The Science of Religion
This ain't a controversial topic to stir up any arguments. Just my interpretation of things as assimilated from my experiences and thoughts, result of my quest to answer that which is enforced by society supplemented with little help from science.
Amongst the many things emphasised in the movie: The Matrix, is belief and hope. Only a subtle difference sets the two apart. And hardly do most watching the movie appreciate such things. All they have to say is "ooooooh our hero is beginning to belieeeeve :-o" *goosebumps*.
Just as much as I insist in purpose to life, humans fundamentally need to *believe* to move on. It is the very fuel to live, which when fades the later kicks in to give a false impetus to the former - a survival mechanism built into the subconscious cognitive sense of every individual.
When one's belief fades drastically, he begins to question his very existence as his fuel to live is lost. People who have experienced a mid-age crisis will have some idea of what I mean. Hope is the subconscious mechanism to counteract this. And if I might add this is probably how we brought in God - an entity beyond perception who would always endow us with hope, belief and a reason to live.
To me God is not an entity but rather a quality. I strongly believe that a crowd high in morale, principle and where godliness flows is where god exists. It is only for our convenience of a pedestrian that we have reduced it into various forms and scriptures. Even religion preaches that god is in oneself (for that matter in everyone and everything), not external but all-pervasive, negating it from being an entity by itself. Unfrotunately such enlightenment is hard for most people to digest.
Religion as I perceive is the science of controling peoples mind (just as much as The Matrix is). A mechanism identifed by the wise (sages, prophets, messiahs and their conglomerates over generations) to prevent people from living arbitly and formalized into various institutions.
Scientifically speaking, Psychology would be the closest match to religion.
Let me detail an example in hope of making this clearer, unless someone can make a counter argument. To save my ass I'll stick to a not too controversial institution - marriage (yeah yeah the act of hooking up put up in polished words).
Imagine no such institution existed. People hook up arbitrarily based on their will and wish. Most people mature physically much earlier than they are mentally. So all they care is - get hooked with somone by such and such time frame (and not a state of mind, which in most cases has reached desperation to get laid). Obviously the chances of lasting for long is less (statistically), for obvious reasons.
Every religious institution has its own system of horoscopes or equivalent, to aid towards such arrangements. People with no clue as to what they want are the highest benefactors. For those who do it is of trivial importance.
For the rest who are 50-50, it is a psycological advantage. When someone believed to have clairvoyance says "you are gonna have the best time of your life with this person" you blindly believe so (as if it were an axiom). Even at the onset of something uneventful you still believe in the former and do all it take make life work. And when told - "tough times ... you'v got to do such and such to be well", you do all that it takes and believe that everything would be swell.
Likewise two peoples chance of living together well is enhanced by the fact that the horoscope says so. And when things go wrong, all parties involved say that "it cannot be so, the horoscope says otherwise" and they put in the last pint of effort they can to get things straight. Ultimately it is only the individuals and their resolve that made it work, but with a psycological advantage packaged along (which they were oblivious to realize).
And for those unlucky beings who don't buy as said by horoscopes, even the slightest mishappening and people blame it on not having stuck to it. A scapegoat for things going wrong.
What originally was intended as a system to improve people's belief and hope has reduced into a means by which people would disown responsibility and accept things as fate and find a scapegoat (all but themselves). This is why religion does not recommend but enforces such practices to ensure a much better progeny to the institution.
But institution norms do not hold much under modern day circumstances. Just because a couple's marriage lasted a lifetime does not mean they were happy (as when we say a successful marriage). Just because a person ain't married doesn't mean he is unhappy (take our president Abdul Kalam). Just because a couple is divorced does not mean that they are unhappy (for I'v seen people lead much better lives after seperation). Just because an age old institutional practices says so, a marriage is not necessarily successful. Unfortunately these are never re-written to accomodate changes in society with time.
For that matter any aspect of life governed by religion IMHO can be explained along similar lines. It ultimately boils to individuals and their belief in each other more than all else, and their hopes when life hits rough seas.
Your opinion and thoughts on this would be appreciated. I could widen my understanding of things that way :) ... adios.