Up@dawn 2.0

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Progress Away from Religious Control

Religion was a primitive means of control. Did some, more intelligent ancient people decide to tell others that someone was always watching, and that they would be rewarded after death if they were good people in life? A study published in 2011, from the University of Kent in Canterbury, UK, (found here http://www.academia.edu/503195/_Princess_Alice_is_watching_you_Childrens_belief_in_an_invisible_person_inhibits_cheating) may support that aspect of religious development in our history. That study found that children were just as likely (if the skeptical children were not counted) not to cheat if they were told that the invisible “Princess Alice,” was watching them, as if there were an adult in the room with them. It’s possible that the more religiously inclined societies survived longer, because those people operated under the fear of retribution from the gods. This is the same logic behind the common question from believers of, “If God isn’t real, then what’s stopping you from going out and killing people?” Of course, an answer to that question is that there isn’t any more in the way of the believer than the nonbeliever, because the fear of hell is often not enough to stop believers from committing crimes (and many believe that if they ask for forgiveness, they will be absolved from punishment anyway).   

It is also possible that, since religion and politics were usually one and the same in societies before the founding of the U.S.A., those with religious/political power kept the religious beliefs of a society homogenous, simply by using tribalism, war, physical threats, killings (both under the guise of being ritualistic and those that were not concealed a such), and the fear of being an outcast, which was, effectively a death sentence in those times. In an analysis by researchers from the University of Auckland, (http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v532/n7598/full/nature17159.html) they found that human sacrifice, specifically, may have a connection to the stratification of societies and helped maintain power for the religious and political authorities.  

So, when it comes to human progress, it seems to me that refined religion is a “way station”, as Kitcher states. Refined religion is a movement away from the control of organized religion in people's lives. As Christian history has shown in the movement away from organized control/subjugation (Catholicism) to a personal responsibility (Protestantism), the pendulum swings in both directions and massive shifts in either direction are not the final answer to the question of our emotional and societal needs as humans. We need a balance of social belonging (which some refined religions seek to achieve) and personal, introspective thought. 

Secular humanism allows me to achieve that balance. It may not be a religion, but it serves all of the essential emotional and moral functions of having a belief system. It is not beholden to the interpretations of corrupt leaders or various sects. It uses no fairy tales to scare people into submission.  

It affirms the value of human life, regardless of our "tribe," and shows us that what we learn about the universe doesn't have to be rejected because it doesn't mesh with our ancient myths. The universe is an amazing, wondrous place and there's something to the idea that, in realizing how small we are, or how amazing life really is, we can emotionally connect with something larger than ourselves. 

1 comment:

  1. "The universe is an amazing, wondrous place and there's something to the idea that, in realizing how small we are, or how amazing life really is, we can emotionally connect with something larger than ourselves." Well said.