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The Case for Religion April 29, 2009

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Okay so we all know (at least the people that would read this blog) why we should be super critical of religion. 

Here are two of those reasons. 

– Religions makes truth claims about things that they know absolutely nothing about, the nature of God, the origin of the universe, the afterlife, etc. The ridiculous part is that they do this so confidently and so arrogantly that it is an embarrassment to anybody the least bit educated on the topics.

– Religion are often oppressive, telling people how they should live, what they can wear, what they can say, even who they can marry. 

And there are probably many more problems that you can find with religion.

But there are a few things that religion does give us.

At this point I should probably come totally clean on where I am coming from. I have been attending my own favorite religious group, the Unitarian Universalists,  also my own personal life philosophy was influenced a great deal by reading Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypothesis. But maybe even deeper there is some troubled corner of my own inner psyche that refuses to let go of religion. Most of my life I was deeply involved in the LDS faith, and I have to imagine that has affected my word view in a very profound way.

Now that I have all my cards on the table, I hope even the most neo-atheists among us will be sympathetic to my perspective-

It appears than in prehistoric times out in the Savannas of Africa there was a competitive advantage for groups of people to care for one another, and in those ancient days morality was born. This morality enabled larger groups of people to live together successfully, and over time people enjoyed seeing themselves not just as unique individuals but as part of something much grander than themselves. This new human quality propelled human civilization. Fast forward a few hundred thousand years and you have religion, political parties, even die hard Yankee fans – all because people enjoy belonging.

That basically is the crux of the argument. 

Humans have an innate need for religious involvement, it is not something that we can just discard as an evolutionary byproduct. Religion is too far interwoven into our common humanity. I think that is why despite the overwhelming evidence against many religious teachings people still cling to their religion. That is why I don’t think religion should be eradicated it just needs be redefined. Here are a few ways that religion can help humanity.

– Be a place to develop relationships and become a citizen. Be part of a community with shared values. 

– Preserve a common culture: A culture that unites us, without being oppressive, but teaching us to have values to strive for. A community that promotes equality and opportunity and social justice. 

– Be a place to experience divinity. This is a touchy one, because what is divinity? I think that if we define it as the interconnectedness that we all share in, the beauty and wonder of the world that surrounds us, or the capacity of humanity to care for one another, or the deep mystery of the universe that we are all a part of. Any one of those definitions offers even the most skeptical among us a chance to enjoy a feeling of awe and transcendence.

– Be a place where people can discover a path of growth and self-cultivation, where people are challenged to be better, to question their beliefs and live a fuller life. Of course it wouldn’t mandate exactly how this should be done, because we all are free to chose our own path, but it would be supportive without being overbearing.

– And finally teach peace, inner peace, interpersonal peace, societal peace, and international peace. 

To the extent that a religion follows those rough rules, and rejects teaching dogma and being oppressive and exclusive. I think that religion can be a very positive force in the world.

But the bottom line is that religion is simply not going to disappear, people will continue to find new religions as old ones are discarded – it is human nature. So why not take an active role in defining the next generation of religion.

Changing Religions April 27, 2009

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I read some new today that cheered me up:

Survey: Half of U.S. adults have switched religions

Check it out –

http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2009-04-27-pew-religion-switch_N.htm

This is great, it shows people are becoming less inclined to just believe whatever they were taught. People are less afraid of questioning and are bold enough to follow new paths.

I read once that the reason that US people still remain relatively religious, where in other developed countries (Europe) people have pretty much abandoned their churches altogether is because of the religious diversity in the US. What happens is that in the US churches need to evolve. They need to provide something useful to their congregations otherwise people just go somewhere else.  Basically there are market pressures to increase the relevancy of US religions. So European churches just grew old and stale, when US churches changed with the times and doing so brought in new converts.

I don’t know how true that is, but I like it. Churches that reject evolution, or ones that become too overbearing will die away slowly, simply because they don’t provide anything useful to their congregations.

Just starting out April 26, 2009

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There are so many blogs out there and so many people writing different things with vastly different opinions. So the question is obvious, even for the most confident among us. 

Why blog? What do I have to add to the ever expanding noise of the self proclaimed experts of the blogosphere?

I get so quickly annoyed by all the know-it-alls that think their opinion is the answer to everything, but yet they appear to be so frightfully uninformed on even the most basic subjects. So I have to honestly ask myself. Am I one of these obnoxious know-it-alls? 

After careful and sobering consideration the answer is probably yes. I do think that I know more than the average person, and even more sobering is the fact that my writing is probably not terribly gripping. I havent published books that really explore intimately the human psyche. There is nothing that really sets me apart from the rest of the herd of people pecking away at their keyboards on a cheap laptop on their kitchen counter.

However, I am still choosing to write.

Partly because I do believe that the world needs more people that have a respect for science and critical thinking, but yet feel reluctant to competely throw spirituality away. But also I do it for myself – to explore my own ideas in a public forum where they can be criticized some and hopefully complemented as well.  Maybe this will make me feel part of this movement of humanity toward a broader understanding of who we are.  

In any case, I am here. Adding my voice to the ever expanding blogoshpere.