Religion and Society
Society is bound by codes of behavior and tacit agreements to live together in harmony. Religion plays an integral part in this code that society has created for itself. Every aspect of life, such as birth, death, marriage, and relationships, often have religious significance. Even though not all peoples in a society prescribe to the same religion, or any religion at all; religion is still deeply rooted in society and plays a part in everyday life. Religion gives people a moral code to live by; it gives life meaning and purpose, and it is prominent in the American government. Religion provides society with a moral compass for its citizens to live by. God provided Christians with the Ten Commandments and countless parables to help guide Christians to the path of righteousness; Buddhists adhere to the five percepts so that they may not stray away from the path to Nirvana, and Islamists follow a moral code outlined for them in the Quran that closely resembles the Christian Ten Commandments.
These are all vastly different religions with different codes of ethics, but they are similar in the sense that they provide society with a moral code to live by. Although not everyone within society prescribes to a religion, religious influence is still present. Also, even though one may not follow the doctrine of a certain religion, that does not mean one cannot follow the moral code. All of society’s major religions have the same basic code; be a good person, don’t commit murder, obey the laws of society, etc. These guidelines are common sense, and anyone who knows right from wrong has a moral compass and a sense of ethics. With this in mind, although society has a basic understanding of right and wrong, religion takes it a step farther by demanding of its followers something more than just being a good person. Most major religions expect its followers to be moral leaders in society by helping those in need, and going out of their way to do good deeds for others. This thirst to please some higher being or reach a different plane of existence gives mankind the incentive to keep to their moral code. This does not mean that people who do not have or believe in religion have looser morals or are any less than people who are religious; it just means that people of religious faith have extra incentive to live ethical lives. Religion gives life a transcendental purpose and meaning, and often a goal to aspire to at the end of one’s life.
Christianity’s goal for its followers is ultimately for them to live a life pleasing to God so that they may one day preside in Heaven, as well as to spread the word of God to all the people of the world. The goal of Buddhists is to end the cycle of rebirth by reaching nirvana. Goals such as these give the people of a society a purpose in life. Even those who do not prescribe to a religion can find meaning in their life by studying religion, or even by trying to disprove a religion one can find purpose; even though their purpose is antireligious, it is still influenced by religion. A purposeful life is essential; without a purpose or meaning in one’s life there is no reason to go on living. Religion provides people with a meaningful life, a goal to strive toward, and by doing such it allows society to find pleasure in reaching their goals on a spiritual and human level. Although the United States government has no religious affiliation, it is explicitly stated that there is to be a separation of church and state in the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, the United States was and still is based upon religious principles. While not all of the fifty-five founding fathers were Christians, most did have some sort of religion or belief system; for example Thomas Paine was a deist.
The Declaration of Independence includes references to a “Creator,” and although it makes no reference to Christianity or any other religion, it is still has some religious affiliation. Presently only two percent of the United States Congress either does not prescribe to a religion or does not specify their religious affiliation. With ninety-eight percent of Congress prescribing openly to some form of religion, it is ignorant to believe that religion and the moral codes they believe in play no part in the making and passing of laws. This is not to say that all people of religious faith should be barred from being government officials, it is just an observation that church and state can never be fully separated. Religion still influences the lives of millions of people every day, whether religious or not, because the people who have been voted into these positions of power are the people who make and pass laws which affects everyone in American society. Religion is an ever present part of society. No matter if one is religious or not; religion abounds in everyday life. This is not necessarily a bad thing though. Religion provides society with a moral code to live by, and goals to strive for. Even those without religion are affected by these things, and can even find their own goals and morals through religion without prescribing to a certain one.
Religion is even present in the United States government. Although it is unequivocally stated in the First Amendment of the Constitution that there is to be a separation between religion and government, it is difficult to completely separate the two considering the majority of the government’s elected leaders are part of some religious affiliation. Religion is a perpetual part of society; whether one affiliates with religion or not, it affects society as a whole. On my honor, I pledge that I have neither given, received, nor witnessed any unauthorized help on this.