Why does religion still exist ?

Discussion in 'Religion and Spirituality' started by bigarrow, May 11, 2010.

  1. By Hank Campbell

    There was a time when it was virtually impossible not to believe in God. That made sense; life had (and certainly still has) many mysteries and a divine hand made sense of an irrational world, at least in the sense that you could believe in one supernatural thing rather than many.

    But over time two important things happened that should have killed religion; the world got 'smaller' in the sense that a lot more information about people and cultures became available and science was able to explain a much larger, very fundamental and far-reaching set of things about the world in terms of natural laws.

    Yet religion die not die, as it was predicted it must. Nietzsche could metaphor like nobody's business but he is most certainly dead and religion is most certainly not and every time I hear one of his descendants, like postmodernists, speak I want to reach for a pistol - but even Nietzsche in the beginning was downright optimistic about religion's future compared to other European philosophers of his day and since.

    Yet it's still here. With knowledge of multiple faiths, which would certainly seem to cast doubt on the supremacy, and thus the value, of any particular one, and the encroachment of science in explaining the natural world, religon should have become a quaint anachronism, yet it has not.

    The "Secular Thesis" has failed, as phrased by McGill University professor emeritus of political science and philosophy Charles Taylor. The encroachment of the 'secular' age did not stamp out belief as a source of meaning and morality and instead it simply (the wrong word, I know, since the whole thing is quite complicated) changed the conditions of that belief.

    It isn't moral at all, argues cultural luminaries such as Elton John, who said, "I would ban religion completely. It turns people into hateful lemmings, and it's not really compassionate."

    How can the same thing have such different meanings to people who consider themselves truly compassionate and concerned about others?

    Perhaps it is because religion in society is a lot more nuanced and much less shallow than the fringes of the science vs. religion or intelligent vs.immature camps want to believe. Certainly religion brings on its own public relations problems. Catholics forgiving pederasts, for example, and giving them multiple opportunities for atonement has led to serious credibility issues and no small amount of financial impact but an inclusive church that believes in spiritual rehabilitation is expected to try and heal its own - it's still a bad idea to send them off to other areas of the country or attempt to cover up the problem.

    It isn't just Christianity suffering from bad public image. Muslims who circle the wagons around terrorists, imprison homosexuals or publicly stone rape victims aren't adding any credibility to their denomination either.

    Anti-religious zealots have their own credibility gaps. They tend to slap some gnostic fanaticism label on everyone religious, which is in denial of the obvious benefits of a liturgical culture. There's a great deal of post-modern rationalization that goes on to explain the beneficial aspects of religion in a way that denies religion any credit. That framing by the atheist contingent is no different than ministers who can find no wrong in religion and they paint overwhelming denial of evolution by evangelicals as a religious ignorance problem, which is hardly the case.

    Yet outside the fringes of the culture war, science has gained a lot of ground but religion has held its own. In AAAS surveys, 40% of scientists believed in God in 1933. 70 years later, the result was basically identical, a somewhat surprising statistic given the empirical nature of science. How is that possible if science is the enemy of religion?

    It remains that religion does have some positive benefits, despite what Elton John thinks. If there's a problem in a third world country, it is primarily religious groups who put feet on the ground trying to help - and they do so even when there are no headlines. I don't recall the last time an organized atheist group went into a prison to try and rehabilitate people, though they are quite good about protesting if someone innocent is in jail whereas religious people tend to be in favor of more jails. Protesting doesn't involve having to step foot inside prisons, though. Atheists do a great deal for their fellow man indirectly, through awareness and policy efforts, but religious people do more for non-political causes in extremely dangerous conditions and it rarely gets covered by the New York Times.

    Religion also partly maintains a place in society because even for non-believers, religion is fascinating. Recently academic researchers have tackled issues like 'do prayers get answered?', religious disparities in prostate cancer, chicken versus egg debates like did religion codify morality or did morality create religion? and even do religious people do more for charity?

    They have researched the neuropsychological core of selflessness which, oddly, is at the core of every major religion in the world. Religion in medical care had been pushed to the back for some time but recent studies suggest that the brain's healing power, including when religiously motivated, can work 'miracles', if we can use that term.

    Obviously there is some bad correlation that occurs too. Are religious people more likely to be faithful? Yes, it turns out, though religion may not be the reason. Other studies tackle how religion is ironically a product of evolution.

    So why does religion still exist at all today, much less remain vibrant and active in a scientifically astute society? After 1,000 words I am no closer to an answer because it's too big an issue - and I know that's sort of a copout. But I know what isn't an answer; religious people are not just stupid across the board any more than atheists are immoral bigots. There are complex issues involved and over time we will converge on answers about biological processes but, like any equation with multiple variables, there won't be a solution that satisfies everyone. The nature of faith will always be in defiance of what we can understand today.

    However, evolutionary biologists can take comfort that neuroscientists will soon be ground zero in the science versus religion culture wars because they are trying to close in on how the brain responds to belief and then eventually 'the soul' - something people of faith might think should be left alone.
  2. the human mind seems to be hardwired to be superstitious. i believe religion is now facing it greatest threat. the internet. for religion to survive it needs censorship and the ability to control knowledge. that was easy when knowledge was stored in books that were easily censored. now it is impossible to censor knowledge. the internet makes it possible to find answers to any questions you may have about what you are being told by your preacher or your parents.

    martin luther warned about what might happen a long time ago:

    "Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has; it never comes to the aid of
    spiritual things, but -- more frequently than not -- struggles against the
    divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God."
    father of modern Protestant christianity, Martin Luther
  3. from the beginning of time people must make sense of their lives.
    thats the long and the short of it
  4. PatternRec

    PatternRec Guest

    Moreover, it exists because there remains many unanswered things and humans are prone to "god-of-the-gap" rationale to explain things.

    Which means religion of some kind will likely always be with humanity.
  5. absolutely true. god explains everything but the irony is that which explains ALL thing explains no thing :D
  6. Wallet


    Not superstitious, but supernatural. Yes mankind is hard-wired to seek something greater than itself, that's by design. True happiness and purpose is found when that need is satisfied, not in material possession which never fills the void.

  7. Robert A. Heinlein: Men rarely (if ever) manage to dream up a God superior to themselves. Most Gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.

    George Bernard Shaw: The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one
  8. PatternRec

    PatternRec Guest

    True happiness... what exactly is that?

    Purpose? What purpose? Who defines purpose?

    So then Jihadists have found their purpose in the hope of attaining true happiness?

    Seems those that are content to live relatively harmoniously with their level of material possession have caused the least amount of harm. Whether they be religious or not. Interestingly, it seems that the more dear a religion is to someone, the more harm they cause to others. And by harm, I don't simply mean bodily harm, but emotional and psychological also.

    Speaking in general terms of course.
  9. from an early age i knew i was different. at first i couldn't put my fingure on it but then finally dawned on me i don't think like everyone else. i have an analytical mind. i am different. now i actually prefer to be this way

    i'm sure some of you have come to similar realization? :confused:
  10. Question: Who "hardwired" the human mind. Your first sentence implies that some kind of intelligence must have programmed our brains.

    The internet also makes it possible to find answers to any questions you may have about what you are being told by your public school teachers or atheist parents.

    Its all faith, whether you are an athiest or a believer. God seems to have designed the world in such a way that you always have a choice in what to believe. You will find "good enough" answers down both paths. (at least until you get to the big bang which is where the atheist road ends). I mean...come on guys...the universe started as a tiny atom sized amount of energy that blew up into the earth, and the billions of galaxies? Sorry guys...I guess I just dont have THAT MUCH faith. :cool: :D :cool:
    #10     May 11, 2010