The priest is concerned solely with the individual believer. Thus the question whether you really need a priest can only be answered by the believer. In fact, only the believer has any right to speak on the matter.
The fact that some religions have priests while others don’t is beside the point. It is not the name or the specific title of priesthood that defines the priest. It is the role the priest plays of an intermediary between the believer and the deity that is important.
Any person who is in a position to be able to offer spiritual guidance or spiritual solace to the believer is basically a priest. That means that even religions that don’t have priesthood do have certain people who can help a believer in need.
When believers turn to advisers on spiritual matters in religions that don’t have priests, they’re only proving that some people need this sort of help. Exactly what sort of help, and how deeply spiritual the help, is again up to the believer.
If you were to put this question to any such believer in spiritual distress, whether they really need a spiritual adviser, they would probably reply that it’s up to them to decide, and it’s really a personal matter.
And that’s what it comes down to: A personal matter between the individual believer and the person in the advisory position. I shall use the term “priest” for any individual in any religion who is deemed capable of offering advice and solace to a believer.
What makes a priest? That is, besides the actual official role of priesthood in a specific religion, what makes any individual capable of fulfilling such a role. What is it about them that inspires confidence in the believer to turn to them for help?
Knowledge of the particular religion is important, of course. But knowledge alone won’t suffice. Most professors of Divinity would be considered more knowledgeable than a priest. Yet no believer would turn to a professor of Divinity for help.
Psychology is another important factor. But, once again, any professor of Psychology and any psychiatrist would be in a better position to offer help in the case of mental and emotional problems. But their knowledge wouldn’t be of use in spiritual problems, though, I’m sure, most psychologists and psychiatrists will object strongly to my opinion.
What makes a priest over and above the knowledge of the religion and knowledge of psychology, is the trust between the priest and the individual believer. And this trust is an individual thing. The believer must feel that the priest has searched within themselves and has come to a spiritual understanding.
The best indication of the individual relationship between the priest and the believer is in the case of terminally ill patients. Some terminally ill patients will ask for a priest, and if they belong to a religion that doesn’t have priests, they’ll ask for some religious elder to come and do the rites.
Yet, some patients, even if they belong to a religion that has priesthood, will wave away the priest who comes to perform any final rites. At the end such terminally ill patients will decide that now it’s between them and their Creator, and they’d rather not have anyone in between.
The title of this article is the question: Do you really need a priest? As the writer of this article I have to answer this question. My answer is that, no I don’t need a priest. But I must specify that this answer is only for myself, as it applies to me.
My view on the matter should not affect anyone else. No believer should allow themselves to be influenced by me or anyone else. It’s strictly up to the individual believer to decide what’s best for them in the matter of priests and religion in general.