Exploring the Mountain Peaks of a Better Life

Mountaineering involves going up mountains. Mountaineering-related activities include traditional outdoor climbing and skiing. Indoor climbing, sport climbing and bouldering are also considered mountaineering. Mountaineering lacks widely-applied formal rules, regulations, and governance; mountaineers adhere to a large variety of techniques and philosophies when climbing mountains. That sounds a lot like the world’s religions, doesn’t it? And the question about both of them can be, ”Why do people try them?”

Why people believe is a question that has plagued great thinkers for many centuries. Karl Marx, for example, called religion the “opium of the people”. Sigmund Freud felt that god was an illusion and worshippers were reverting to the childhood needs of security and forgiveness. A more recent psychological explanation is that religion is a by-product of a number of cognitive and social adaptations which have been extremely important in human development.

Okay, but what does religion offer us that mere life in a physical dimension doesn’t offer us? And does it really matter that there are so many ways to finding whatever it is? Throughout history, scholars and researchers have tried to identify why people are attracted to religion.

Steven Reiss, a professor emeritus of psychology at The Ohio State University and author of The 16 Strivings for God, offered the idea that “People are attracted to religion because it provides believers the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again.” He identified 16 basic desires that we all share: acceptance, curiosity, eating, family, honor, idealism, independence, order, physical activity, power, romance, saving, social contact, status,
tranquility and vengeance.

A key point is that each of the 16 desires motivates personality opposites and those opposites all have to find a home in a successful religion. So religion offers people the opportunity to satisfy all their basic desires over and over again.

So if your religion helps you live a better life, why should I try to change your beliefs?