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The Case for Religion April 29, 2009

Posted by dmb677 in Uncategorized.

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.



1. Values and Religion « Spirit of Secularism - May 1, 2009

[…] May 1, 2009 Posted by dmb677 in Uncategorized. Tags: religion, values trackback Perhaps my last post implied that religion is needed for values to flourish. I need to clarify this point because I […]

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