The Riddle of Religion


Bahram G
by Bahram G

Religion is a riddle that has been, in one form or another, with humanity for a long time. It is the center of life, if not life itself, to some, while some see it as the culprit for much of mankind’s suffering. Interestingly enough, although everyone seems to know what religion is, in actuality there is a huge divergence of views regarding the specifics of religion.

Perhaps it is useful to attempt to de-mystify this riddle called religion and examine it as objectively and rationally as we can. I fully realize that the subject of religion is extremely emotional, complicated, and it does not lend itself easily to unbiased and calm discourse. Yet being of the view that the difficulty of a challenge does not constitute the necessary and sufficient grounds for not attempting to solve it, I am calling on the collective wisdom of everyone to take a whack at it. We may not be able to solve this riddle of religion, but we all may end up with a greater insight. Below are some questions that should serve as starters for this discussion. They are neither exhaustive nor are they listed in the order of importance.

* What constitutes religion?

* What are the criteria that qualify one as divine religion as opposed to man-made religion or cult?

* What are the costs and benefits of religion and which is greater?

* Should humanity choose a religion from among the myriads in the marketplace? How and which one?

* Should humanity consensually create the Universal Declaration of Religion that would establish a uniform set of standards on moral and spiritual matters?

* Should religion and the state be one and the same? This arrangement would give religion the power to enforce its prescriptions and proscriptions.

* Would humanity be better served by completely ridding itself of any and all religions?

So you have it. Take a go at it. Let us have fun, share our thoughts and feelings as openly as we care to do so while refraining from attacks that would run the risk of making this discussion a free-for-all exercise in mud-slinging.


Bahram G


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anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

i could feel your words.  doesn't matter what your god is called or the particulars of your own faith.  it's simply that it IS.  and that it sustains you.  i wonder sometimes if i am jeopordizing my soul by being selective about the rituals that i partake in.  i know it's a kind of double standards and hypocritcal (which is my absolute WORST pet peeve). lie to me and i accept that much quicker than being a hypocrite.  but yet i have to confess that i am somewhat one of one as far as my beliefs are concerned.  am i going to hell?  i don't know.  it scares me sometimes.  so i try not to think about it.  :-)



by capt_ayhab on

We see indoctrination in most every aspect of our lives. To some we are privy, such as the example you mentioned. To some we are not so, they rather take more sublime form. From daily advertisements in TV and radio, to cultural values and as you said to religion.

I suppose to certain degree, that is part of learning process for a person. Learning process of conformity? Learning process of fitting in?

What ever you name it, it is a major part of what we are and what we become. Though in some aspects it might take more evil form, such as any form of religious extremism, or social nonconformity. It all depend on the recipient of the so called [indoctrination], as far as his/her vulnerabilities, or acceptance levels are. Some take these teachings at their face value and to the letter. We see this phenomena in any and all  fringe groups, being religious or social, Being Muslim, Christian or Jew.

As to my personal beliefs, when I was younger I used to be more devout, in the sense that I used to think, and to some degree i still do, that it gives me peace and harmony. As I got older, my beliefs has taken an peculiar shape. In on hand my core beliefs have become stronger and deeper. May be because I have read so much about it and its meanings. 

But on the other hand, my adherence to the rituals and the rules of my faith has diminished greatly. This is not because I see them as hindrance to my daily activities, but rather I found myself preforming those rules and rituals were taking a form of [auto pilot] without me having any role in guiding them. There is though one exception to all the rules and rituals[prayers], and that is fasting. I find it to be medically and socially beneficial to me as a person.

Today when I read Qur'an, I read it as I am reading a text book, I try to find rhyme and reason, and most importantly to find relevance to today's ills and problems in my own small world.

Does my faith still give me a point of reference in my life? Does it give me the solid [rock] surface to go to when I feel I am cut-off from everything else?

My answer is  YES



anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

in and of itself, isn't a bad thing.  the marine corp indoctrinates new recruits to emphasize teamword, discipline and commitment.  forget trying to generalize how they brainwash or to speak critically of the marine corp to me.  i read every book on it... i stood outside parris island gate for a peek of my son everyday... and i believe 100% in the concept of the marine corp.  (this is getting way off track... maybe another blog on military????).  i believe that religion does the same thing to a certain extent.  the constant repetitions... the ingrained traditions... it's BRED into you.  good god... we even went to parochial summer camps!  but to this day, those memories... those instinctive gestures or thoughts... are the glue that hold me to my faith.  even amidst the modern conflictions.  maybe BECAUSE of the conflictions i feel about my faith and a scientific world.  i'm not critical of anyone who doesn't prescribe to my faith... or any faith at all.  to each their own.  i just know that it brings peace to my heart and soul to believe in something bigger and better than myself.

what is the glue that keeps you faithful cap'n?



by capt_ayhab on

All due respect, every believer of every faith makes the same claim. What makes yours different?





by capt_ayhab on

I learn a lot from your arguments on the subjects. Please go right ahead and I am sure it will be insightful as always.




Peace can only be achieved....

by Seagull9 (not verified) on

If everyone (the whole world) accepts the baha'i teaching, it is only then, the peace will come. So everybody is invited to INVESTIGATE THE TRUTH and accept God BAHA'U'LLAH.

anonymous fish

kurtz was also interested in the concept of "memes"

by anonymous fish on

as it related to customs and traditions.  something he considered as indoctrination of the young by traditional religious beliefs, by christians and muslims and jews.   there certainly is truth to that but i also feel it's one of the strongest aspects of a religion as well.  contradictory... i know.  can i argue for AND against?  :-0


Will religion disappear?

by capt_ayhab on

It was predicted by scientists and rationalists at the end of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries that religion would eventually disappear.

This surely has not happened, and perhaps the opposite is more true. Each year three events take place that certainly is manifestation of depth of the religion in human life and history.

One event is gathering of Hindu faith by the banks of Ganges River in accordance to ancient religious ritual. Latest event was attended by over million people.

The second of is the re‑exhibition at a cathedral in Turin of the shroud that Jesus was allegedly wrapped in and buried. A huge number of visitors have come from all over the world to view the Shroud of Turin.

The third and surely the most impressive of events is annual gathering of Muslim in Mecca. According to estimates there were 3 million Muslim congregated in Mecca in recent past.

Religion is one of the most pervasive and enduring characteristics of human culture. Although logic and science dismisses that fact that preforming either one these annual religious rituals will guarantee entrance to [Heaven] or [Paradise], but usually such argument will be dismissed by devout Muslims, Christians and Hindus who preform these rituals.

Question is: Why do people believe in these religious claims?

Most of the classical religious beliefs emerged in a pre-scientific era before the application of the methods of science. Unfortunately, the origins of the venerated ancient religions are often buried by the historical time.

The answer was put forth best by Paul Kurtz,
according to him:

[The ancient religions of prophecies and revelations—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—all claim that God intervened at one time in history, spoke to Moses and the prophets, resurrected Jesus, or communicated through Gabriel to Mohammed. Skeptics maintain that the key claims have never been adequately corroborated by reliable independent eyewitnesses. The so-called sacred books no doubt incorporate the best theological and metaphysical yearnings of ancient nomadic and agricultural societies, and they often express eloquent moral insights by the people of that time; yet they hardly can withstand the sustained critical examination by objective inquirers. The narratives of alleged supernatural intervention that appear in the Bible and the Koran were at first transmitted by oral traditions after the alleged facts occurred. They were written down by second- or third-hand sources, many years and even decades later. They most likely weave into their parables dramatic renditions bordering on fiction, and written by passionate propagandists for new faiths. These sacred books promise believers another world beyond this vale of tears. Their messages of salvation were attractive to countless generations of poor and struggling souls endeavoring to overcome the blows of existential reality. Believers ever since have accepted them as gospel truth; after centuries they became deeply ingrained in the entire fabric of society. Indeed, the great monotheistic religions were eventually intertwined with the dominant political, military, and economic institutions and were enforced by both priestly and secular authorities.]

With exception of some fringe cults and branches, ancient religions, although ambiguous in teachings, provided an answer to the unknowns of the life and the environmental surrounding them. By believing in a powerful and invisible being, who CREATED the universe and life, people satisfied their thirst for knowledge. At the same time they took refuge in the all powerful and divine BEING from the harms of the nature.




Well, Oprah gave us Dr. Phil

by Anonymousmoi (not verified) on

and Dr. Phil gave us Octomom! How can we thank you dear Oprah for what you have done to us!
You get a car, you get a car!

anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

it's always welcome when your comments are read and understood and appreciated by an author!!! 

people who don't have faith never "get it".  they refer to books or people as the guideline by which religious people live.  it's so much more. i'm far far from a bible-thumper but sometimes it's like a wave that flows over and through me.  my sister lost her 15 year old son several years ago and once i asked her how she got through it... how could she get through another day.  her answer was her faith.  i could never understand that.  i'm afraid sometimes that i might be put to the test and fail.  i'm afraid i would be angry and blame God.  she told me that of course she was and did too but that was exactly when He was there the most for her.  i don't know.  it's all so vague sometimes...:-)

we ask Him for all these favors and promise to be good.  and of course we never hold up our end of the bargain.  we expect miracles to save us from pain and ruin and what do we give in return?  not

your last comment summed up the worst and obviously most visible fault of organized religion.  people who profess to be "holy" and commit the most heinous crimes.  there should be a special place in hell for those people. 

ps... let's hope the mud-slinging stays minimal...;-)

I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

Are you kidding? SPIRITUAL? sounds pagan

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

I don't know if you know anything about Orthodox Jews, but they are quite radical. They have used human laws and ideas to overtake whatever that poor bastard god said to do. They have rules about consuming wheats, dairies, meats - and they even use separate heat guards on their pots for each. It's insane and stupid. That's just an example. If God wanted us to do this kind of crap, I'd rather not thanks. 

In addition, Orthodox Jews do not even press the walk signal on sabbath on their way to synagogue. Even if they are running late, and possibly even when no one is looking. IT"S FREAKING STUPID! BUT it's not "spiritual", it's about law and command.

So no, it's not possible, and the function of spirituality will kill whatever those rabbis and the rest of the priests of the world expect from us as dutiful citizens of the mosque. Screw 'em all. 

I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek

we NEED religion. I need religion

by I Have a Crush on Alex Trebek on

We need religion because without it, the unemployment rate would be higher in most countries. Also, most priests, mullahs, pastors, and other fancy preachers have the funds to buy nice houses, cars and health insurance. They are doing the economy good, even if they are ruining minds.

Bahram G

Thank you faryarm

by Bahram G on

I enjoyed Rain's comments.

Bahram G

anonymous fish

by Bahram G on

I am deeply impressed by your concise cogent comment, if my being impressed amounts to very much. Yes, religious belief and spirituality are thought to go together. At least that's the idea that doesn't always actualize. Yes indeed that one can be very spiritual --adhering to outstanding moral values and practices--without being religious at all. And the converse is just as true. One can profess to be a religious person, yet harbor a most abhorrent ideals and puts them to practice in his/her daily life.

Thank you for your candid input.




A warm conversation about Spirituality

by faryarm on

anonymous fish


by anonymous fish on

there isn't enough time in the world to ever resolve this issue.  you're a brave man for even posting an article on religion.  :-)  i truly hope that discussions and debates WILL be free of accusations, insults and attacks.  i personally think that it's because there HASN'T been enough separation between church and state that there is so much grief as a result.  i don't know how humanity could be served by eliminating all religions but it sure would be nice if there were some guidelines for all of them.  :-)  i was raised catholic and consider myself catholic today but i'm not necessarily a practicing catholic.  i definitely disagree with some of the edicts of the church as do most modern catholics.  i find comfort in my faith but i'm not blind to it's faults either. 

btw. i think ID misunderstood your comment.  i believe you are saying that one can be spiritual without being religious.  i definitely agree with that statement and might even go so far as to say that being spiritual might even be more important than a fixed or specific religion or faith.

however, compassion should be one of the key components of any faith.  it should exist without religion.

khaleh mosheh

Religion is an evolutionary psychological legacy

by khaleh mosheh on

Julian Jaynes in the 70's put forward the theory of bicameral mind, and its break down leading to evoloution of consciousness in the modern man. Although the theory probably isnt right on all accounts certain aspects of it could explain the tendency for religosity/spirituality in the modern man. It is not accepted by the mainstream and Richard Dawkins (the well known evolutionary biologist) has described it as either utter genius or complete rubbish- but it is interesting as a theory anyway.




by A. (not verified) on

"If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act. For it is clear that the purpose of a remedy is to cure; but if the remedy should only aggravate the complaint it had better be left alone. Any religion which is not a cause of love and unity is no religion."



Dear bahram khan

by IRANdokht on

You seem to think that religion equates spirituality or maybe you're suggesting that it should, but I assure you that one can be religion-free and still have morals and values that are important as a member of a global society.

Why would I need religion to tell me what I can do and what I can't? Why should I be promised a reward for being a good person? Why should I be threatened with eternal suffering in order to not commit a crime?

Compassion is important to the survival of a lot of different species. If animals of a herd did not have compassion for one another, they'd be at each other's throat or tearing apart each others offsprings. People also have a instinctual sense of compassion. That's what makes you feel bad when you see someone in pain. That's what makes you help a lost child find her parents. Compassion makes you help your neighbor when she needs it. You don't need to be a religious person to know that compassion is a valuable and humane virtue. You don't need to read a book to know compassion is a good thing, no you don't need someone to tell you, just like you shouldn't need a religion to tell you to be a good person.

But some people do! and I hope those folks read these books too and listen to these interviews too, as an option for "ideas to follow", or as Ms Armstrong mentions, maybe they should go back to the initial compassionate values of their religions.

Have a great day! 




by amigo19 on

This is a very good topic and as Mr. Bahram G. says we must express our views without attacking others, because as Abdul Baha says;

The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions.

 (Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 87)

 According to Bahai Faith and in my humble opinion:

Religion is a lamp, its purpose is to give light.

Newly born religions are pure like a baby, but within the pass of time ,the dusts of imitation and ignorance,the veils of prejudice and superstitions cover its crystal and the lamp stops shedding its light.

Sometimes the religeous leaders out of their blind love start to adorn the lamp from outside .It looks beautiful outwardly, but it has been covered and will not give forth its light.

Look at this example;In a house you need different light bulbs for each room, for a smaller room you need a less powerful light bulb, but in a larger room you need a more powerful light bulb. Eventhough the amount of electricity running through the cables is the same.

We are living in a world that needs a much bigger light.

For every age requireth a fresh measure of the light of God.

 (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 81)


Religion is like medicine for healing our spiritual illnesses and Messengers of GOD are like Divine Physicians.

Remember that each medicine has an expiry date.

The All-Knowing Physician hath His finger on the pulse of mankind. He perceiveth the disease, and prescribeth, in His unerring wisdom, the remedy. Every age hath its own problem, and every soul its particular aspiration. The remedy the world needeth in its present-day afflictions can never be the same as that which a subsequent age may require. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and center your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements.

We can well perceive how the whole human race is encompassed with great, with incalculable afflictions. We see it languishing on its bed of sickness, sore-tried and disillusioned. They that are intoxicated by self-conceit have interposed themselves between it and the Divine and infallible Physician. Witness how they have entangled all men, themselves included, in the mesh of their devices. They can neither discover the cause of the disease, nor have they any knowledge of the remedy. They have conceived the straight to be crooked, and have imagined their friend an enemy.

 (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 216)


Religion must be the cause of love and unity, if not it is better not to have one.

Religion must be in agreement with science and reason,if not it is ignorance and superstitions.

Everyone has to investigate and choose his own religion and live according to its teachings and standards and it must not be pushed or imposed on people.

More quotes

The escence or the light of all religions is one.

These foundations of the Religion of God, which are spiritual and which are the virtues of humanity, cannot be abrogated; they are irremovable and eternal, and are renewed in the cycle of every Prophet.

The second part of the Religion of God, which refers to the material world, and which comprises fasting, prayer, forms of worship, marriage and divorce, the abolition of slavery, legal processes, transactions, indemnities for murder, violence, theft and injuries -- this part of the Law of God, which refers to material things, is modified and altered in each prophetic cycle in accordance with the necessities of the times.

 (Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 47)

In brief, every one of the divine religions contains essential ordinances, which are not subject to change, and material ordinances, which are abrogated according to the exigencies of time.

 (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 106)


The fundamental purpose animating the Faith of God and His Religion is to safeguard the interests and promote the unity of the human race, and to foster the spirit of love and fellowship amongst men. Suffer it not to become a source of dissension and discord, of hate and enmity.

 (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 215)

The purpose of religion as revealed from the heaven of God's holy Will is to establish unity and concord amongst the peoples of the world; make it not the cause of dissension and strife.

 (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 129)


There can be no doubt whatever that the peoples of the world, of whatever race or religion, derive their inspiration from one heavenly Source, and are the subjects of one God. The difference between the ordinances under which they abide should be attributed to the varying requirements and exigencies of the age in which they were revealed. All of them, except a few which are the outcome of human perversity, were ordained of God, and are a reflection of His Will and Purpose. Arise and, armed with the power of faith, shatter to pieces the gods of your vain imaginings, the sowers of dissension amongst you. Cleave unto that which draweth you together and uniteth you.

 (Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 217)

In truth, religion is a radiant light and an impregnable stronghold for the protection and welfare of the peoples of the world,....... Should the lamp of religion be obscured, chaos and confusion will ensue, and the lights of fairness and justice, of tranquillity and peace cease to shine. Unto this will bear witness every man of true understanding.  126 

 (Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 125)

With respet to each blogger and with best wishes!

from Latin America

Bahram G

Irandokht Khanum

by Bahram G on

"I am not a religious person," you say. Yet, you speak passionately about compassion. On the basis of this little "sample" of you, I am inclined to consider you as a spiritual person. A person who feels strongly about one of the greatest human virtues, although she is not formally a member of any organized religion.

A difficult question to answer is where do we get the notion that as humans we must be compassionate. By reading someone's book? By watching a program? Or are we born with the virtue of compassion? Does being compassionate have a utilitarian value? Is that why the virtue of compassion has survived in the course of our history as humans?

Warmest regards,



Ideologies Are Histrionic!

by Theosopher (not verified) on




Ideas, intentions and deeds are ALL relayed from the center of consciousness of Existence to gradually unfold the New Program of Creation.  All human ideas and ideologies are part and parcel of the same program. Religions, ‘divine’ or mundane fall in the same category. There is no difference between Christianity (just an example) and  Marxism in this sense.  

Religions are like adapted or ‘invented’ religions devised by a playwright for a theatrical play. The actors/characters who ‘believe’ in a theatrical religion assume it is ‘divine’, while those who ‘oppose’ it believe it is ‘man-made’, hence ‘false’.

 In both case it is devised by a designer (the playwright/director) for a specific theatrical purpose. The difference between the ‘actors’ of the play and the ‘real’ historical people is that the former know they are being played upon for a histrionic purpose while te latter- ‘we’ the ‘real’ characters (of life) - do not know that we are being acted upon.






Dear Bahram G

by IRANdokht on

I am not a religious person and I don't see a need for religion in my life, but I do hope that if anyone wants to adapt an ideology and follow it as a spiritual guide, they would consider compassion.

There was a blog on Karen Armstrong and her books along with a very interesting interview will Bill Moyers that on the site on Friday. I found her plea to all religions to convey compassion very righteous and reasonable. Please do check it out if you haven't already:


thanks for writing this blog. I am looking forward to seeing what kind of discussion it'll bring forth.