if we want to do something good with our lives, then this is up to us.

Otherwise, we are just here, in a purposeless universe without any clear direction or objective of its own. There is no “have to”. There is no “ought to” built into the universe itself.

So what does that purpose do? How does it invigorate our lives?

To begin with, it gives value to the human being, as the Quran says:

{We have ennobled the children of Adam} (Al-Israa, 17:70)

With this in mind, God created us and made us noble, gave us a purpose, a reason to live, things to live for, and principles to live by.

These are all important guiding precepts that are solely found in religion.

I hope this helps address your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

(From Ask About Islam archive)

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/belief-hereafter-benefits/

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/religion-and-happiness-any-relation/

Why Should a Born Muslim Practice Islam?

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/islam-complete-way-life/

https://aboutislam.net/counseling/ask-about-islam/prove-benefits-prayers-scientifically/

About Dr. Shabir Ally
Dr. Shabir Ally holds a B.A. in Religious Studies from Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, with a specialization in Biblical Literature. He also holds an M.A. and a Ph.D. from the University of Toronto with a specialization in Quranic Exegesis.
He is the president of the Islamic Information and Dawah Centre International in Toronto where he functions as Imam. He travels internationally to represent Islam in public lectures and interfaith dialogues. He explains Islam on a weekly television program called "Let the Quran Speak". Past episodes of this show can be seen online at: www.quranspeaks.com.