Reasoning in Religion

     By ‘reasoning’ I mean making some sense out of what we think, interpret and plausibly come up with an analytical assumption and acceptance of a topic or subject. The human mind is habitually programmed, attuned and processed to accept or reject anything it sees or feels after certain scrutiny, logical or sensual, that appeals to its comfort. That process can depend on the judgment of that particular individual, whether it makes sense or not to others.
     Reasoning in religion can involve two aspects: to come up with a recognition of the need in believing in a religious concept and secondly making sense out of many of the teachings and their ritualistic and philosophic doctrines which one is comfortable to accept. In almost the majority of cases, these beliefs are inculcated and programmed into the psyche of the person as he grows up in a certain environment which is soaked with a particular religious philosophy.
     It is seldom that one chooses a faith outside the one he grows up with, out of philosophic reasoning and conviction because of its sensible superiority as it appeals to him. Most often ‘conversions’ happen because mass propaganda and promise of substantial benefits appeal to the needs of and are convincing to the logic of those who opt to convert. In any event, reasoning towards accepting and believing in a religion is out of habit or out of needs. And as one grows and gets exposed to the particular faith, it is only natural that he gathers more conviction towards it and it becomes more appealing to his needs. It is also relevant that since there is no other exposure and or opportunity to learn and understand about a different belief system, one feels increasingly comfortable with the particular path they have been following. And all the available information about religions is based on the existing scriptural materials which are disseminated through the intensity of the particular system. In the absence of any concrete, objective data to substantiate a particular system and compare it with others, all the reasoning and fellowship depends on the subjective experience and exposure of the individual to a particular belief.
     In the practice of religious beliefs being connected to rationalistic reasoning, most of the time the important facet is why you believe in the concept than the concept itself. Essentially it is the difference between faith and philosophic thinking, one being totally independent of the other, the former being the end result and the latter the method to attain it. In the case of religion, the end is already established and the route how it is derived becomes inconsequential and in most cases an unnecessary burden. When some of the religious beliefs allow the freedom or promiscuity to analyze and question some of its tenets and philosophic fundamentals, it is likely that the believer may come across information which can shake up their convictions. On the other hand, if such freedom of introspection is not allowed, the faith itself may be assumed by some to be treading on thin ice, with lack of confidence from scrutiny and thus losing its credibility.

     Essentially every religious conviction is an adherence to a totally unknown entity that comforts and consoles certain needs of an individual who gathers indefinable support and consequently a sense of protection as he practices the set guidelines as dictated by such philosophy. It is seldom that one questions the validity of such practices or even feels the need to connect such to objective reasoning. If at all an occasional thirst for such a quest arises, the adherent finds ample comforting reasons from the numerous teachings to substantiate his beliefs. Most of the believers are bound to the instructions from the lines of their respective doctrines and many of such institutions strictly reprimand their followers against reflecting outside the perimeters of their scriptural teachings. The few faiths, which are open and liberated, allowing the individual to use their intellectual explorations to come up with their own conclusions about the requirements of following a ‘religion’, refrain from elaborate propaganda to attract anyone to their lines of thought. Such groups may not even fit into the category of ‘religions’, since there are no regimented movements or benefiting ideologies, which feed on expansionistic endeavors, which are part of their basic intent.
     It is easy to understand why many religions consider it blasphemous for a believer to question the fundamental tenets of its teachings or its philosophy. Since the basic concepts of every religion are founded on its principles of the existence 238 of god resolutely established and the way such concepts have to be approached by the ones who practice their line of thought, it will be chaotic if such fundamentals are questioned. In most instances, a sense of belief derives from a conclusive and confirmative acceptance of the fact established on reasoning. Any practice, if they were allowed to be contained within the sanctioned framework of that particular religion, and if contradicted, will conflict and even refute the prescribed observations and consequently shake the very foundations of that faith. Dogmatic adherence without any options to question nor an opportunity to even bring in a need to substantiate such fellowship based on reasoning may be essential to solidarity and fundamentalism that strengthen such religious entities.
     Perhaps a subtle yet intense procedure of reasoning, knowingly or unknowingly, consciously or unintentionally is already built into the process of accepting a particular religious belief and it is seldom that one dares to even consider inquiring about its foundations. Many religions stress the importance of firm belief without a doubt, without question, as its fundamental requirement of getting the best out of that faith, to control the external and internal elements that we encounter. Such being the instruction, a process of reasoning has no place in such belief systems; it is concrete, it is absolute. Such blind belief is essential in motivating and enabling an individual to carry out the possibilities as promised and propagated by their system. The moment one starts analyzing the validity of its statements, criticizing its methods or suggesting alternate possibilities, that person is already ejected out of its fold and beyond that particular belief system. The majority who remain either meek, afraid to ask or comfortable with and within that system constitutes the strength of that system and project an appealing image to the outsiders. Many believers in every religious group enjoy tremendous comfort with the prescribed formalities and ‘religiously’ adhere to the instructions. A process of reasoning does not even cross their minds since no one wants to disrupt a certain cushion of consolation or reassurance, which is steadfastly ingrained into their elements. And those who ever attempt to establish reasoning in a manner as usually practiced in scientific endeavors, eventually end up with more questions than clues regarding the certainty of divine manifestations.
     Approaching from a different angle, analyzing ‘reasoning’ is a very subjective assessment similar to appreciating a smell or taste or even enjoying music or nature. The feeling, the emotional and mental fulfillment as experienced through the psychological satiation derived from religious execution does not require any analytical approval or factual endorsement. It is purely at a higher level of existence, an involvement that is beyond the scrutiny and approval of common experiences. Since all the divine or celestial dealings are structured and sanctioned only through certain prescribed, regimented pathways that belong to religions, a common practitioner is only allowed or tolerated to approach God through those given channels. As such he or she is not even offered an opportunity to consider applying to reason as a measure or a requisite before they indulge themselves in such submissions.
     A more plausible explanation could be that such reasoning establishing the divine concept need not evolve from an individual level. Spiritually accomplished souls, saints, and sages from various corners who lived at different eras must have experienced and realized the ultimate truth and disseminated it to their followers who benefited from the teachings and pursued their instructions. Similar to scientific or historical facts taught in educational institutions, spiritual instruction has been essentially dispersed through such teachings. Even though the basic concepts and the explanations and modes of practice vary tremendously between the different world religions that use diverse approach to attain their ‘god’, in essence, the ultimate purpose remains very much the same.
     Whatever the premise on which we assume or infer that any belief needs the support or justification through logistic reasoning will not hold water from the most overwhelming adherence and practice of religions that we observe from the far corners of the world. The diverse concepts about the existence of God, the varied approach to attain that conceptual conviction and the numerous philosophical explanations, which are the fundamentals of religions, clearly and categorically, prove one thing. Belief in religious matters is, or need not, be based on any reasoning and faith is evolved from certain convictions that arise from deep, inner, consoling elements which are much stronger fundamentally established mental calculations and approvals. Normal reasoning that we apply to the otherwise mundane establishments of convictions is not essentially similar to the acceptance of faith of divine matters.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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