Though there had been cracks generated in the fortress of religion, by the assaults of science, it still persist, because of its strong foundation. This article discusses the origins of those foundations.
Background to the first foundation emanates from nature of humans. It goes beyond mere existence need found in animals. Hence we humans have questions that will not emerge in the minds of other animals. Who are we? From where did we come? What is the purpose of our life? What will happen after our death?
Answer to the first question is that we are special, compared to the animals and also privileged. This is shared by almost all religions. For the second question, different religions give different answers. According to one, we are creations of god and according to another we are emerged from our previous birth, after death. For the question of purpose of life, one religion says that it is to past the test of the god and another says that we should try to emancipate from the chakra (circle) of rebirth. For the question of afterlife one says that we will be going to hell or the heaven based on our “exam” results, while others says we will have far wider options such as reborn as a human or reborn in to other different worlds like (“Pretha”, “Brahma”) in addition to hell and heaven, again on a similar test. Though answers are different important thing is that every religion has given answers to these most important questions.
Helplessness in us has supplied raw materials for the second foundation. We get sick. Medical science does not have medicine for every illness. In addition we meet with accidents and there is no way that we can learn about all those in advance, though science has provided prior warning systems in some, and therefore unable to be prepared to avoid, all such accidents. We also have expectations we unable to realize. However religion has answers, for all. One religion advocate praying, another to pay homage to the gods and others provides a means of giving them “bribes”. There is salvation and there is a savior. You need to believe in the savior. The more you believe, there is more probability that your prayers would be heard. For this reason Rev Mahinda thera gave Sri Lankans, who were at the time believing that tress and stones would help them, with close equivalents such as Bodhi tree and Stupa.
Our fears provide raw materials to the third foundation; the fear that somebody might kill you and your close others; the fear that somebody will steal your hard earned properties; the fear that someone will rape your wife/daughter/child; the fear that someone will lie and cheat you; the fear that some drunkard will do nasty things to you and your family. When one religion adopt five precepts to prevent such, another advocate ten commandments. If everyone believes either the five or the ten we will be better off and we will be able to life without fear. That is why people who at times violate one or the other do it on a sly, not to be known by any other, so that one will be not setting a bad example, for the rest. This is one reason why people will not be happy by just following the religion but want others to do the same.
We are weak as individuals and this weak individual provide raw materials to the fourth foundation. As we are weak as individuals we need to organize in groups. By that we will be able to get much more than we can individually achieve and we can protect much more than an individual of capable. Religion provide an appealing platform to organize very large groups that shares the same religion. Hence religion always co-existed with the rulers of a country. In Sri Lanka, for the same reason, the person who has the custody of the Tooth relic was able to rule the country.
The mansion, build on these four foundations, is very attractive, large, rich and powerful. In the presence of this colossal creation, we become small, worthless and weak. But in its shelter we are everything and all powerful. Though each mansion is different to one another they are all beautiful and strong. But our one is always better and convincing than any other.