The Importance of Faith and Religion
By: Maxwell Stetson
Throughout my life up this point, I have never seen the importance of religion. Simply, I did not see the utility of going to a church or synagogue. I thought for sure science, with all it's practical applications, invalidated religion and could explain the world well enough. I thought for sure all the problems of the world could easily be explained through the rigorous explorations of science and the blessings of modern age technology. Fortunately, throughout my journey, I realized I was wrong.
Nassim Taleb was the first to clear my vision in his book, "The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable." In this book he consciously and sharply describes the extreme impacts of rare and unpredictable events (such as the Internet, WW1, dissolution of the Soviet Union and 9/11) and humans' tendency to find simplistic explanations for these events retrospectively. This heavy-worded, data driven book was one that I enjoyed exploring. One cheeky reason was because of Nassim's comedic roasting of stuck up "intellectuals" and the phony, corrupt institutions that house them. In this case though, the most resonating words came towards the end of the book where he proclaimed that religion was the path towards change, peace and acceptance. This left me skeptical, curious and confused by what he meant. It wasn't until another profound thinker entered my world that I fully understood Nassim's suggestion.
I remember when I first heard about Jordan Peterson. I was listening to a podcast with Tom Woods and Lew Rockwell, both great historians and activists themselves, who were praising this mysterious great man for what he was doing and the movement he was constructing. I became so intrigued and quickly found his interview with Cathy Newman which blew me away. He was the most principled, intelligent man I've ever seen. Little did I know he would change my life forever.
Spending more time researching Dr. Peterson I discovered that this clinical psychologist/historian/professor did lectures on the psychological significances of the Bible, with over 37 hours of these lectures on Youtube! I thought, if this man was putting so much time and energy into this topic, there had to be something to this whole religious thing!
After watching these lectures I finally understood the significance of religion, and what Nassim was implying. Religion, more than anything else, provides direction out of the chaos and struggles of the world. This is immediately confirmed when we take a historical perspective on religion. The immense utility religious stories and representations provided humans throughout the centuries cannot be denied. In that vain, if these stories could last this long, throughout all the years of our evolution, and still reverberate through new, modern stories, there is deep, metaphysical utility to it.
Those facts by themselves should be enough to convince anyone, but I'd like to highlight one of my favorite of the Biblical stories to persuade a little more; the story of Cain and Able. I love this story, and continue to revisit it because of the many lessons it teaches. In the story, the first two worldly humans, brothers Cain and Able live and work on their farm. Able, a good man, sacrifices and praises God, and then is rewarded by Him with fortunes and blessings. Cain on the other hand, a somewhat abrasive man, begins to sacrifice and praise God, but is not rewarded for his efforts. The reason for this seems to be unknown, but I believe it most likely represents the misfortunes, clumsiness and imperfection of humans. The constant perceptions and misfortunes begin to create hate and resentment inside Cain until he cannot take it any longer and kills his brother. After realizing what he had done, Cain proceeds to cry out to God, confessing his guilt for what he did - "I have killed everything that I love and strive to be!" he says.
I find Cain's conscious recognition amazing. It again shows the utility of God and virtue. Cain, ashamed of what he'd done, realized that throughout all his misfortunes, Able was what he was striving to be! Able was everything he envied and respected! This shows how tremendous the pursuit of virtue is. It shows that there is always a direction out of chaos and misfortune, as long as you strive for it! It also shows that there is eternal purpose and meaning in that pursuit! Coincidentally, it also shows the severe and self destructive consequences of not pursuing virtue and ideals! Because of these lessons I will never forget this story. Because of these lessons, I finally understand why Nassim thought religion would be the tool to save us; because it put God back into the beginning and end of people's lives.
This is an exciting beginning into the pursuit of this virtue for me, as I cannot wait to see the repercussions play out in my life, through my potential and the potential within my sphere of influence.