Religion on New Year's Day: A Manifesto?

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michaeljohnbryant's picture
Religion on New Year's Day: A Manifesto?

What's new today? Maybe in 2017, we can reintroduce rational thinking into our international mind-set. We've got to let go of this religious nonsense, and get real. Some may wonder why I, as an atheist, bother with commenting on religion at all. It's like an oncologist always talking about cancer. But stick with me:

The world is a vast, complex, stunning, bewildering, fascinating, mysterious place---one that can't possibly be described by a little 2000 year old book that attempts to explain how the universe was created, what happens when we die, how to behave, what to believe, how society works, what morality to hold, when to slaughter our neighbours, when to beat or kill our wives and children, etc...sigh...primitive, dated, and irrational.

Science, physics, astrophysics, sociology, psychology, neuroscience, anthropology, biological evolution, genetics, history, art---to name a few---all expand our knowledge and understanding at a furious rate.

Compare this broad and constantly changing knowledge to the little unchanging book of explanation transcribed from the oral traditions of goat herders and illiterate subsistence farmers into a very typical mythology of creation. I can't believe our culture accepts this tradition so widely. We wish so much for an easy solution to all our problems: death, morality, duty. God of the gaps.

The big three Abrahamic religions differ widely in their practices and beliefs. There are thousands of denominations of Christianity, and thousands of other religions, gods, practices---these are all part of our cultural heritage. Why we take each of our own so seriously and follow them with utter faith is beyond me. We engage others' faith with animosity, judge the merits and shortcomings of each other, kill each other, and fight wars in the name of our chosen belief system.

Just look at the damage done. Oh yes, some good comes of it all--- charity, hope, a sense of meaning. Are these only achievable through a delusion? Delusion implies an inability to distinguish between what is real and what only seems to be real, often as the result of a disordered state of mind. No wonder we kill in the name of peace.

However, on a positive note, it’s often suggested that religion benefits people by bringing them together and helping to create and bind communities. Since most humans are highly social, having a mechanism to strengthen social groups could be expected to have psychological and even health benefits. And yes, this has often been shown to be the case. People who go to church more often seem to be happier on average, but any health benefits of religion are related to church going, rather than religious beliefs.
Examine humanism and secular alternatives. Please. Secular group activities seem to have tangible effects on mental well being. Is that an argument for secular churches? I don’t know, but I think it certainly boosts the case for atheists and humanists to actively promote the kind of open-admission, group activities that churches currently provide.

These are my thoughts as I enter 2017. Mass hysteria is growing in the world as religious division grows. Conflict, war, genocide---all for the sake of how human culture deals with death, morality, ethics, and meaning. It is real, it has been happening for millennia, and it is happening now, without the vast percentage of humanity fully grasping the ignorance of our ways.

-Michael John Bryant, 1st January, 2017.



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