Obviously religion is a huge topic and controversy is innate when criticizing it. I debated long and hard with myself as to whether I wanted to write about religion just yet. I came to the conclusion it would be harmless to jot down some observations but I will do my best to refrain from making any hard-driven hypotheses for now.
Of course I am biased on the topic as an atheist but I figure this is a better predilection as opposed to being of a particular faith.
My first “observation” (and note I’ll use observation as opposed to words like “argument”) is that religion is a heavily dated institution. All mainstream religions that aren’t classified as cults (aside from a few that tread closely to that line) are thousands of years old. With this arises ignorance. Thousands of years ago, people had no idea what was going on. You might have heard of the eminent subscription to flat Earth cosmography during the Iron Age which, the time period part of the Bible was written in.
I don’t have a problem with ignorance. In fact, what we now know today might also be considered highly ignorant in a thousand years to come. But relevance supersedes all of this. I think the Bible could have been a highly relevant and even reasonable document thousands of years ago. Why then, has religion and religious dogma not evolved with the times? As people get smarter and learn more about the world around them, why hasn’t religious dogma caught up? The answer is because religious doctrines make absolute claims about the nature of the universe, existence, and other extremely fundamental topics that cannot be supplanted ever. Islam also states that its dogma is god’s final word.
Why then does it seem we cannot con a felicitous religion that imposes dynamic values suited to the development and change of culture? The answer is really simple. And it’s because we don’t need religion anymore.
In ancient times, religion was there to explain the unknown. It explained how the world came about, what happens after death, how to behave, etc. Today, we still don’t have the answers to many of these things. But instead of clinging to some incessant need for understanding, today we’re more open to embracing the unknown. We understand morality and know how to treat others. We certainly don’t reference ancient scripture to do this – it’s build into our nature.
The biggest reason, many think, for religion still having a place in today’s society is a single mystery. It’s the mystery of death. All religions have this in common. They all explain what happens when you die, which is ironic since no one actually knows! But you see people want to know they’re going to heaven to experience eternal bliss after they die. It’s a pleasant thought. Without religion, people fear death and see it as a scary proposition. People need not be frightened of death but do anyway. If people weren’t worried about death, they would have no need for religion. But this post isn’t about death, I already have plenty on that subject.
People will also argue the intelligent design argument. This world, this existence, everything is too miraculous to have spontaneously arisen from nothing. It’s a worldly truth that any complex object has to have a designer. This is where the god of the gaps reasoning occurs. It couldn’t have happened by itself, so god had to make it.
But let’s just take a step back here for a moment. If we agree the world really is so complicated and exquisite and bizarre, there are two options we can now choose from. We can either remain in a perpetual state of wonder, of not knowing, or we can theorise that god did it. One involves, essentially, making up a simply unbelievable story and yet brainwashing followers into believing it so that we’ll be rid of this wonder, as though it’s a disease. I would like to know what’s wrong with remaining in awe of everything. Maybe people just really like knowing. Which is fine. Okay so god did it.
If there is a divine creator, why can’t we just leave it at that? As an atheist, I think it’s a completely logical and reasonable hypothesis to have that something created all of this. It may even be irrefutable. I want to know why religious people were unsatisfied with this alone? To say god created the universe should be the end of it, shouldn’t it? They now have the closure they need, right? So why do they also subscribe to the bundles of associated ideas that go with this? Why do they participate in the doctrine? Are they not satisfied knowing that a very vague, omnipotent deity had to have created it all? Why do they personify this entity? I don’t know.
Another point I’d like to make stems from my first observation about the outmoded nature of religion. It has to do with the horrific nature contained within some of the sacred scripture. It may have been customary to stone people to death or to kill people for seemingly unobtrusive crimes or acts during the relevant time period, but it is certainly not so today. In Western society, murder is being punished by death less and less. Clearly, scripture like the Old Testament are not fitting in today’s society and we’re truly lucky it is ignored for the most part.
We’re all aware, however, of the extremist groups who truly do “play by the book”. Fundamentalism and jihadism are two examples of this. This is why religion has recently been branded as bad, or at least bad enough to not ever be received as necessary or good.
People say their belief in god gives their life meaning. I’m not sure this is any different to the death complex. People will mistakenly contemplate eternal nothingness as the only alternative to eternity in paradise that god promises them. This, in tern, is said to give their lives meaning. But this really just stems from ignorance of death.
I’m sure I’ll be making more deliberate posts on religion in the near future, but I just wanted to gather some thoughts I have on religion at this moment. This post was probably more for personal benefit but feel free to have your say in the comment section.