Life in this world has been designed in such a manner that man has solution-seeking needs which in turn are adequately solved. Man gets thirsty and there is water to quench it; he gets hungry and there is food to take care of it. And so on. Likewise is the need for religion. That is why the response to the need for religion which comes from God in the form of Divine Revelation (Wahy) is also called sustenance (rizq) in the Qur’an. The only difference is that while most other needs are directly related with human physiology and intellect only plays the role of a solution-finding tool, it plays a key role in identifying and solving the need for religion.
But how could it be shown that man needs religion? There could be several reasons cited for it but four of them are more prominent: Man is benefiting from a need-satisfying system in his surroundings and he wants to thank his benefactor for what he is getting. He feels, at least at times, weak and desperate for help and needs to rely on someone to come to his rescue. He wants justice in life but observes that justice is seldom adequately available. And he wants to live on forever but the life he is given to live is very short. Let’s call them religious needs.
So long as these needs are felt by man, the need for religion will continue to be felt. If one wants to prove that religion is outdated, one has to show that these needs are not genuine or have already been solved. There could be another way of disproving the need for religion: One can go on to show that the world we are living in is a hopelessly frustrating place which makes no sense: Man has desperate needs but they can’t be satisfied, because there is no arrangement in this life to meet them. However, if one is resigned to admit that this world has a remarkable ability to come up with solutions to the problems we confront, one has got to accept that religious needs should also be met. If they are not being met by the system, it is a very strange exception to the need-satisfying rule of our life. Human nature would always look for a way to come out of this predicament.
Of course, if the need for religion is proved, it doesn’t necessarily show that all existing religions are correct, nor does it mean that religion can cause no harm. Quite the same way as if the need for medicine is established, the possibility of harmful medicine can still be there. However, if people are contracting diseases, a desperate search for their cure can’t be ridiculed. Likewise if there is a yearning to meet religious needs, attempts at satisfying them can’t be looked down upon.