Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Origins of Religion

What makes us religious?

A few of the posts at Godol Hador helped me form a semi-solid theory on this. Ultimately, the choice to believe in God involves an emotional response. It is currently impossible to prove the existence of God or Free Will, because each proof essentially defines its terms as the proof. The definitions then become axioms which you can take or leave. Godol Hador writes:
Most people who grew up frum have strong positive emotions for Orthodox Judaism. These emotions are powerful enough to withstand a rational enquiry in many cases.

Clearly, emotion is an important aspect of religion. Many Orthodox Jews describe the beauty of the Shabbos Table, of Zemiros, and the overall warm, gooshy feeling of being "spiritual," when explaining why they believe. "How can you experience a Shabbos and not believe in God?"

While I recognize that emotion is probably a very strong component of the decision to believe, it is also important to take into account the enormous social pressure the Orthodox community bring to bear on its adherents. This is less evident in the MO world, but readily apparent in the Chareidi velt.

When I made the decision to go to graduate school, the rabbis I spoke to were concerned that I would remain in the fold of some Orthodox community. In their argument, they were concerned with the soical factors of the secualr world, but the argument cuts both ways. The truth is that religion relies on the adherent's desire to avoid stressful breaks with their social environment and emotion.