The Fundamental Human Need for an Identity (and Religion)

In my Geography class today we had a very interesting discussion on the Israel and Palestine situation. Two of my Jewish friends who are both very involved and spent two months in Israel over the summer said that they would fight for the Israeli army over the American army. This shocked me. They are both very normal American citizens, but feel like their heritage and attachment to the religion supercedes loyalty to their home country.

It raised the larger question about the fundamental human need for an identity.

It is usually in adolescence when we fully develop our sense of self. It is a core human need to feel ownership of our self (our ego), take comfort in a unique identity, AND feel a sense of belonging to a larger something. The identity crisis is the quintessential high school quagmire, and it usually manifests itself with abrupt personality changes. Someone may come in one day and be a real loud-mouth, and a month later try on the introverted hat. Later on, this is called the mid-life crisis.

Religion is a very convenient way to fulfill this need. In many ways it dictates a value system and brings a rich culture and history to which you can feel a part. For me, I prefer to exercise my individuality by grappling with the big questions myself and developing a personal value system. In other words, my sense of belonging is to a worldview I continue to create. I have little interest in finding my roots or tracing my ethnicity. If my parents tried, I would have resisted a formal religious upbringing because it seems too tidy a way to resolve some of the most difficult questions. My approach is not necessarily better than the one of my friends, but it highlights a divergence in life philosophy.

What are your thoughts?

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