Have We Outgrown Religion's Purpose?

by Andrew Mulcahy mul@islandnet.com

The U.S. is easily the most religious of the industrialized nations - -certainly more Americans go to church than do the citizens of any other industrialized nation. And the nation is awash in spirituality; TV programs and radio programs abound to bring the messages of faith to the people; religion plays the role of a powerful broker in American politics.

Unlike Canadians, for instance, where one fifth of the people are agnostic or atheists, and the majority rarely go to church, there are a mere 13% of non believers in America and church going is common. Yet Americans kill far more people than do Canadians Indeed, the rate of firearm deaths in the United States is eight times that of any other high income country. The death rate amongst children under 15 in the U.S. due to firearms is 15 times that of 25 other industrialized countries combined.

Religion produces judgmentalism, encourages contempt and an accusatory attitude towards others- - it's heinous crime is its depiction of we humans as evil creatures by nature, requiring human sacrifice to atone for our sins. It is that kind of image that has allowed us to so apathetically accept all this genocide and slaughter as just further examples of our 'evil' nature.

Meanwhile, our neuro scientists are discovering that we humans are altruistic by nature and can only know true happiness by helping others. See Matt Ridley's book: The Origins of Virtue : one of many now dealing with this subject.

Life is but a momentary glimpse at the wonder of this astonishing Universe and it is sad to see so many dreaming it away on spiritual fantasies

Initially, religion served good purpose. Lacking the vast storehouse of knowledge we have since accumulated, ancient man's emerging intelligence had to try to explain away the mysteries of natural phenomena as best he could, How to explain lightning when they had no knowledge of electricity except in terms of some mighty, enraged, albeit invisible King?

And for many centuries this served us well. Why the floods? God is mad at us. Why are flowers so beautiful? Why does the fox change to silver in the winter? Because god so designed it. God explains everything - a nice, neat solution for all things.

And, if our religious leaders had only had the decency, the guts, to slowly concede step by step -- as we humans unearthed ever more information about this magnificent universe -- the superstitious parts that no longer made sense, that were no longer needed, religion could have become the most unifying and emotionally rewarding force for mankind.

When we gather in a church and listen to the hymns, we can feel the empathy that such a social gathering can emote. We can easily visualize that some ancient need of our species was to gather together and thus encourage mutual cooperation and help. Instead, this powerful force for unity has been turned into a justification to slaughter those who do not share our blind dogma.

For the priest's exhortation to believe without evidence justifies almost anything. I believe that almost all the most horrific crimes committed by we humans against our own kind are rooted in unsubstantiated beliefs. No one could have slaughtered six million people during the Nazi era, nor could anyone have continued to butcher women and children in Bosnia, unless they had first been incited to do so by false and lurid stories about their potential victims.

Faith, the willingness to accept claims without demanding substantiated evidence, is, in my opinion, the only thing that got out of Pandora's Box.

"Only the materialist dare gaze at the amazing explosion that is this universe, all others shade their eyes (with words) from its brilliance." agm