I recently read an article by Jonathan Sachs on why he thinks that it is inevitable, and a good thing, that religion will be a driving force in society for a long time to come. It got me thinking as why that view point holds sway.
At the moment, it is the commercial time of the year. Step into any city in the United States or Britain and you will see the night sky lit by holiday decorations engendering a spirit for all of us to spend on luxury and indulgence. If religion in the West should be alive and well, it is the marketers’ best friend.
However, religion is in decline. In the United Kingdom, 25% of the population now feels confident in publicly stating they have no religion. In America, depending on which poll you cite, the number who have come out of the Theism Closet total somewhere between 20% and 55%. And telling friends and family that you are no longer a person of faith can still cost a great deal – so much so, it is still often better to quietly go to church in quiet compliance.
It has always been the fervent desire of some men that religion would lose its stranglehold on societal norms, legal structures and freedom to hold true those things that science demonstrate to be true. Not an end to belief in a deity of one sort or another, mind you. Just an end to those churches who tell all and sundry the correct belief system to hold, or suffer hell fire damnation for all eternity. And others that use bullet and suicide bomb in to show those who have the wrong faith the errors of their ways.
The modern secular theist (a term I just invented) may have a personal relationship with Christ, Buddah, Allah or, perhaps one of the Earth gods – but eschews the sects and denominations that encourage a e war of words, or even arms, against one or more of the sects and denominations that espouse a False Truth.
The theist seems to be most alarmed that evolution may turn out to be the true explanation of our presence on this earth. If it were to be so, the just about every religion on the Globe would have taken a body blow to the very heart of its True Truth: their tenet that man is god made. (Did you know that the surgeon who first publically demonstrated that men and women have the same number of ribs caused a scandal of huge proportions? The storm passed over, and the modern fundamentalist argues that Adam had more ribs than any other human, and after losing one (not a pair) all subsequent descendants had the reduced number).
Even the creationists now admit that the evolution mechanism is good science. But since the universe is only 6,000 years old, there has not been sufficient time for the mechanism to produce any new species.
In the face of such trends, the question that bothers the secularist is how is it possible for religion to hang on in the face of so much “evidence” that the God of the Abrahamic religions is untenable in the universe we now live in?
Man is a societal animal, and societal animals need societies to belong to. You will observe religious fervor symptoms in fans attending a rock concert, soldiers fighting numerical superior forces, sports fans attending a game. Allegiance to something, regardless of rationality, is part of what we are.
And sometimes that allegiance can be channeled, wittingly or unwittingly, into groups that will act in a predictable way, to achieve some agenda hidden or public. The gun manufacturers, for example, formed a group of sportsmen into a society, which then use their collective numbers to influence decisions on non-sporting matters. Very clever, and an excellent return on investment to protect future earnings. They have had so much success in achieving their political aspirations that the members of the NRA are fiercely proud of their True Americanism and the Infallibility of The Second Amendment.
The religious priesthood has a vested interest in maintain religion as it is now for all time to come. An ending of tithes would have a serious and detrimental impact on those who rely on tithes to maintain their lifestyles. It is truly astonishing to the secularist that the heads of just about every church are very wealthy people, despite all that stuff about camels and eyes of needles.
The human brain can self-produce religious experience and limbic shock. These are very powerful emotions that can cause the most powerful epiphanies on the non-believer. So just think what they can do to people of faith.
If gun manufacturers can create passionate followers by tapping into patriotism, it is a far easier task for religion to maintain its following by harnessing the power of mental sensations that supernatural forces abound in the universe. When man’s built in requirement to belong to a society is coupled with these emotional sensations, it would seem to me that religion will hold on to a significant proportion of the human race until someone comes up with secular groups that fulfill that need.
And at the moment, the only people working on the problem seem to be the admen and marketers. Hence shopping malls full of the trappings of Christmas, perhaps even unto giving a passing nod that a minority of us still see it as a religious holiday.
Well – it is the start of a new year. And every new year starts with the hope that things will get better and better. Perhaps this will be the year that we find a cure for organized religions.