Here, we do an in-depth study of the relationship between religion and Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
Christianity and Islam:
The second half of the sixteenth century saw extreme political turmoil in Arabia. Earlier, Greek and Roman society had a huge influence in Europe, North Africa and Western Asia but this changed with the transition to middle ages in mainland Europe, the Mediterranean world and the Near East. As seen during all times of political change in the world there was also a yearning for new teachings and religion. Times of political turmoil were extremely troublesome for the normal man.
There was a yearning for a more spiritual form of religion. In Mecca, Prophet Muhammad began receiving what Muslims consider divine revelations. This attracted a handful of followers which would eventually increase and also attracted a lot of resistance from Mecca notables. So, what drove people to Prophet Mohammad? During political turmoil and extreme poverty, He made charity a compulsory ritual for men. During months of anarchy when alcohol and music lead to violence he upheld the institution of "sacred months" when all violence and music were forbidden, which eventually shaped into the month of Ramadan. Also, music is forbidden to this day in Islam.
Prophet Mohammad promoted a strict monotheistic faith in a time when polytheistic faith was giving rise to violence. Most importantly, he gave the concept of a judgement day, making the poorest, helpless man work within the framework of society towards an achievable end goal.
Around the same time, Christianity, another monotheistic religion spread in Northern Europe and Russia. Although Christianity existed since 1st century A.D. as a sect of the Jewish religion,
it quickly spread in the Greco-Roman world. Lord Jesus also became popular and widely followed during a time of extreme poverty and helplessness among the folk.
Following commandments were given by Jesus and are quite similar to the laws of Islam:
You shall have no other Gods but me
You shall not make for yourself any idol, nor bow down to it or worship it
You shall remember and keep the Sabbath day holy.
These are just some of the various common factors between these two religions.
Both of these religions came up in similar situations. Men whose basic physiological and safety and security needs were not fulfilled. They came up to provide comfort to men without even the basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, health It isn't hard to recognize that Christianity and Islam came up in times of poverty and violence to help the common man.
The Vedas are cited as the basis for the Hindu religion. There are 4 vedas:
1. Rigveda: Veda of verses (composed of about 1000 hymns)
2. Yajurveda: Veda of sacrificial formulas ( containing information about rites and rituals)
3. Samaveda: Veda of chants (selection of verses to aid the performance of sacred songs)
4. Atharvaveda: Veda containing incantations and magical spells.
All this doesn't seem very familiar, does it? A lot of Hindus are not aware of the contents of these Vedas but still identify as Hindus. This is because the Vedic religion got shaped into the currently followed Hindu religion much later. As we are all aware, the Vedas were earlier only studied and preached by the Brahmins in the Hindu society. The rituals were also performed by the Brahmins only. Further, a lot of restrictions were imposed on who could and couldn’t attend religious ceremonies and enter temples. Anyone apart from the male Brahmins and the Kshatriya class was not allowed to sit among them. Vaishyas (traders and businessmen), women and lower caste Hindus especially felt alienated during this time.
This feeling of alienation lead to people deviating from the religion and following the preachings of other Gurus. As a result, the Vedic religion went through a lot of changes to attract the common man back to the faith. Some even believe that Lord Krishna and tales of his mischiefs were made up at this time to attract Hindu women back towards the faith.
A man's life was divided into four parts. The first part began at birth and comprised of education. It involved leaving home and worldly distractions to become disciplined and gain knowledge. The second part began with youth (Artha). It comprised of honest and hard work. The Third part began when a man had established himself and proven his worth (Kama). This was the time to enjoy family life, material security and the fruits of hard work.The fourth part comprised of leaving home and worldly pleasures to take up Sanyas in a forest with one's spouse in pursuit of attaining Moksha. Now the religion begins to sound a bit familiar. It begins to take shape of the life of a common lower or upper middle-class man. Now it becomes convenient and realistic. Hinduism was meant for the man who had fulfilled his basic physiological needs and needed more from life.
Those were the times when India was called the Golden Bird. Trade flourished and businessmen and traders were prospering. It was also the time when not just women and lower castes, but even the businessmen and traders began feeling alienated from Hinduism due to their exclusion from religious ceremonies and rituals. These rich businessman already had material wealth and the societal status he could gain from it. His physiological, security and self-esteem needs were already satisfied. They had a respectable position in society too. He had material resources but yearned for spirituality. He expected better of himself and his capabilities. He was at the stage to aim for self-actualization. One of the main vows taken by Jain monks and nuns is called "Aparigraha" or non-possessiveness. It means non-attachment to material and physical things. Jain monks and nuns must completely renounce property and social relations. To own nothing and be attached to nothing. This gave the rich trader the belief that there was more to life than material things and worldly duties and he should aim to rise above. Jainism believes in the concept of Karma i.e. what you give to the universe, the universe gives back to you. Doing good to the society and giving back to the society gives a sense of fulfilment. Earning good Karma made everyday mundane tasks more fulfilling by this simple concept.
Religion is a basic human necessity. A man has faith in God even when he loses faith in himself. It is a source of strength to him. But it is a lot more to each individual. It is a set of morals to guide him everyday. It is a part of his identity and individuality. And the vast range of religions and and religious virtues let him pick what suits his situation, mindset and needs the best. Religion is a platter full of a variety of religions and virtues. It has something for everyone. And it is marketed in a tailor-made approach by none other than the infamous Godmen and Gurus. Maybe that's why the institution of religion has survived for so long. Maybe the reason religion has survived the test of time, unlike societies, social arrangements, colonialism, fashion etc. is that it is the best-marketed business out of all the other fields and to market it to everyone and provide tailor-made approaches is simply survival via adaptation.