Imagine a World Free of Religion … November 11, 2013

What if religion never came to be? Imagine no religion

cathedralReligion, it must be grudgingly admitted, was the inspiration for some great works of art, music, and architecture. Other forms of inspiration, however, guided human endeavor in the development of music, art, and invention as well. Sometimes a moment of clarity in thought, an epiphany, can give birth to new ideas, innovations.

It must be recognized that where music is concerned human procreation urges provided the platform for many compositions. Religion excites many of the same areas of the brain excited by these primitive urges and so loveperhaps many ifbrain not all of the great accomplishments for which religion is accredited might have transpired without the baggage religion inevitably brings.

Scientists, inventors, and other great human entrepreneurs have developed numerous incredible advances while being said to be possessed. Upon realizing the possibility of ideathe fruition of an idea or epiphany these individuals will work,exhaustion sometimes to exhaustion, finding the means by which to make the idea or epiphany a reality. This relentless pursuit of a goal was sparked not by religion but by that moment of clarity wherein an individual could see a possibility, perhaps an answer to a problem, or a new way of doing something.

Dark age damageThe Dark Ages, undeniably precipitated by religion, was a blight upon humanity’s past. There is a gap within which technological development was nearly at a standstill. During this time most answers were not sought through scientific means but by looking to religion. There may have been a period of at least six hundred years during which humanity stagnated. This is not to say that there were not any bright spots within this period. Numerous bright individuals, having gained literacy through whatever means (the church was in charge of literacy in those times, almost exclusively), made many scientific discoveries. However, the church leaders were wary of these people and if these bright innovators crossed certain forbidden lines they were persecuted by the church, sometimes severely. What if the church were not there to stymie these advancements? What if religion were not in the way blocking thought that contradicted scripture? Would we have had 600 extra years of advancement instead of stagnation?

Certainly there would have still been many testosterone prompted conflicts,anger3 wars, which would have stymied progress. In many cases these testosterone prompted conflicts utilized religion as a means to gather and control contestants in these battles. What if religion were not there as a means of control? The absence of this means of organizing armies would make conflict more difficult, Christian soldiercontrol more difficult. Still, there would be the treasures obtained by warfare available to prompt the greedy. The promise of riches, however, is not motivating to all. Many care more about making a living and supportinggold their families than conquest and acquisition of access wealth. There is much to risk in conquest, like life and health.

I think it can safely be said that though there would still be many wars, conflicts, they might have been fewer with the absence of religion. So then, perhaps there might have been less than six hundred years of additional progress but there could have been perhaps two hundred more.

Two hundred years, perhaps, at least, might have brought us to a level moonwhere the moon bases envisioned by many science fiction writers could have been realized. A base on Mars might even be within themars realm of possibility. Other advancements in science and medicine might have eliminated disease, prolonged life to an average of 150 to 200 years by now. One hundred and fifty years might be the new fifty. Even with two hundred years I could not imagine humanity making a discovery that would make interstellar flight commonplace. That pesky light speed barrier may never be broken.

If religion were non-existent there would not be the baggage of bigotry, misogyny, and that dangerous concept of life after death. The concept that there is a better life after the one we are living lessens the value of this life and paralyzes the desire to improve it. It allows the subjugation of individuals, makes them blithely accept servitude, in hopes of an afterlife of euphoric nature. It was not Christianity that freed the slaves, indeed, it was Christianity that promoted it. By promising a rosy afterlife it allowed the masters to rule by making the population quiescently accept their lot in life. It, religion, even promised that the greater would be lesser, and the lesser greater. The lowest and most humble were promised the greatest reward.

Religion has been like a ball-and-chain. It has slowed humanity ball and chain christianand kept it from making achievements and advancements at the rate it might have attained without it. Even today religion threatens to strengthen these chains and freeze humanity in place. Unless religion can be removed from its perch of authority humanity will never realize its potential.  

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8 Responses to Imagine a World Free of Religion … November 11, 2013

  1. fred2levins says:

    I see that this is the third treatment of this topic or close variants since late February. I am fairly certain that you wrote about it before then, as well, if memory serves me correctly. For whatever reason, you are drawn to the subject. Perhaps you consider it to be a promising line of inquiry. I see that I have already submitted one comment. Please see your column of February 25, 2013, entitled “A World Without God.” The other column that I am referencing here is dated May 19, 2013, and is entitled “What an Amazing World This Would be Without Belief in God.”

    With respect to my comment in February, my total hip replacements healed nicely. However, my sister-in-law’s mother succumbed to her illness. About 300 people showed up for a Saturday memorial service at the First United Methodist Church in Grand Ledge, Michigan, where she had been a member for about 55 years. She was very active in civic affairs and at her church. She was a very warm person and a Progressive Democrat politically. It was the first time I’ve been in the church in about three years. I don’t like meetings. I walked to the church from my apartment and arrived ten minutes late for the service, slinking in to sit off on one side.

    Upon the study of history: For me, it was love at first sight, going back to fourth grade.

    Reading this column has provoked numerous thoughts. I have jotted down about three pages of handwritten notes and set up a letter-size folder devoted to references on the topic.

    For this post, I will throw out one idea related to this day, Veterans Day. There was coverage of events on NPR related to the history of the USA’s military conflicts, including the era of the Vietnam War, which was when I believe you commenced your time in the US Army, which is a part of your personal history to your considerable credit. There was a mention of iconic photos from that time, including the photo of a Buddhist monk, Thich Quang Duc, dying while engulfed in flames as a result of self-immolation, a photo taken by Malcolm Browne (April 17, 1931 – August 27, 2012). Of some interest here, Browne went on to become a science writer in 1977, serving as a senior editor at Discover magazine. In fact, after receiving his undergraduate degree from Swarthmore, a college with ties to the Quakers, his mother’s religion, Browne had worked as a chemist before going off to serve in WWII. I recall reading a column in Discover during his stint at the magazine in which he states that there is authentic news to report in science, unlike what passes as being worthy of coverage by journalists when dealing with topics devoid of scientific content, which often consists of mere variations of past events.

    There are three timely aspects connecting Malcolm Browne’s career in journalism and your topic today: history (iconic military history in this instance), another possibly needless tragedy linked possibly to religious beliefs (suicide possibly for religious reasons), and science. In addition, science journalism has been brought to the fore, and it warrants our attention.

    There is an atheistic branch of Buddhism. Did Mr. Quang Duc die to protest persecution of atheists in Vietnam in 1963? That could be a great story waiting for someone to tell. That someone might even make a few bucks doing it, if there is a story there with a theme linked to atheism.

  2. fred2levins says:

    To clarify, I appear at the First United Methodist Church in Grand Ledge on very rare occasions to see people who are in my sister-in-law and brother’s social circle. If a personal, addressable Deity exists, which appears unlikely, as far as I can tell it would not be Jesus of Nazareth of the New Testament.

    It’s a pretty liberal congregation. Their outreach is very low key, very unobtrusive.

  3. drenn1077 says:

    The First United Methodist Church in Mansfield was my wife’s church from childhood on. She recently sent a letter to them withdrawing her membership. I think churches are changing because otherwise they would become totally irrelevant.

  4. fred2levins says:

    After your wife’s long association with the FUMC in Mansfield, I suspect there may very well be a story behind your wife’s withdrawal worth share with your readership.

  5. drenn1077 says:

    Unfortunately she is reluctant to reflect on her journey to atheism. She sees it matter of fact now, doubting whether she ever did really believe.

  6. fred2levins says:

    Thanks for the description of the present situation.

  7. Houston B. Erickson says:

    For several years I would have described my religion as a field and not a fixed point. It was multi-contextual. I kept the context floating and tried to see reality from multiple perspectives. At first this was unsettling and made it hard to set goals and take action, but I found it worthwhile because it gave me much greater clarity. I began seeing patterns in where certain perspectives would lead, both for myself and others. Just as you might imagine where a life of crime will ultimately lead, you can also gain a subtler understanding of where a belief in a certain type of God will lead and how that path compares to other choices. This is complicated because we aren’t dealing with fixed points for either the starting point or the destination. It’s about fields of possibility leading to fields of potential. For example, a life of crime can begin and end in many ways, but you can still see some general patterns in the pathways from start to finish. You can make some generalizations that will be fairly accurate.

  8. drenn1077 says:

    Human imagination is very powerful.

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