Does religion make us helpless?
Answer Summary: Not at all. To the contrary, religion offers us help when life makes us helpless.
The claim that “religion makes us helpless” begs the question: how exactly does religion make us helpless? By teaching that everything is destined by an omnipotent God and nothing is in our hands?
A fundamental and universal teaching of religion is that we should do certain things and avoid certain things. This teaching assumes that some things at least are in our hands – we can do or not do certain things. So the notion that nothing is in our hands is not the actual teaching of religion; it is a misrepresentation, even a caricature, of the real teaching of religion.
Religion far from making us helpless offers us help when life makes us helpless. Let’s understand this empowering effect of religion by looking at addictions and emotions.
- Addictions: Millions of people suffer from addictions that range from video games and porn to alcohol and drugs. Time and time again, a committed religious practice has been found to be one of the best cures for addiction. Dr Patrick Glynn in his book God – The Evidence surveys numerous studies that confirm this potency of religion and concludes: “It is difficult to find a more consistent correlative of mental health, or a better insurance against self-destructive behaviors, than a strong religious faith.”
- Emotions: As an example, let’s consider anger. The emotion of anger is frequently counter-productive for it impels us to speak and do things that we regret later. Though we may resolve to not become angry, we still find ourselves succumbing to anger – repeatedly. And even with all our technological advances, we still have no effective anger-removal pill or potion. Significantly, prayer, meditation and chanting have helped millions of people to bring their anger under control.
How does religion offer us this power? By offering us access to a power far greater than our own power – the supreme power of God.
The principles and practices of religion enable us to connect with God by reposing our faith in him and beseeching his grace. Unfortunately, some skeptics misconstrue this connectedness with God as helplessness-inducing, because they feel that seeking the help of any power outside of ourselves is demeaning and degrading.
However, such a notion is erroneous because even all of technology involves accessing a power outside of ours – the power of nature, be it in the form of thermal energy or nuclear energy or whatever. We just can’t live in the world without accessing some power outside of ourselves.
Technology offers insentient physical energy that doesn’t touch our inner core. In pleasant contrast, religion offers conscious spiritual power – the grace of God – that transforms us from inside-out and helps us develop our full potential as human beings.