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Why do people prioritize religion over humanity?

People's choices to value religion above humanity vary widely and are impacted by a complex interaction of psychological, cultural, and social variables.

2023 Sep 21, 8:01, Kathmandu

People's choices to value religion above humanity vary widely and are impacted by a complex interaction of psychological, cultural, and social variables. It is crucial to emphasize that this decision is not always universal, since many religious people priorities humanity and participate in philanthropic and compassionate activities.

When speaking with Miss Swopnil Devkota(Psychosocial Counselor), she clarifies the notion that some individuals put their faith above humanity.

What are some reasons why individuals might prioritize religion over a broader concern of humanity ?

I really believe that belief is the reason why people prioritize religion over humanity. And when I use the word "belief," I'm referring to the mental state in which we accept something as true even though we're not completely certain of it or able to back it up. Fear is what motivates that, too. This belief is frequently motivated by dread, particularly the fear of suffering divine judgement if one does not follow the precepts and laws of one's faith. Therefore, individuals could adhere to religious behavior's largely out of a desire to please their deity, said Devkota.

Another contributing factor is the level of education. Less educated or uneducated individuals may place a higher priority on religion because they have limited exposure to alternative perspectives and ways of life. Education can expose people to different ideas and worldviews, making them less reliant on religious dogma to guide their actions and beliefs. If you talk to educated people you might see that this situation might not be there. But with uneducated people their thought is fear driven, She added.

According to Devkota, Religious propaganda is another influential factor. Religions often use compelling messages and promises to encourage adherence. People may prioritize religion due to the persuasive nature of religious propaganda, which often includes offers of rewards for obedience and threats of dire consequences for disobedience. If you do this this will happen, if you do that this will happen and to overcome this fear of belief, you tend to put religion over humanity.

I don’t mean religion is absolute nonsense. No. There are certain things religion teaches us. But there are so many aspects that it restricts us. Taking Islam as an example, women need to be fully covered. And I learned about this more closely in Jakarta, Indonesia while I visited there. The women were divided into two types, one who had given their everything to god and thus would walk fully covered while the other group who was not ready to do so because they were not fully satisfied. So in a way you can say that religion outlines a broader picture of how to do certain things, how to behave and how to speak and people think it is okay.

Another thing that I feel is people’s feeling that the need for social acceptance plays a role in people's prioritization of religion. Religion can provide a profound sense of belonging and community. Individuals may prioritize religion to fit in with their social or cultural group, seeking approval and acceptance from their religious community. Psychologically speaking, people do that for power and approval. To show that you belong somewhere because as we were taught in school, religion provides us a sense of belongingness.

Furthermore, the exploitation of belief can be a powerful force. Some religious leaders or institutions may exploit people's belief systems for personal gain, manipulating their fear and faith for control or financial benefit. This manipulation can further strengthen the hold of religion over individuals. Religion also exploits one's belief system overall turning it into fear and psychologically speaking, fear is one of our primary emotions that once takes over, it gets rooted.

According to Devkota, Religion has also introduced dependency. Like if you belong from a certain religion you are helped by a certain person from the same religion because it gives you a common ground and that is another feeling we humans require being a social animal. It fosters a sense of dependency and mutual assistance among members of the same faith. This sense of community fulfils the human need for social connections and support, which can be a compelling reason to prioritise religion over broader concerns for all of humanity.

Religion also introduces superstitious beliefs in people. It is sort of hard these days to exactly distinguish between what our religion is and what superstitious beliefs are which tags along with religion. And because of that as well people might choose religion over humanity you know because if your religion is connected with superstitions and it says you got to kill people to make your god happy people will do it. They will be choosing these beliefs over humanity.

Can religious teaching be interrupted in a way that promotes both religious devotion and a strong commitment to all the welfare of all humanity?

You see in today’s generation this is a tough question to answer. Some might say that it's important to acknowledge that the role of religious teachings in shaping individuals' values and commitments can vary widely. Some argue that modern religious teachings might not always align with fostering strong commitments to both religious devotion and the well-being of all humanity. This disconnect could be attributed to changing priorities and values among people today. Religious teaching might not be helping towards religious devotion as well as a strong commitment to all the welfare of all humanity. Because the need and importance might not be there. There are some people promoting religion, who might be scientifically doing things, but then everyone has their own moral values, and really speaking everyone is different, said Devkota.

Religion, at times, appears to compel people to commit themselves to a particular set of beliefs and practices. This can inadvertently lead to conflicts and even holy wars, as different religions vie for dominance or superiority. This competitive aspect can overshadow the shared values and ethical principles that many religions hold in common.

Moreover, religious teaching can sometimes promote a form of ignorance, discouraging critical thinking and appreciation of diverse perspectives. When people feel pressured to conform, there's a risk that genuine understanding and respect for others' beliefs can be compromised. Religious teaching might start the promotion of ignorance that we don’t want as instead of appreciation, there will be forcefulness.

However, it's important to recognize that religion can also provide a sense of purpose, devotion, and moral guidance that some individuals find valuable. In today's increasingly technology-driven world, where emotional connections and values can sometimes take a back seat to the physical and material aspects of life, religious teachings can help fill the void by emphasising the importance of values, empathy, and community.

So if religious teaching is done, education can be taken into a broader part but again, it shouldn’t be forced, but balanced so that no one feels superior or inferior. Ideally, religious education should strike a balance. It should not be forced or dogmatic but rather encourage thoughtful exploration and understanding. It should promote values of inclusivity and respect, ensuring that no one feels superior or inferior based on their religious beliefs, she added.

It doesn't mean that religion won’t connect the welfare of humanity, you know. If you go back and take a look at the situation when the earthquake struck us, so many Hindus changed their religion to Christianity. Why? They were given shelter, food etc. that was far more necessary than religion. If religious teachings show us these kinds of pathways, it will be a lot more beneficial in a way. So it solely depends on the teacher who is teaching, as to how they deliver the religious teachings, by not discriminating against any other religion and teaching us how religion promotes humanity and how we take it as well.

In essence, there is a human need for spiritual connection and devotion, and religion has historically played a role in meeting that need. However, over time, the treasures within religious teachings have been manipulated and interpreted in various ways, sometimes leading to unintended consequences. Today's challenge lies in finding a way to preserve the positive aspects of religion while adapting them to the evolving values and needs of contemporary society, all while fostering harmony and respect among diverse belief systems, said Devkota.

So, It is crucial to note that not all religious people make this decision, and many religious traditions emphasize virtues such as compassion, generosity, and concern for mankind. People's priorities can also shift and shift over time as they interact with new viewpoints and life experiences. Individuals' decisions to prioritize religion over humanity, or vice versa, are ultimately profoundly personal and nuanced.


philanthropic complex interaction of psychological psychological cultural and social variables humanity social or cultural group moral values
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