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Meditation 1184
My Beliefs - - - We Can Do Better, part 1

by: Gordon Barthel

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We have the knowledge, we have the skill, we have the passion, we can do it.

1.

My personal view is that traditional religion is an accident waiting to happen because it understands the need for community unity in a world of inter-tribal hostilities. We on the other hand live in a global village where we need a sense of global unity. Although I doubt traditional religion will survive, I also doubt it will go away because even atheists are beginning to organize churches complete with traditional ceremonies. The primary difference is the lack of gods.

The accident just needs somebody to figure out where the future of religion lies. I seriously doubt the religious community will solve that problem because they honestly believe they have solved the problem. That leaves the irreligious community, which has the benefit of being passionately opposed to traditional religion and it dogma. However, that passion may be a problem because the passion focuses on the denial of beliefs, the renunciation of theological dogma. Atheists deny the almighty’s existence, agnostics deny adequate knowledge and secularists decry the marriage of church and state.

The problem is that they are not creating and promoting modern beliefs or ideals. True, there is talk of beliefs, the central tenets being people need to decide for themselves what they are willing to believe and our convictions should arise from logic, reason and reality. These are sound convictions but they are only the beginning. Unfortunately, they announce the beginning of a long and arduous process that requires reading volumes and volumes of material and then years of thoughtful consideration.

Traditional religion on the other hand has a clear, albeit seriously antiquated, set of beliefs. For better or worse, I am saved, Jesus loves me, and there is no god but Allah provide something to believe and does not require the long, arduous process of figuring it out for ourselves.

2.

I read on Wikipedia in the page covering Freethought, that the movement waned in the late 19th century because it did not have clear goals or beliefs. If you read the works of some leading atheists and agnostic from the period, they seemed to feel traditional religion would fade into history before long. Apparently, the nonreligious community had momentum during the 19th century, and yet here we are a hundred years later and it seems traditional religion is far from fading into the history books. And some days, it seems the fundamentalists are ready to take over the world.

I also read on Wikipedia, on the Secular Morality page, philosopher Daniel Dennett thinks secular organizations need to learn some marketing lessons from religion. He has a point because in the marketing world, a good marketing plan can take a lousy idea to the top of the field while lousy marketing will leave a good idea languishing in obscurity. It shouldn’t take slick super bowl advertising to advance the irreligious view because according to some surveys the irreligious side has a billion members scattered around the world. Assuming the number is half that, the irreligious side still has a substantial base but the only thing really uniting those numbers is the renunciation of traditional dogma. We probably have six billion people on this planet today who will happily deny the earth is flat, but that doesn’t create solidarity.

Personally, my biggest frustration with the irreligious community is that their primary position is in the renunciation of traditional dogma, particularly the supernatural aspect. Atheists and humanists deny the existence of gods, deities and supernatural beings, agnostics argue the unknowability of such and secularists oppose religion in government. They are all good at critiquing traditional theology, which is not incredibly difficult given the chasm between ancient views and modern knowledge. Even moderate religious people concede it is challenging to reconcile the ancient texts with our technological world. What nobody is seriously doing is discussing what a sensible person might believe going into the third millennium.

I realize atheists, agnostics, secularists, freethinkers and humanists alike say that people must decide for themselves what they will believe. And I know they all agree one should use reason, logic and solid evidence to figure out what one should believe. I am not disputing this, but I am going to say people are busy with work, friends, family, finances and everything else on their hectic schedules.

I will say again that it is not easy to figure out what one should believe and what one should not believe. It is a process that requires lots of time to read the volumes and volumes of information available (more than the average human can read in a lifetime). And it requires lots of time to digest the information overload, especially considering one author can easily argue the opposite of another author.

And this is where traditional religion has the distinct advantage because they offer people, for better or worse, a simple objective and some basic convictions.

3.

If you have read surveys on religious matters, the general consensus seems to be that more and more people are moving away from traditional religion in developed nations.[1, 2] Some surveys also seem to suggest that more and more people are identifying as spiritual but not religious.[3] Then again, some people could be identifying with traditional religion without really accepting the official dogma since attendance seems to be declining. I would speculate that many people are simply making do with what they have. As one friend said long, long ago, religion is what it is and you just have to live with it. We humans are very good at making do with whatever we have. We have been doing it for countless millennia.

Basically, people are sticking with the old-fashioned dogma because nobody has assembled a new fashionable creed. I say fashionable because somebody somewhere, probably from the department of traditional dogma, will produce the accusation anyway. Regardless, we can rag on people for being stupid and gullible, or we can try to understand the challenges they face. And the primary challenge they have is figuring out what a reasonably intelligent human should believe going into the third millennium?

The irreligious community keeps saying that people need to use logic, reason and solid evidence to figure out their beliefs. They also say that people need to decide for themselves what they are going to believe and not believe. I am not disputing this. The problem is that the process is long and difficult, and it is everybody for themselves.

Part of being human is that we have common language, we have common needs, we have common objectives, we have a common morality, and we must have a common understanding of reality. I cannot say the sky is waves of iridescent purple and pastel ochre even if some people wonder what colour the sky is in my world. In order to put satellites into space, we need to have a common understanding of the earth’s shape and the nature of what space. We all need to say, I believe the earth is globular and space is the relative vacuum between celestial objects otherwise we cannot believe the premise of satellites orbiting the planet.

Going into the third millennium, We need common ground, a common understanding, to move forward as individuals, as communities, as a civilization and as a global village.

Footnotes:

1. Mail Online, December 12, 2012: You wouldn't believe it… but having no religious affiliation is now world's third biggest 'faith' after Christianity and Islam

2. Wikipedia, Demographics of Atheism

3. Wikipedia, Spiritual but not Religious

 

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