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Religion is Better than You Think it is: Even if you Already Love it


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I’ve talked quite a bit about religion on here and its importance. I often say that even for people who don’t believe in a god religion still holds an important function. Humans need meaning and connection with something they consider to be “bigger” than themselves. What religion is depends on the context we’re using to discuss it. It isn’t wrong to say something like, “Islam is a religion” because of course it is. But that’s not the way we’re talking about religion here. The words we commonly use to discuss this subject are:

  • Religion – a set of beliefs mean to guide behavior
  • Sect – a body of persons adhering to a particular religious faith
  • Church – an organizational structure to administer the religion and the sect

Each of those have more than one common usage so it’s important for the context of this article to understand that and to understand that I do a terrible job below keeping them consistent and that there are many different ways that one could use those words.

In America when religion is mentioned it’s generally pigeonholed into one of the few main ones.

But there are lots of them. Norse religion, what we now call Norse Mythology, is one of them.

Vikings

“When I started documenting Viking culture, I quickly realized that it’s a rapidly growing subculture,” Matteo Congregalli told me. “And just like with any subculture, today’s Vikings are trying to find a sense of purpose. Some move to Viking villages during the spring and summer, while others just sort of change into Vikings when they get home from work. But most of them celebrate traditions from the Viking era all year round in their own ways—from the Midwinter festival to organizing Viking weddings.”

Whatever it is you choose to have as your religion, be it one that worships a god, or one that simply connects you with mother nature, the trick is to make it something that is healthy and productive for you. One person might look at these modern Vikings and think they look a bit silly, like cos-players on their way to a con. But others might look the same way at the Catholic with an ashen cross on his forehead. People are drawn to meaning. This trait has lead to some of the greatest progress of human kind and some of the greatest tragedies when those who want to take advantage get in charge.

Religion doesn’t have to be the blind thing many think it is, and it also doesn’t have to be any of the things commonly thought of. The most ardent atheist can enjoy religion but they have to get beyond thinking of religion as something counter productive or an “opiate for the masses”.

Benjamin Franklin said something that I think typifies the anti-religious motivation of many people in the world today:

“If we look back in history for the character of the present sects in Christianity, we shall find a few that have not in their turns been persecutors and complainers of persecution. The primitive Christians thought persecution extremely wrong in the Pagans, but practised it on one another. The first Protestants of the Church of England blamed persecution in the Romish Church, but practised it upon the Puritans. They found it wrong in Bishops, but fell into the practice themselves both there (England) and New England.”

Those in the liberty movement should recognize this, not as a trait of religion, but of men. Not as a sign that religion has nothing of value or is an evil thing used to oppress but rather that men will use anything they can to oppress even something that teaches the opposite be true.

The theme of savior is common all around the world and in the human psyche.

Previously I’ve talked about how global warming has become the religion of climatology. That’s not hyperbole either, I honestly believe people have a religious zeal and blindness to it. This article postulates that the same has happened with BitCoin. This kind of thing is exactly what was predicted by Nietzsche by the way. When he said God was dead he predicted that other gods would move in to take his place but they would lack the strong foundation that had developed over thousands and thousands of years. 
“Crypto’s Jesus figure is Satoshi Nakamoto, an internet persona who introduced Bitcoin and the blockchain to the world and then disappeared, effectively dying for the sins of global finance so that it might be reborn. Those who converted to Bitcoin early have already been rewarded by seeing their investments compound, and the most devout wait for a crypto version of the rapture, when a cryptocurrency — presumably Bitcoin or Ethereum — displaces the dollar as the dominant global currency. Some of the most idealistic hold out a hope for a day when stateless digital currencies lead to a healthy redistribution of capital — a world in which people are no longer subservient to a handful of powerful individuals and institutions.”
Based on the fervor some people have toward the stuff I don’t find this view all that surprising. People need to believe in something bigger than themselves. Why? They just do. You can say it’s because of evolution or you can say it’s because there really is something bigger and we’re programmed to seek it. Either way, it seems to happen.
Actor, comedian and well known Christian, Norm MacDonald recently said, “The Enlightenment turned us away from truth and toward a darkling weakening horizon, sad and grey to see. The afterglow of Christianity is near gone now, and a stygian silence lurks in wait.” Of course he caught hell for it. But it’s not anything that Friedrich Nietzsche didn’t say.
His comment, and Nietzsche’s as well, make it sound like the Enlightenment was a bad thing and sometimes when people promote religion others think this is only done at the expense of the Enlightenment. There is a common idea that you can only have one or the other. I disagree.

I believe that true science and true religion don’t conflict.

Perhaps this is the aspect people get most confused about. They seem to think you can believe in science OR religion, but not both. It is true that you can have both – but not necessarily all of both. That said, I think for the most part when conflicts arise it’s a misunderstanding of either science or religion that is at fault. Take for example those who believe that the universe was created by a big bang. That theory doesn’t actually explain much in terms of the origin of things. It just answers one step in the process of the universe but leaves unanswered the fundamental question it sought to answer. So it’s really no answer at all. Which means if you think the big bang conflicts with a belief in god you understand neither thing very well.  Along these lines it is often true when people see a conflict with god and science that the conflict could arise due to their conception of god and not the science itself.
I personally think that people get too hung up on how something happened. Take evolution for example. I can easily see that it could have been just the way god got to his eventual goal of humans. That the various forms that came before us were not, in his mind, human, but rather steps in the process to get to where he needed to be. It makes sense to me that a being who runs the universe would conserve his effort by letting the natural processes of the universe do all the work for him.
Then again I can also see how the idea that matter has intelligence can work with things getting done by god saying do it. What do I mean by matter having intelligence?  Is that some outlandish and unscientific theory? No, it’s a theory of physics. Not proven of course but it postulates that certain behaviors in matter seem to be intelligent in action and there is some evidence for it. If that were the case then if a being could figure out how to get matter to do what it was asked then creation would become an easy thing and “let there be light” takes on a whole new meaning.

“But God doesn’t need any of that!”

That’s fine, I understand that. My point is simply to say that one can find explanations that explain both science and god at the same time. I’m not saying that the above is the answer. It’s just an example that such answers are indeed possible.
We can conclude, if we like, that all we see was planned and designed. Nothing is science precludes that from being true. The concept of a being able to accomplish this is totally unproven but is within the realm of theoretical possibility. To be absolutely sure there is no god is to be very unimaginative. Scientists like Carl Sagan acknowledged this. He famously said that if it could happen either way, and he could imagine a scenario with a god but, he often said, if it can be done without one, then why not remove god from the equation. So he did.
For him physics was god. But he still fell prey to one of the most common mistakes about god as you see in this quote, “The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God.” The error he makes is clear to me, he sees god the being only one way. Oddly enough even Christianity doesn’t see God that way, they only depict him so. One need only have a conversation with a Catholic about the Trinity to understand how far off this view is. For me the Trinity is not the view I take either. What Sagan concluded was, “If we say that God has always been, why not save a step and conclude that the universe has always been?”

Why indeed?

For me the answer is pretty simple – the universe is cold, unintelligent, and nihilistic. The universe, in Sagan’s view, simply is. We can ascribe to it no motive, no wisdom, no action. Only processes and occurrences belong to such a universe. In such a universe life is simply is, death simply is, and rights do not exist and morality vanishes as it is a construct of the observer. Is it immoral to enslave and kill? Not in Sagan’s universe. One might say that it is because mankind says it is but mankind is not the universe, mankind is just a blip and what he says for his moment in time need not have any sway on the man who can “get away with it”.

Hamlet was closer to the truth than Carl Sagan

It is one of my favorite lines from Shakespeare and perhaps the only one I don’t have to look up to get right, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”
That really is the point I’m trying to make. Don’t be unimaginative, closed off, and certain nothing more is out there. Be wise enough to understand the benefits of a Creator and that the so-called drawbacks of one are just what men have done with that idea. That some men abuse belief does not mean it is wrong or naive to believe.

I think there is a good reason we are required to have faith

One can see, and many do, the idea of having to have faith as a cop out. As a way of religion to hide the fact that god isn’t there. I can’t see him! No, you just have to believe. This is very unappealing to some. They ignore the fact that they just believe a lot of things. They just believe the wheel won’t fall off their car. They didn’t see the worker who attached it, they haven’t examined the bolts and connections. They just believe. And that is one small example that occurs all the time. People also have faith in larger things. Most of what they perceive as scientific truth is really just them believing someone else. They didn’t perform the experiments and see the results or verify any data. Someone told them it was so, told they saw the data, and then it is just believed.
What if faith were a kindness? If there is a God and God has designs and goals, commandments and guidance and we know 100% with all certainty he is there and we don’t follow Him then there is no doubt as to our wrongness. But if we just believe but don’t know our culpability is lessened by virtue of our doubt.

People will find religion

I believe firmly that people will always turn toward religion (using the above definition). A sports team can be a religion, a tattoo a religion, how you believe in global warming can be a religion, crystals, and magnets can be tools of a religion, and so on, as well as a belief in God, or god, or gods. I think such is built into us and we cannot escape it.
For the pure scientist like Carl Sagan he might explore how that evolved. I find it interesting that Dr. Jordan Peterson’s expertise is evolutionary psychology, meaning how certain elements of the mind evolved. He has said that his studies have caused him to not have such a black and white view on deity. He has not really strongly said he is a theist but he has been clear that he isn’t an atheist. He’s agnostic. For me, if one is going to not believe the intelligent course is to be unsure. To always leave open at least a particle of “I doubt it, but maybe”.
Perhaps we seek religion because we are meant to find God in this life and he’s built into his creation a desire to do just that. Another kindness I suppose, a help in this test of life.
I really do encourage people to think about religion and god and creation. Think about the universe too. I think you will find, if your thinking is honest enough, that the two can exist at the same time and bring benefit into your life and a perspective that is grander and larger than yourself. That after all seems to be the desire of man.
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