Friday, August 26, 2011

Life minus religion equals... what?

I was thinking... what if, from the beginning of time, it never, ever occurred to anyone that there was anything beyond what we see before us.

There would be no fear, other than that which perplexes us directly. There would be no magic, no demons, no God. No Divine rules, no religious segregation, no holy wars. We would turn to education, bettering one's position by way of cause and effect, without thought to divine intervention, salvation other than what you supply yourself, building upon that which comes before it and not ignoring reality because of misinterpretation of divine texts.

Typically, people will argue how without religion people will have no morals, lack the ethics to maintain good social relations, kill indiscriminately, rape without regard, etc., etc. This has been proven to be nonsense many times now so I won't bother here pursuing that issue. For a quick view of that topic, consider how well eBay works without religion being involved. If you are that much of a jerk, people simply won't deal with you or the "system" will find you and deal with you. If someone in the village is harassing people, the people would decide them out as such, "Look pal! Either get it together or you're outta here." So he doesn't, and the next day the village offs him. No moral concerns about the after life, burning in Hell, or God watching and damning you forever to the fiery pits of Hades. Just cause and effect.

Others have argued that without religion being the repository of all control and knowledge, we would still be in the dark ages. But I am arguing that we would have avoided the dark ages, and even possibly, we would have gotten to where we are now, a thousand years earlier. It seems to me that by now we should be exploring the solar system, have people living on the moon, and on Mars.

I should mention here that I see this as an argument that has been going on forever between the Theists who believe in God, the Deists who believe in something like God by not necessarily that espoused by those organized religious types, the Atheists who are against there being a God and just don't buy it and those like me, who do not play in that sandbox at all.

There are also degrees of all these things. Richard Dawkins, famous Atheist, has a scale of Theism.

There are signs and pledges for Atheists just as there are for Theists. But I don't understand, why would you need that? It takes no effort to simply believe what is there, does it?

As for not using the term Atheist, to say there is no God to a Theist or Deist or whomever, is to contend with and start from the supposition that there is, was, or could be a God to begin with. So much as been devoted to this that we may need to briefly examine some of them. So, to be more clearn (and pedantic):

"THEISM, in the broadest sense, is the belief that at least one deity exists. In a more specific sense, theism refers to a doctrine concerning the nature of a monotheistic God and God's relationship to the universe. DEISM in the philosophy of religion is the standpoint that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is a creation and has a creator. Furthermore, the term often implies that this supreme being does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the natural laws of the universe. ATHEISM is, in a broad sense, the rejection of belief in the existence of deities. In a narrower sense, atheism is specifically the position that there are no deities. Most inclusively, atheism is simply the absence of belief that any deities exist. Atheism is contrasted with theism." - Wikipedia

And so, I don't take the tact that Atheists do in opposing Theists. I start before that, where things originally started, where there is no talk about God, there is what there is. Look around you. That's it. Surely there are things we cannot see, but that has nothing to do with suddenly leaping into accepting there is something we have no reason to believe in other than our creative imaginations and some people claiming some rather outlandish things, or putting them in a book and getting people to believe whatever it says, the more ridiculous it is, the more they adhere to belief in it.

There are others: Agnosticism (the non committals) · Apatheism (or pragmatic Atheists, are just apathetic and that is just lazy) · Henotheism (belief and worship of a single god while accepting the existence or possible existence of other deities.and they are worse than the Apatheists) · Monolatrism (the recognition of the existence of many gods, but with the consistent worship of only one deity) · Monotheism (the belief in the existence of one god, as distinguished from polytheism, the belief in more than one god) · Panentheism (a belief system which posits that God personally exists, interpenetrates every part of nature and timelessly extends beyond it) · Pantheism (Universe "Nature" and God, or divinity, are identical) · Transtheism. And more, but we really don't need all those things. We simply (simply, you see) need to start from the beginning. There, was nothing. Then, there was something. Not there was nothing, then there was some imaginary stuff we dreamt up to make us feel better. Put simply theism and atheism deal with belief, and agnosticism deals with (absence of) knowledge; they are not mutually exclusive as they deal with different domains. But I reject these as too damaged over time and misuse.

If I come to a meeting of the minds with any previously named group, it might be Anti-Theist, or maybe Transtheism, which philosopher Paul Tillich or Indologist Heinrich Zimmer, referring to a system of thought or religious philosophy which is neither theistic, nor atheistic. But again, that compares itself to something and I argue, there is nothing to compare to. Things simply began as they began, with no nonsense thought involved. And then we created living dreams, and pulled them into our reality with a relish to never let go those imaginings of our childhood.

You see, the term theism derives from the Greek theos meaning "god". And I don't see where that has anything to do with anything. Do you see what I'm getting at?

I've heard religious people claim that religion/God has acted like a buffer to them from Life. This is what chemicals like Prozac do; buffering your reality so you can function. But there is always a downside, a loss of productivity in some realm of your psyche in using such a buffer. And so by the law of similar association, consider the possibilities of what religion is doing in the same ways.

Some religions require that you pay all attention to God, daily, five times a day, always and as much as possible. What if, you spent that much time considering the design of the Universe, science, math, etc. Just HOW FAR could we have gone with that kind of focus on the forward movement of Humans, rather than ethereal concepts?

Steve Mann at the University of Toronto, has a concept that may apply here. His summary in his article is (and I'm going to twist it here): "Wearable Computer Mediated Reality was presented as a new framework for visual reality modification in everyday life. In particular, a new form of partial reality mediator having the appearance of a new kind of stylish eyeglasses, and suitable for use in ordinary life, was presented. In this design, the roles of eyeglass lenses and eyeglass frames are reversed. The eyeglass lenses become the decorative element, whereas the eyeglass frames become the element that the wearer sees through." I mention his work because in a non-related area, it's pretty interesting.

But in looking at his design above, replace Mediated Reality with Reality filtered through Religion. The specific point of his work does not even have to port over to my topic here. What I'm focusing on, is the view of how augmenting your reality with God, religion, or computers, it alters your reality. Computers and the work that Steve Mann is doing, refers to enhancing functionality and productivity of people.

Religion however, has consistently and historically drained functionality and productivity from the forward advancement of Humankind for thousands of years. What if, rather than draining our power through religion, we powered it up using computers and technology? It would be a quantum leap beyond where we have ever been before. Even without technology, simply trying not to augment the world with religion, would increase our forward movement far beyond anything we've ever been able to do before.

Rather than still being in the dark ages now, I think we would have had a shorter violent period, but there is no way Humankind would have been wiped out. Once we realized that there was no way forward with the constant bickering, we would have found that it was more productive to create alliances; or else we would have seen a leader rise and created a United States of the world, or some such format below that. We may have gone through our miserable dictator period but I think that would have finally been grown through and been done with. Okay, large leap there, but let's let that one lie for now and continue.

We would have avoided superstition, magical thought, religious persecution and restraint, and free thought could have run rampant. Consider David Deutsch's TEDtalk on A New Way To Explain Explanation. Basically saying that when you are told that something is because it is, you are being giving explanation-less theories and that indeed, is exactly what religion is and the religious theory of the universe. You are being told a Wizard of some sort has done it, whatever it is. Saying that "God created the Universe", really doesn't tell us a damn thing. Does it.

There is no wonder when throughout history, there are conflicts due to differences of opinion because there are simply so many opinions. Because when you have opinions not based upon the real world, there can be as many and varied opinions as the stars in the sky. Even when we have based things on fact and science there are still variations in interpretation, but mostly because, if you think about it, there are so many other ways of viewing reality; such as the God concept, and the diffused forms of thought that have branched off in multi layered ways over geography, societies and such throughout the millennia.

So much of our conflict in the world and history has been religious and non-trade oriented. Think about how much less conflict there could have been had there been no religions at all. Hitler and Germany and much of Europe would have had no Jews to hate. This probably conjures up in people's minds that then they would simply have had to find others to hate. But that could be because the religious thought is so fundamentally entrenched in our minds and history, that we simply cannot imagine a world without this kind of conflict.

Yes, one could point to that of Chimpanzees action in their social structures. But you also have to figure that we are not, in the end, Chimps. Consider the Bonobo, a closely aligned species to Homo sapiens who have intercourse in the missionary position like Humans, who resolve issues using sex and also much in the same way as we do on a fundamental level, and live in a peaceful group dynamic.

One has to wonder, are we socially (and mentally?) retarded, for our historical religious beliefs? Have we been held back from advancement? After all, one could point to numerous incidences throughout history where we were restrained from advancement because of religion and because of Science going directly against religion and being withheld or destroyed, by structures such as the Catholic Church who put all its resources against Science and rational thought for that of its "revealed" religion and divine interpretations.

One could also argue that religion has given us a structure from which to view scientific advancements that have evoked too quick of a change, a buffer if you will; but are these changes really too fast for us to assimilate as Humans? Or were they too fast because of our religious orientation of interpreting what is happening around us?It's an interesting question, and really one that we should consider in depth and with concern.

When Theists argue with atheists, they always tend to point to the unanswerable end point, that God did it, that God always existed, what was before the "big bang", or some other currently unanswerable issue. I believe we may have one on the other side of the coin now with my contention in this article, because so many of the things pointed to by the Theists, is also now answerable by the other side saying the flip side of their coin, in that if religion and God thought had never existed from the beginning, most of the negative issues that occur in the absence of it, can simply vanish.

Consider who many of those issues pointed to, when discussing how much better the world would be without religion, fall apart when you realize that many of those bad things that have happened in such cases, such as the Soviet Union's atheistic orientation, would never have been able to happen if religion had never existed in the first place.

This all also explains my attraction to a non theistic form of thought, which some call religion, such as Buddhism. I reject much of it, but much of it is a form of critical thinking and a way to relate to life and the universe that is quite attractive and devoid of nonsense. Surely, people of a couple of thousand of years have injected their nonsense to make them feel better and to adhere better to their own slights and nuances. But when you cut it down to the central core of it's system, it is quite rational.

And that, is what we need in this world, and why this world is so confused and dysfunctional. Because so many believe so much, nonsense.


  1. I also romanticize your notion, but if we are to speculate the time before man invented deities so as to imagine a world that skipped the invention of deities and immediately began working in the realms of science and ontology, then perhaps we should consider what flaw it was that instigated the invention. If we attempt to answer this question with Richard Dawkins "the selfish gene" as our axioms, then one possibility is that some psychopath that everyone revered made up a story that facilitated his survival and fecundity. The lie once propogated, proliferated and adapted to changing times so that it could be utilized for the same purposes it was originally intended for.
    Another possibility is that religion is a result of attempting to explain dreams that in supernatural imagery, we now know, teach us about the world around us based on experiences and sleep stimuli.

    With these possibilities in mind, it is not so frustrating that people have been so ignorant for so long. It is reasonable. Now, lets reconcile our delusions by proliferating a new ideology known and Humanism.