Hope is fundamental for the survival and progression of the human race, and yet is not often given the credit it deserves. In an age filled with science and reasoning, leading to an ever increasing backlash against religion, some of us like to think we can get by just by believing in logic. I used to be one of those people, who valued facts above all else. The problem is, the reason for our existence has not and may not ever be proven. There are no statistics to show how we should be spending our time, and no textbooks that teach us how to carry out our ultimate purpose. Therefore, logic would state that due to a lack of proof, there is no reason for humankind to be in existence. The formation of life was one big coincidence and our existence is a chance occurrence.
As I started to see the world this way, I realised that our lives would therefore not be at all profound. What may seem like a millennial joke, ‘having an existential crisis’, highlights an issue that runs deeper than we could ever imagine. More and more people, like me, have turned to science as we learn more about the world around us, but in science there is no comfort. Numbers are hardly going to tuck you in at night or make you feel valued. It led to a Big Problem occupying my mind: if there’s no real reason to be alive, what part of existing is meant to feel worthwhile?
And this is where I believe religion can ride in as a knight in shining armour. Although there are aspects to organised religion that I believe are more negative, one big positive is that the fundamental belief in a God provides people with this exciting magical elixir filled with hope. There is someone to pray to for guidance when times get hard, and someone to listen to how we feel when no one else will. There is purpose in the universe that demands we be good people. I believe that this aspect of religion is invaluable – one that gives people reason as to why they exist and provides life with this amazing and inherent purpose.
This creation of massive belief systems seems to stem from a very important part of our consciousness. In believing that there is a great truth that we are living for, or an important goal we must be fulfilling, life is given more meaning and purpose – or, at least, we believe it is. Whilst religion is extremely fascinating to me, I have come to realise that beyond the dogma of organised religion, it is the belief itself that is often necessary to many people, as this belief provides hope which allows us as humans to function. This is what I can completely understand and respect about religion, even as an atheist.
My own personal belief lies in hope. I believe that it doesn’t particularly matter whether we exist for a reason or whether we don’t. What matters more is how we get by. If somebody can accept the apparent lack of evidence for objective purpose behind our existence and still feel hopeful, or if for someone believing in a God is what fills them with hope and allows them to live their lives to the full, then why does it matter whether there really is a true meaning to our existence?
Belief, and the belief in hope, acts as a bridge between us as people and whatever the objective truth may be. Regardless of whether people’s personal beliefs about our purpose differ from each other, it still remains that our own beliefs are the structure supporting and guiding us to that answer. Even if God doesn’t exist, the strength of belief that the religious hold perseveres. Whether only within the minds of believers or part of objective reality, I believe we have to accept that their faith gives their lives powerful meaning and purpose. Some can get by without religion, but for others it provides an inner peace that keeps them going.
Life goes by so fast as time flies, yet it also feels like a marathon, where we keep running and running towards an uncertain victory that may forever be undetermined. Whatever will keep our legs going to the finish line, regardless of the ‘true’ answer, is the right answer to me.