Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and the World’s Religions by Laura E. Shulman

Be it the goal of salvation or enlightenment, comfort and guidance for living a moral life, or any of a number of other “higher” purposes in life, religions clearly encourage us to move beyond a life motivated by self-centeredness and pure animal instincts for mere survival. This observation about the ultimate goals, purpose or function of religion can be related to the classic theory of a hierarchy of human needs proposed by Abraham Maslow (1908-1970). ...Starting with a need for the comfort and camaraderie of community, religion also addresses our need to respect and be respected by others [the “Golden Rule”] and, ultimately, to be all that we can be as “God” created us to be or, in the case of many Eastern religions, to become “enlightened” – thus “self-actualized”. ...4) This is a good description of the Confucian ideal of achieving Jen – human heartedness, becoming more fully human, reaching one’s full potential for what it means to be human. ...The non-monastic religions like Islam and Judaism, do tend to focus more on the lower as well as higher level needs. ... It too values family and community, working in the world through honest and moral means, and giving back through charity to support those “in need” (of the lowest needs on Maslow’s hierarchy). The Eastern religions also guide with regard to what we eat: a vegetarian or vegan diet amongst the religions of India or the Taoist natural and organic dietary preferences that also avoid too much of the “bad” stuff (meat, spicy and stale foods). ...Islam, of course, has the month-long fast of Ramadan when they do not eat, drink water or have sexual relations from sun-up to sun-down for each day of the month (providing health conditions do not dictate otherwise). ... To forgo this physiological need for basic sustenance as a spiritual pursuit is just one way that religions emphasize the higher needs. ...The lowest of the four goals is that of seeking pleasure in life (such as through the well-known Kama Sutra) – not just about sex, but about all things sensual. ... Beyond this is the goal of Dharma, one’s duty to one’s society: serving the needs of those who have less (charity – another common theme in many religions), fulfilling one’s role in the larger society of which one and one’s family is a part.
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