What do religious people think about when they get together or pray and meditate alone? There are so many problems of life addressed, like illness, regret, and other distress, plus aspirations, hopes, and joy.
It is vital that these thoughts be related to stories, parables and histories. Abstract principles or rules might be involved but they become personal and emotional when seen in human lives.
Each religion has its saints and models of good life. Thinking about the events and words of these heroes and heroines of the tradition provides direction for a believer’s own attitudes and behavior.
In Buddhism, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas provide life stories of enlightenment processes. Hindus think of Ram, Krishna, and the goddesses among many other figures in their literature. Abraham, Moses, David and a host of prophets are recorded in the Hebrew Jewish Bible. Jesus, apostles, Mary, other biblical figures, and saints likewise show Christians how to live, love, and die. Muslims study stories of Muhammad’s life for direction and inspiration.
Picturing histories and listening to the teaching words encourage people to examine their own lives and strive for similar virtue. Doctrines to explain the realities behind the stories are important but less effective for most people. Imitation of holy lives, emotions evoked by rehearsing personal dramas, and resolution to act better are reinforced when celebrated together. Religions are improvement programs modeled in ideal lives.