Sentenced to death for a crime he may or may not have committed, a young black man named Jefferson now struggles to find the meaning of life. With the help of Grant Wiggins, a man who is unsure of his own worth, perhaps he can succeed in doing so in the story A Lesson Before Dying. It is the exciting tale of two men's quest to find peace in life as well as in death. It is during this journey, however, that an underlying question arises on how man-kind has faith in religion and a god they can not see. It is believed that, because there are so many uncertainties in life, man had to conceive something greater than himself to believe in.
It is likely that religion may be this something. These theological ideas were simply a way to suppress the fears that man has in his insignificance in the universe. It seems that society has been inventing explanations for the mysteries of life since the beginning of time. Survival often requires that an individual be able to react to change. Ideally, the subject should be able to reason and then logically react to change. It seems simple enough, but thinking things out often has its drawbacks. These drawbacks are usually from a lack of time and information available from which to base a conclusion from.
Thus, Man developed emotions to provide a mechanism to work around the limitations of reasoning. These reactions are simply a reflection of man's inner emotions. Emotions help living things to adapt to its environment. The better suited a creature is to adapt, the longer it will live. Hence there is definitely an advantage for survival that emotions offer. Human emotion, however, is the downfall of man. Although it allows him to have feelings, it defeats the rational thought process. When rational thinking has ceased to exist, society gets thrown into disarray. It is as if man fails to see the truth simply because he does not want to see it.
This could be where the need for a higher presence first began. Man may have created religion only as an adaptation for survival. The existence of religion may be due to man's psychological need to understand the world around him. When man seeks out answers to questions but is incapable of finding them, he gets frightened. This fear weakens human qualities and causes distortion between the individual and reality. A fearful person wants only to receive answers, as quickly as possible, to ensure their own emotional well-being. Religion is thus the 'silver platter' answer man is looking for to overcome the origins of fear.
The Greeks are an ideal example of a society with this kind of mentality. Their gods answered the questions that they were unable to figure out themselves. The gods bestowed upon them strength during hard times, hope in times of despair, and peace of mind during times of uncertainty. Spirituality can thus be seen as a factor of the infrastructure in human society. It is the building block for all of modern civilization. The existence of religion is as strong today as ever before. This is partially due to the fact that religion and government tend to merge into one function over time.
The establishment of clergymen was a result of the formation of this modern governmental system. This was because of the need to have organization in a chaotic world. It was religion that was able to achieve this. By controlling the government and the vast amounts of power that came with it, priests possessed dominant roles in society until the Catholic Reformation in 1517. Much of their power was taken away after that point, but government and religious relationships still existed. Through the bonds that were created between each other, the two were responsible for the formation of state institutions.
Since almost all modern governments have religious beginnings, it is almost impossible to separate the two from each other. This is why, in order to hold society together, man must now cling to the theological ideas of the past. Many experts have suggested that religion may have been 'hard-wired', or programmed, in man during the evolutionary process. If this is true, man has created a world full of deceit and lies. Modern civilization, as it is known today, would be obsolete if the expert's predictions were correct. However, if there really is a divine spirit, why was man ever given a self-judging, ever-evolving mind?
Possessing this capability only gives him the capacity to think rationally and second guess the existence of any religious establishment. It is as if man wants to believe one thing but outside influences cause him to choose another. If man is going to get over this obstacle, and perhaps figure out the meaning of life, he must start using common sense and rational thought in everyday situations. When he is finally able to do this, he will see life for what it actually is. Man must realize that religion has only existed throughout history to ease the discomforts of human fears and insecurities.