A Quora Question and Answer

The Question: What is the essence of Religion?

The Answer from Eiving Kjørstad
23 november 2015


For me, the essence of religion is the tendency of human beings to seek answers to questions facing us, including those questions that have no objectively “true” answer.
There’s quite a few such questions, and religions are typically centered on them. Questions like “Why are we here?” or “What is our purpose?” or “What happens after we die?” or “How do we separate right from wrong?”.

I think being curious about such things is a very human thing, and a valuable thing. I don’t, though, have the same high opinion of the answers that religion delivers. Problem is, since these questions don’t have any verifiable “true” answers, whoever controls the answers to these questions potentially gains a lot of power over the followers.

And in order to cement that power it is necessary to do precisely the wrong thing. You have to demonize inquiry, curiosity, questioning, and instead make such things as faith, certainty, and blindly following commandments given by someone else virtuous.

I don’t think that “faith, certainty and blindly following commandments,” what one usually means by religion, is necessarily a virtue, or virtuous. More a vice, amounting to failing to take responsibility for your own behavior, your own morals, and instead outsourcing the responsibility to someone else.

I admire people who look for answers… But I dislike people and organizations who claim to have found all the answers.

The essence of religion is therefore the search for answers. Unfortunately organized religion has a tendency to morph into a tool for controlling people by claiming to have found all the answers.


Would that the Evangelicals, more and more prominent in our nation, and who are probably and principally responsible for the election of our know-nothing, child-President, —would that they began to understand this, and jettisoned over the side their certainties, adopting in their place Eiving Kjørstad’s questioning outlook and attitude, and thereby helping to still further open our country to the world, instead of walling it off as they are now doing, or would do if they can’t be stopped.

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