My Heathen Heart recently wrote a post that I commented on. My comment was terse, which I suppose left the door open for interpretation. In response to my comment, My Heathen Heart wrote an additional post. A very well written and reasonable post, but one that I feel deserves a retort. After all, I was referenced, so I think a short explanation is due. But more importantly, I provided a complicated opinion with absolutely no explanation, which I’ll attempt to rectify now; keeping in mind – my attentive readers – that this will not be exhaustive.
My comment was very simple; and I’m going to fix the grammar since I apparently have a difficult time with this when writing comments. Here it is:
“As I surf through new blogs today, looking for insightful and stimulating posts, I have found myself repeatedly saying, “How unfortunate.” I believe religion will never release its hold on humanity, but I believe we [can] train it to be more tolerant and semi-openminded.”
The origins of religious thought are essential to this discourse. Of the many theories, there are three that are generally accepted; of course, any combination of these is also probable. Those are:
- Religion provides an explanation for events and natural phenomena
- Religion is comforting
- Religion provides the foundation for a social order
I won’t bore you with lists of events, such as origin myths, or phenomena that puzzled our primal brethren. That would be tedious; not to mention, most of you are more than familiar with multiple examples. I’d rather address this first point with a question. That is, by your own estimations, will humanity ever know everything about life and the universe? The answer is obviously, no. I won’t belabor you with philosophical logic as to why it would be fundamentally impossible; instead, I’ll ask that you use intuition as a guide.
To put it bluntly, we will never understand everything. Because of this, the religiously inclined will continue to point towards those gaps as evidence for the supernatural. I’m not speculating on this point; it’s historically supported by countless occasions. Today, the religious cling to arguments such as infinite regression, our lack of evidence for abiogenesis, and our ignorance of dark matter. Explain these and twenty new questions will arise; and all because that’s the nature of science. It’s the agent Credulity uses to enact suffering on human progress; beautifully designed to follow us wherever knowledge is to be attained, it strikes better-judgment down with unrelenting disregard.
Moving to comfort, we first arrive at mortality. People are frightened of death. They do not recognize the anomalous nature of our time and they childishly refuse to embrace the opportunity in front of them. Their fear is channeled through ambiguous, unfalsifiable, faith-based hopes. Hopes that provide them comfort. It’s comfort for the intellectually and emotionally debilitated. Find a cure for this and then prepare your speech because you just earned the Nobel Prize.
Furthermore, try to name one country that has eradicated poverty, that thinks globally rather than like a solipsist little leach, and that has genuinely implemented a “level playing field”. Without the social improvements above – not to mention, finding a cure to the mortality dilemma – people will always feel that this life is depressing, unjust, and taxing. Religion is the sufferer’s second chance; it’s his hope for something better; it is his lifeblood. Without religion, most people could not function with eternal nothingness at the back of their mind.
This brings us to the foundation of social order. Again, I’ll refrain from going into detail, but religion has assisted man to enslave his brother since time immemorial. I touch on this in The Evolution of Religious Thought: Cultural Diffusion and also in The Genesis of Credulity. The elite established themselves as the keepers of the “unknown”. In fact, my learned friend John Zande commented in response to that article with an appropriate example for this discourse.
“The first pantheon, that of the Sumerians, coincided with the rise of the first dynastic rulers. Before that moment the first five Sumerian cities of Eridu, Bad-tibira, Larsa, Sippar, and Shuruppak were theocracies controlled by the En’s; the cities High Priests and keepers of time. We know this today because the word En, or Ensi, is referred to in the earliest known Sumerian cuneiform tablets as ‘prince’ or ‘ruler’ of a city whereas in later tablets En is presented as subordinate to a new word, Lugal, which is composed of the symbols for ‘Big’ and ‘Man,’ denoting the first ‘Kings.’”
Do you foresee a future without political and economic inequality? Do you foresee a future where everyone truly has an equal opportunity for education? Do you foresee a time when humanity will understand everything? Or even a time when people will want to understand, and endure the realization that they are mortal? Even the great political philosophers such as Rousseau weren’t this naïve; they understood the inherent need for inequality in modern civilizations. I’d love to live in the secular utopia described above, but they’re simply unachievable. They’re about as likely as avoiding the inevitable collision with Andromeda. It’s wishful thinking for reasonable people.
Taking everything that I have just said into consideration, I’m still behind anyone that wishes to advance science and reason. I’m still going to refute irrational arguments with apathy towards the perceived sanctity of supernatural drivel. I’ll still proudly wear my badge of humanism, and I’ll continue to be an advocate of tolerance and compromise. But I will not fool myself. Religion is essential to the human condition; founded on the fragility of our consciousness and perpetuated by our curiosity.