As a former theist, I can honestly say that religious practice and spirituality are both fascinating concepts to me. These days, though I don’t practice a religion or identify as innately “spiritual”, these subjects continue to fascinate me, albeit for different reasons than they did in years past.
I’m perpetually astounded at the human capacity for utter credulity in believing we are a part of some greater cosmic purpose, and the ways in which they bind societies around certain traditions which are aimed to help them realize this destiny.
I’m also fascinated how religious organizations can manipulate and subdue mass populations of people into subservience, telling them that their sufferings and the injustices they face are part of some “greater plan”, allowing the powers that be to continue to extort the docile populace.
Like it or not, religion has been instrumental in shaping the identity of human societies for untold thousands of years. It is something that lingers at the core of human attitudes and behaviors. Originally it was created to explain the unexplainable, then it was used as a method of social control and a catalyst to propel great civilizations forward to collective glories and achievements. It has played an instrumental role in the shaping of justice in countless civilizations whether by authorizing tyrants to rule, or policing individual vices through indirect threat of eternal torment.
Today, religion assures people that this life isn’t all there is, but that a paradisaical eternity awaits them which, for the poor will be a relief from the sufferings they endure, and for the rich offers consolation for all they’ll lose when they finally exit this temporal existence.
As I reflect on religion and the role it’s played in the lives of countless people, I can’t help but wonder if the next great shift of human evolution will be discarding the primitive superstitions of the ages in favor of a new kind of authenticity and vulnerability. Religion has always been a tool used by humans to explain what is beyond our finite abilities to discern. Whether it’s because we as a race are too prideful, too ashamed to admit our limitations, or would be driven mad without some level of existential purpose, human beings have long clung to conservative instincts and archaic traditions rather than just admitting that religions are made by man, for man. That they’re simply coping devices we’ve concocted to knit together a sense of purpose in life.
It is appealing to stay in the familiar, but it’s far harder to accept that the realities we’ve taken at face value and shaped our identities around most of our lives are simply myths.
I am convinced that most millennials in my generation are secretly agnostics. While they may not outright identify as atheists, the way in which they practice the faiths which they supposedly have “dedicated their lives” to shows (at least here in the states) that they only halfheartedly believe what they preach. It shows a lackluster attitude toward the magic book they claim contain the answers to life (though no one can agree what those answers actually are).
I can name a few exceptions to this general rule. There are a few friends of mine who are practicing Christians who actually live as though they believe what is commonly accepted as modern Christian teaching by dedicating their lives to helping the poor, oppressed, exploited, etc. These rare few are the outliers, however, and the majority of those who claim a belief in a supreme entity which was revealed over two thousand years ago mostly just spend their time working careers, posting on social media, and stressing about every day life as if there wasn’t some transcendent being who’s promised he’s got their backs holding it all together.
I think people subconsciously know that we’re on our own, and that science and psychology continue to reveal the quirks and unexplainable phenomenons which are part and parcel to being finite beings in a massive universe. Religion in the present day, while a useful tool of the past in an evolving species creating evolving civilizations, is more a hinderance now than anything. It substantially narrows people’s openness to new, progressive ideas and continues to implement barbaric and primitive practices like circumcision, stoning, shunning those who don’t believe, praying for supernatural healing, among others.
We cling to the ideas of “unalienable rights” given by some disembodied entity to mankind, even though these rights were created by man, for man in the new kind of society which man created for himself. Please don’t misunderstand me, I truly believe that our founders created a brilliant, and revolutionary kind of society which utterly changed the face of the world at its inception. America is an anomaly of epic proportions, and I am grateful they set the foundations with the language they did! However, America didn’t succeed because an alien force bestowed the rights to life, liberty and property on human beings, and they suddenly got “woke” to it. America succeeded because people determined their society for themselves, and we have been determining our society for ourselves ever since.
The whole story of human history is predicated upon human action and human reaction. There are some instances where human beings gave credit for these actions to supernatural beings, but there is no way to actually substantiate any of those claims and, if anything, many of those claims have been continually debunked over time with the accumulation of knowledge.
I am always open to correction if, at some point, human beings actually substantiate the existence of the extraterrestrial forces they claim dwell outside our dominions, but until then I feel the need to call it like I see it.
We have been doing this for a long time on our own, clinging desperately to aged ideas which lack merit. We do this simply because this is the way it’s always been. Human beings can be exceptionally conservative when they choose to be. Part of evolving as a person is to admit your weakness and identify where you need to take personal responsibility (both of which are crucial to creating a strong character in an individual). Perhaps we need to ditch the religious crutch we’ve been clinging to for so long and just accept our next evolution.
The world will, perhaps, be a tad less mystical if we do, but who’s to say an evolution beyond religious dogmas, and servitude to non-existent beings wouldn’t be a healthier step for humankind?