The relationship between religion and its impact on human life and happiness represents an area of great human interest, regardless of whether there is support for religion, in many academic circles. As such, the phenomenon of religiosity and of its rejection or opposition are constantly present in human history, no matter how much they wax or wane, respectively. There are often arguments that appear to contradict religious values, and at such times, it becomes necessary to reflect upon the role of religious virtues in response to such inquiries. In a climate of polarity around sensitive social issues, the discussion around the role of religion in contemporary life becomes of central importance. 

Thus, it is worth addressing the topic of religion, its universal vision, and its role and impact on human life, and shedding some light on its contemporary role. Here, we avoid discussing issues that are restricted but rather offer generalities regarding the role and impact of religion.  

What is the Reality and Essence of Religion?

There is no doubt that human beings are instinctively drawn to religion in many phases of life, the most crucial of which are moments of despair when they find no refuge other than turning to God, the Absolute, to save them. In reality, this framework is based on the following:

1) the existence of a God, who is the Creator of this universe and all the creatures in it, including human beings, to whom He has given special divine attention over the rest of creation.

2) the presence of each human “life” through the persistence of its soul in an everlasting realm, and not eradicated by the death of the body, which is restricted to a period related solely to this material world life.

Very important implications are established based on these religious premises that affect one’s worldly orientation and determine whether they are destined towards happiness or misery. This view intersects with other common and widespread views and propositions that are vigorously promoted and defended, and see a person’s life as limited and ending upon death and burial in the grave. Moreover, it contends that the person is completely left to themselves, with no specific instructions upon which they should heed and adhere. These views and propositions stem not exclusively from denying the existence of a god, but rather it was the result of a series of spontaneous chemical reactions and the interaction of matter over time (i.e., the view of atheists).

Others may believe in the existence of a creator but do not believe that He provided special divine instructions that must be followed by humankind. Instead, humans are just a creation traversing life-based on natural laws like all other creations (i.e., the view of deists or natural theology).  

Proponents of a third viewpoint do not accept any of the religious propositions but at the same time, they do not reject any of them (i.e., the view of the agnostics).

Human life according to the religious view has a purpose in which people are given the choice between only two paths and no third. Either they assume the path of knowledge and virtue or the path of ignorance and vice. This is mentioned in the Quran, “and [We have] shown him the two paths [of good and evil],”1 and when God states,  “Indeed We have guided him to the way, be he grateful or ungrateful.”2 Based on this, the actions of human beings have a profound implication on self-building, so that their true position, which they deserve, becomes evident in the afterlife, irrespective of the size of action, small or large, because everything will be weighed and judged. God says, “On that day, mankind will issue forth in various groups to be shown their deeds. So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, and whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.”3 This means that life in this world is nothing but a pathway for self-improvement and progress and not a permanent abode.

On the other hand, human life, according to the other view, is limited to a few years during which a person lives beginning from their mother’s womb and ending at their grave. Hence, life according to this perspective is nothing but a race after pleasures at any cost, even if it is at the expense of other individuals, groups, or nations. Furthermore, happiness in such a life continues only as long as the person is immune from any form of worldly trial or punishment, otherwise, they become wretched if they do not get what they covet. They may convince themselves and tell their conscience that their actions do not stem from their own free will, but that it is controlled by the laws of nature instead, as is the case with any other creature subject to the laws of nature and instincts.

The religious view establishes a noble goal from the first building block and builds human character accordingly. Moreover, it attends to the needs of human beings with great attention and care because it provides them with a sound intellectual approach to life, which defines for them their origin, destination, and approach, to whom they have to turn toward, what will happen to them, and where they will end up. The religious view also provides people with clarity on their capabilities and energies, which includes their intellect, conscience, feelings, and the free will to choose to perform their role in the best way possible. Finally, devotional and transactional laws were established for them, which are commensurate with their nature, psyche, and overall existence to fulfill the rights of themselves, others, and the right of their Creator, Glorified and Exalted.

Bits of Advice:

1- Learn and research: Our commitment to faith should not be passive, and that requires us to be actively involved in our commitment to learn, grow, and appreciate our religion.

2- Reflect and ask: Our lives are often constrained to the distractions of this world–social media, TV, movies, etc. but it is important to also reflect and see the unique creation of God such that we can remember our ultimate purpose.

3- Read more: Our communities should strive to read more and have a firm commitment to understanding our religion such that we are not bound to so many misconceptions. 

1. The Holy Quran 90:10.
2- The Holy Quran 76:3.
3-The Holy Quran 99:6-9.

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