It is often said that people who are very active in the religious matters, for example, in the church, are usually happier than people who are not. I do believe this since it stands to logic. People who are active in the church are usually socially active in the church. They take part in various groups such as the catechists’ group or the choir. It gives them identity, a sense of belonging and what is known an ‘ikigai’.
‘Ikigai’ is a Japanese concept that can be translated as ‘reason for being’. It refers to the purpose of life, the reason for which you wake up every day.
If religion provides your ‘ikigai’ it is relevant to you. There are lots o people who live a happy life only because they believe that their lives are willed by God, and they have to live a good life so that they will deserve a good afterlife. It is interesting to know that there are perfectly reasonable, intelligent people who believe that if one lives a good life on earth, he/she will go to heaven after death. They have an unshakable belief in it.
And, come to think of it, why not? Is it in any way more logical or reasonable to think that there is no life after death, than to think that there is life after death? What do we know? Therefore, you believe what is useful to you.
It is very humbling to know that most of what we believe are based on this principle. We believe in something if it is useful for us to believe so. If believing in God is useful to me in living a good life, in living a meaningful life, then I believe in God. If going to church is good for me, then I go to church. Not because it is the truth. We persuade ourselves that it is the truth because we want to believe in it. Then again, who knows what is the truth?
Perhaps, we get into existential angst when we cannot accept the fact that we believe in things only because it is useful for us to believe in them. Just the other day, a friend of mine told me that going to church is a kind of discipline. Viewed in that light, yes, indeed it is a kind of discipline. On the only free day of the week that I get, on Sunday, I have to get ready and go to church, and join a ceremony that requires almost two hours of standing, sitting and kneeling down. I have to be formal, cannot make noise or say what I want. It is good definitely good discipline. And, if I would like myself to be a disciplined person, definitely I would like to go to church, as a way of practicing discipline.
Another way in which attending church can be relevant is the opportunities for socialization. All human beings need a sense of belonging. Church groups and activities provide much needed sense of belonging to people.
Also, no one can dispute the fact that there are millions who derive mental peace from their religious beliefs. Their ‘ikigai’ is found in religious doctrines, and in living a life following them.
Therefore, religion is very much relevant in the 21st century, for many religious as well as non-religious reasons.