Religion. People say things like, "I couldn't have made it this far without Jesus in my life." Or, Allah, or God, or whatever flavor you subscribe to.
So what is it that's going on there? Must be something right?
Well, yes. And, no.
Before I go on let me say one thing...
Religion was humankind's first form of government. It evolved in order to buffer life for us. To slow down reality. When you lose someone you love, it's intense, it's powerful, it's damaging to the point of killing you, nearly if not completely. Religion in its rituals, its explanations, slows down the impact of reality to the point that it can be accepted and moved through. It then evolved to the point of giving answers, wrong as they tend to me, pleasant sometimes as they tend to be, but also, horrific as they can tend to me.
From religion evolved government. Out of immediate needs that religion failed to succeed in accomplishing. A secular form of religion, also slow but faster than religion out of necessity. Even in a theocracy, there are the secular parts of government where religion simply cannot function, or at least, does not function in human society and it needs something more, or less, depending on how you view it.
Religion offers us a way to have love in our lives, without anyone to have to have our continued support and effort in being sure they will love us back, always, and unconditionally.
Like having a dog. Only your dog can run away, get hit by a car, shot by someone, be stolen by your ex, or simply die of old age. Or worse, get rabies and bite you, or turn on you, or accidentally kill your other pet, or child even. Things, can go wrong.
But with religion, or God, he never disappoints you, he's always the same, always there, wherever you are, even if you are totally and permanently isolated from people, god can always be there with you.
Except, he's not there. No one is. Just you, your mind, and the complexities there in. The multiplicity of our mind that are similar in ways to multiple people, many and varied aspects of yourself, the ability to have discrete modules of mind within your mind, as in subroutines running autonomously.
Because we have that system always running. Our autonomic processes. Breathing for instance. We can ignore it and it works, or we can consciously control it and it works.
We have the capability for the appearance of there being others within our mind. When it gets unbalanced or out of control, you find people "splitting" or seemingly having multiple personalities. Or god.
There is really nothing amazing about this, No more amazing than the computer that runs your car as a process goes. The capability is there, so it works.
And so you can feel the "love" of "god" in your life, and it energizes you. Much like masturbation, only this is mental masturbation for the purposes of feeling "agape love" and not sexual love. Love that can always be there if you have "faith" that it will be, and can never be destroyed, if you do not sully it and keep it pure in your mind.
Add in a lot of romantic talk about heart and spirit and apply some rules, get a bunch of people to agree about it, and you have a religion.
No, not right at all. It's all in our nature as human beings. It has to do with how we developed since before we were a species. Herd mentality if you like or social and communal dynamics as we are a social animal. Take an animal like that and over 100,000s of years you have something quite like... us.
The trouble is, we've yet to evolve that far mentally and still hold onto beliefs from ancient times. Continuity is good, but adherence to what is ancient history is bad. Tradition is good, but building new traditions as they make sense, allowing them to evolve, is better. And the one thing religion has always tried to do was maintain the ancient, even archaic, status quo, evolving only covertly whenever possible.
But today we have social media and that has changed, everything .
So some religions are openly changing. Some have had standards practices for that. Still some try not to change at all. And we as a species need change. We also need to be slow in some ways to change and so religion offered us that through history. It did a lot of good, but in ways that would have been better had we not needed or used religion.
All the things that religion offers us, we can get in other ways, if properly educated and raised to be strong enough to sustain our personality and life and that of our loved ones,
Some of the things are communal in nature. The things a love of god gives one, can be achieved in other ways, but the communal part of a group getting together who are so focused (under fear or owe of a god) on one thing and each other under that umbrella of belief, is special, however disingenuous it may be in reality.
I'd argue that it would be best to deal with reality rather than religion with its rules that fail us far too often. The rigidness and lack of insight to change that science requires and is typically anathema to religion. But we need that as a species as life becomes more and ever increasingly complex.
Religion, just makes some people feel good. It's nice to think that a parent is always watching over you and protecting you. Total nonsense but it's got a warm and fuzzy feel to it.
The thing is, when it comes down to it, we need to be reality based. Humans have an inherent need to buffer reality and I question if we can survive without buffers and filters or the world can be overwhelming. When it does get overwhelming what do we do, what happens to us?
When we feel too unloved, or rejected (remember, follow god's rules and he will never turn his back on you, even when he throws a tornado, a deadly disease, or a pick up truck at you), god is there. Right?
When we don't have that, and we have that emptiness gnawing at our minds, we turn to drink, drugs, extreme behaviors or death. Trouble is, you can fill that emptiness in the understanding that reality exists, and that we are all essentially alone. But that is okay.
There are ways of thinking as in Buddhism, certain aspects of it anyway, that gives you ways of facing reality head on, while having no illusions about magical beings. The magic you see is within each of us, in what we can do, in what we end up doing, in what we can achieve above and beyond what people consider possible. But it is. If we do it, it's possible.
And we have us to thank for it. Trouble with that is some people get too full of themselves and become bad people. If you have a god to thank for it, and not you, then you can humble yourself. But why not just have the mindset to begin with, to be humble. How many popes for instance, heading the Catholic church over it's history had no humbleness in them at all, while they professed a total subservience to god. What they also had was power, power over the believers below them.
So you can see the interplay between the human psyche, and religion and the god concept.
It bends and weaves in and out of one another so after a few thousand years, it all seems pretty real and reasonable. And yet, it's not.
Religion is a mind worm. Just as a virus in a computer system can be very hard to eliminate, so it is with humanity and religion. It has been there to fill a need, to serve a purpose. Frequently a purpose greater than any individual or group. But it has served its purpose and now it is time to move along and be adults.
Instead of claiming there is not better way, when there really is, we should be finding those better ways. And why doesn't that just happen? Plainly put? Because people don't' want it to, because we are also mentally lazy in some ways. We hug the status quo because that works and has proven to, even if it is defective in how it works.
Just as Jesus showed up to say hey, this is defective, there is a better way, how do we now stand up and say hey, this is all defective, and there is a better way? Especially when no one wants to believe it, and the religions teach from childhood, to have faith and ignore what makes you no longer believe.
Pretty clever right? Kind of like what a con man might say. "Believe in me, cuz, we'll just do it, it's to my benefit and kind of yours, though there are better ways."
Religion works, like a bicycle works to get you across town. But when you need to get to the bottom of an ocean, or another planet, it's only kind of functional in that maybe, it can get you to work, but then it can in no way, get you to the bottom of the ocean or another planet.
Time will prove this is true. Because like it or not, humankind is evolving and growing more intelligent and sooner or later, this will all be proved to be correct and religion and the god model will fade into existence, with only fits and jerks of tiny sporadic groups popping up from time to time in thinking that maybe it is a better way, or maybe our predecessors didn't get it right and we can now do it better.
But, we can't. It won't be made better. It's simply not the most functional, productive path possible.
Yes, it's gotten us to amazing places, when those stories are told in hindsight. But so many of those stories leave out things like the business reasons things happened, or the familial things, the bonds between humans that pulled people through tough times in really, no god anywhere had a thing to do with it.
People did. We did. And we will continue to. Just as we have since the first version of us crawled from out of the primordial slime itself.
Religion is really all about two things: character, and community. The third imaginary part is the god concept. Which is completely unnecessary other than as a guiding enforcer to assure proper character and community in people and groups.
Consider a book by David Brooks, The Road to Character. From Amazon: "Blending psychology, politics, spirituality, and confessional, The Road to Character provides an opportunity for us to rethink our priorities, and strive to build rich inner lives marked by humility and moral depth. “Joy,” David Brooks writes, “is a byproduct experienced by people who are aiming for something else. But it comes.”
We can do this, build character, in other ways that religion. Spiritual is a consideration of self, in ways other than physical. We have consistently misperceived what that is all about by placing arbitrary rules on ourselves and others, invented magical beings to explain what we do not understand at the time and then pressure others and our descendants to follow those beliefs, and steep ethereal considerations upon our lives because of the echo chamber of our inner selves, where it is merely our experiencing the process of how our brain works, how our mind (mis)perceives (at times) through our senses and how we conceive of what that data means or should mean.
Just as god supposedly created everything, like humans, whose make up is amazing, but also haphazard and dysfunctional in many ways, which is inexplicable if these bodies were created by god, and yet, fully explainable and understandable if created through evolution; so existing without a god concept, is even more functional.
The only issue is assuring people do and be how they need to be, something handled in religion through divine enforcement, assuring that people evolve into being good (something religion has failed on many times by the way).
Dumping that theory and going with reality allows us to be functional without a need for all the gods in the world, all the rules and religions that fail sooner or later in various circumstances and have led people to divine hatred of others which we've seen in christianity involving gays, women's rights issues, despising the different or other races as with the white purity movement, or Islam where some in that desert religion demands total adherence to god's laws and murder is the rule of the day if you fail, as humans do.
We need to remove the power in religion so people do not have these fallacious beliefs to use in support of their bad behaviors. They believe they are living god's form of character and group behavior in themselves with is fully ridiculous and counter productive.
A reporter recently went into the ISIS controlled areas and said he'd never seen people so brainwashed before, it was amazing. That, is what religion can do when mishandled. People need to understand what they are playing with in delving deeply into religion and god concept faith based models. It may go fine when handled well, but it can also go very, very wrong as has happened with Islamic terrorism in recent times and certainly other examples like the crusades, The Inquisition, and so on.
A mind worm is a mind worm and with certain constraints it can be deadly and a real threat to a race of beings.
Isn't it better to remove the threat, inject reality, and move forward to evolve in ways that would be more productive, lead to faster changes and greater advances based in humane concepts and not those that a race of beings has decided would be an all powerful being's desires for that race?
I think so, I really, really think so.