Why is Religion Important?
I come from a religious family. When I was in college I realized my family’s religion was not important – simply by observing all the people around me at the University, who were interested in many other things.
But I am the only person in my extended family (of at least 50 people) to realize this. I have always wondered why. I now know the reason – their religion provided meaning for their lives, while I was able to get my meaning elsewhere.
In all honesty, this explanation is not mine. I got it from The Design of Everyday Things, which I have mentioned before, beginning on page 68, when he is discussing Memory for Meaningful Relationships, one of three kinds of memory:
- Memory for arbitrary things
- Memory for meaningful relationships
- Memory through explanation
This in turn is part of Long-Term Memory (LTM), and I quote from page 67:
Long-term memory is memory for the past. As a rule, it takes time to put stuff away in LTM and time and effort to get it out again. This is how we maintain our experiences, not as an exact recording of the events, but as interpreted though our understanding of them, subject to the distortions and changes that the human explanatory mechanism imposes upon life…
The difficulty in LTM is in organization – in getting material in and out when material makes sense, when it first into what is already known. When the material makes no sense it will have to be worked on, structured, and interpreted, until it can finally be retained.
I mention this to show how powerful and simple Donald A. Norman’s ideas are.
To return to the subject: my family cannot give up their religion – even though it has failed and is not long for this world. If I point this out to them, all I get is blank looks – as if to say “Meaning is more important than logic!”