Religion

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Religion is the illusory attempt to find security and happiness in an inherently insecure and unhappy world.

 

Excerpt from Book: "How Life Really Works"

Book II: Man and Society

Chapter 09.00: Religion and Mythology

 

Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".

 

Religion and Mythology

Chapter 09.01 THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION

Chapter 09.02 LIFE AFTER DEATH

    Death and the Soul

    The Illusion of Life after Death

Chapter 09.03 GENERAL ASPECTS OF RELIGION

    1. Prehistoric Benefits of Religion

    2. Religion versus Rationality and Science

    3. The Existence of God

        a. Pascal's Wager

        b. Epicurean Postulate

        c. Rock Lifting Paradox

        d. Conclusion: The Existence of God

        4. Miracles

        5. The Equivocation of Deism/Pantheism

        6. The Origins of God and the Universe

        7. Atheism

Chapter 09.04 ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF ALL RELIGIONS

        1. A God or Gods

        2. A Church Hierarchy

        3. Moral Dogma

        4. Rituals and Prayer

        5. A Last Judgment

        6. Life After Death

Chapter 09.05 COST/BENEFIT ANALYSIS OF RELIGION

        A: Costs and Benefits of Believing in Religion

        B: Costs and Benefits of NOT believing in Religion

Chapter 09.06 RELIGION AND RATIONALITY

    Religious Beliefs

    Religion and Intelligence

Chapter 09.07 THE BENEFITS AND HORRORS OF RELIGION

Chapter 09.08 THE FUTURE OF RELIGION

Chapter 09.09 RELIGION: CONCLUSION

 

Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".

 

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Religion is the illusory attempt to find security and happiness in an inherently insecure and unhappy world.

                                                                Walter Requadt

 

 

Chapter 09.01 THE ORIGINS OF RELIGION

All living organisms constantly compete for limited resources. Organisms that are better equipped then others in coping with their environment, have a better chance of surviving and thus replicating themselves and their genes. This mechanism is the essence of evolution. Evolution, in turn, is one of the three essential ingredients of life itself. Life on earth began with the process of evolution. Without evolution, there can be no life. (For the NASA definitions of Life see Chapter 5: Anthropology)

The evolution of man conveyed to him advanced traits that positioned him above other animals on the ladder of evolution. His primary battle for survival, comfort and prosperity involved constant competition and conflict with his untamed environment, with nature. He perpetually faced danger, not only by competing human beings, but also by adverse natural events such as floods, hurricanes, droughts, thunderstorms and many other perils of nature.

Man was able to cope successfully with some adversities, but he felt powerless to deal with many other events in nature that filled him with fear and awe. A thunderstorm often turned out to be the precursor of more serious events such as rains, floods or hail. Thunder and lightning made primitive man wonder if superior beings inhabited an invisible world in the sky and invoked various cataclysmic events.

It would be natural for humanoids to appeal to such superior beings in the sky in order to solicit their help. It seemed reasonable to assume that these powerful, superior beings, these gods, were punishing humans for unknown reasons or merely for their pleasure. From this viewpoint, it required little imagination to try to appease these gods by appealing to them by means of prayers or by sacrifices of men or beasts.

Sometimes these prayers and sacrifices seemed to bear fruit and sometimes they did not show any results whatsoever. Due to his lack of knowledge, it was difficult for primitive man to distinguish between miracles and cause/effect relationships. He merely presumed that prayers were sometimes effective in appealing to the gods. When a violent storm eased, he attributed the event more to the effect of his prayers, than to the fact that dry air had just replaced a cold front. Man had no insight in the processes of nature. He lacked knowledge, science and rationality.

Since prayers and sacrifices seemed to be effective at times, man ascribed their lack of effectiveness at other times to improper or insufficient prayers or sacrifices. Unpredictable responses to his prayers generated feelings of fear and awe and strengthened his submission to his newly created gods.

We can trace the origins of religion to the prehistoric development of man between 500,000 and 100,000 years B.C. It was during this long period of human evolution that religious emotions and motivations became hard-wired into the human brain and genes.

During subsequent periods of human evolution, from hominoids to Neanderthal man to Cro-Magnon man, these primitive forms of religion imbedded themselves ever more firmly into the genes of human beings. These genes for susceptibility to religion and superstition remain among of the most pervasive and powerful motivators of man.

By means of prayers and alleged miracles, religion provides the illusion of security and comfort in this life and the promise of a splendiferous life after death, What more could man ask for?

 

 

Chapter 09.02 LIFE AFTER DEATH:

        Death and the Soul

        The Illusion of Life after Death

 

Death and the Soul

The survival instinct has imbedded itself deeply into the genes of all living organisms. It attempts to assure the physical survival of the individual under all circumstances and at all costs.

The survival drive is so strong and so powerful that it will even try to provide for manís survival after his death. This feat, however, is difficult to accomplish because it flies in the face of everything that we know about death: By definition, death is the cessation of life. When a person dies, the human body decomposes and reverts to its inanimate, molecular components.

Faced with a decomposing body and a promised life after death, witchdoctors solved this conflict by inventing a nebulous concept, called the soul. The soul is an undetectable, ethereal substance that is supposedly a part of the human body. This alleged soul has no substance but, after our death, it continues on to a higher plane of existence.

Nobody knows what the soul is, where it is located, where all these souls go after our death and what they do. Nobody has ever come back from the land of the dead or the repository of the souls.

 

The Illusion of Life after Death

After witch doctors and shamans had established the illusion that gods had control over life and death, it required only a brief leap of the imagination to extend their power to the ability to grant a life beyond physical death. An afterlife seemed plausible and appeared highly desirable. After all, nobody wants to face death; nobody likes to face a state of nonexistence after his physical death. It is much more palatable to think of death as the beginning of a new life in which the essential part of our organism will continue on to a new and improved phase of existence.

Since there is no evidence whatsoever that anyone has ever returned from an existence after death, it was easy and natural to construct the belief of a more pleasant life after the short and miserable existence that humans had to endure. The concept of a wondrous life after death, a heaven, became very popular.

The idea of a life after death hard-wired itself into human emotional behavior patterns because it actually entailed hidden benefits for physical survival. Religion became synonymous with a sense of awe and fear of the gods. Gods had become omnipotent, not only with regard to normal human existence, but also with regard to a continued existence after death.

 

Chapter 09.03 GENERAL ASPECTS OF RELIGION

Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".

This Chapter (09.03) is also reproduced in its entirety in the Chapter "Does_God_Exist?"

    1. Prehistoric Benefits of Religion

    2. Religion versus Rationality and Science

    3. The Existence of God

        a. Pascal's Wager

        b. Epicurean Postulate

        c. Rock Lifting Paradox

        d. Conclusion: The Existence of God

    4. Miracles

5. The Equivocation of Deism/Pantheism

6. The Origins of God and the Universe

7. Atheism

 

Chapter 09.06 RELIGION AND RATIONALITY

        Religious Beliefs

        Religion and Intelligence

 

Religious Beliefs

A rational examination of the origins and sources of religion, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of religion, is unlikely to change the mind of anyone who is afraid to examine these concepts objectively.

People who approach the subject of religion with trepidation or who cannot distinguish between reality and superstition, find it difficult to apply logic to their thought processes. It is much easier to belief in miracles and pseudo-science than to acquire facts and engage in incisive, rational thought.

We can observe many members of society who appear to be intelligent and rational in the pursuit of their daily life. However, on Sundays they go to their church or temple. There they participate in incomprehensible and irrational rituals involving magic, prayer and other activities demeaning to their rational minds. Their rational mind tells them that a god does not exist and yet, there they sit and pray to him.

It has been suggested that religious people compartmentalize their thought processes in order to avoid otherwise inevitable and destructive conflicts. In this manner, rational and irrational thought processes can coexist in separate, locked compartments of the brain without connectivity. Yet, one wonders if there is some inevitable leakage from the irrational to the rational compartment, surreptitiously contaminating rationality.

Even some bright people may feel too frightened to face life without the consolations of a religion, cult or sect. Their upbringing has imbued in them the belief that it is safer not to subject the teachings of oneís church or temple or mosque to close scrutiny. Furthermore, becoming an agnostic or atheist can cut one off from the comfort and companionship of co-believers in a religion. This potentially damaging consequence of doubting oneís belief system is a strong deterrent to questioning deeply imbedded religious beliefs.

Religion may also satisfy an irrational human need for cosmic significance. Some persons yearn to be more than the grain of sand in the vastness of the universe that man really is. As long as men and women feel week and insignificant in the face of awe-inspiring natural forces, logic will not be as important as religion and man will prefer the sanctuary of imaginary, all-powerful beings.

Thus, people tend to associate in communities of like-minded people. Believers restrict their circle of friend and family to other believers. They surround themselves with mirror images of themselves.

If people wear blinders successfully, then the young and naÔve among them hear nothing but the desired belief. No reputable person in his or her sphere of life ever disagrees with or objects to the tenets of their common belief system. As time goes on, people in a mentally incestuous society consider it normal that all seemingly intelligent people believe as the community believes.

When a believer encounters non-believers, the shock may be great. The believer asks, "How can they not believe? Doesnít everyone believe?" The believing community usually provides a convenient answer to that question: The non-believers are evil or they are possessed by an evil power. If you hang around them enough it might be contagious.

As a result, the believer becomes paranoid and afraid of non-believers, because he fails to understand that non-believers do not need to believe in anything. Non-believers rely on reason, logic and the factual evidence of the real world.

Instead, the believer sees non-believers as abnormal and undesirable. Thus, religious belief maintains itself through self-affirmation, insulation and demonization of non-believers.

 

Religion and Intelligence

It is interesting to note that the degree of involvement with the supernatural, including religion, is directly proportional to the degree of factual knowledge available to a person. The bell curve, depicting the graphic display of variances in intelligence within a population, places 80% of the U. S. population in the I.Q. range from 85 to 115.

It is interesting to note that 90 % of the U. S. population is also involved in religions or other irrational belief systems. The September 1999 issue of the prestigious Scientific American magazine published a repeat-survey, confirming previous surveys:

Whereas 90% of the general population has a distinct belief in a personal god and a life after death, only 40% of scientists on the B.S. level favor these beliefs in religion and merely 10% of notable scientists believe in a personal god or in an afterlife. Contrary to the notion fostered by so-called creation-scientists, Albert Einstein did not believe in a personal god.

 

 

Chapter 09.07 THE BENEFITS AND HORRORS OF RELIGION:

Ever since man started praying to gods, religion has grown as an institutional power. Until the eighteenth century, the Age of Enlightenment, religion had organized itself into the dominant power governing all spiritual and secular affairs of man. Prior to 1700 AD, all affairs of society were under the domination of religious hierarchies.

In the process of wielding its enormous power, religious institutions have held the human race in a vice-grip of irrationality and have made every conceivable effort to suppress rationality and science. Only in 1998 did the Roman Catholic Church admit its error when it condemned Galileo in 1543 for pronouncing that the earth revolved around the sun, instead of having the sun revolve around the earth as demanded by the Bible.

Only the complete absurdity of its position forced the Pope to admit grudgingly that there might be some validity to the theory of evolution. He then explained the previous lapse by proclaiming that God had arranged for evolution to take place.

Evolution is a scientific fact and a Law of Nature. Evolution is not a theory any more than the Theory of Relativity is a theory. Institutional religion has oppressed rationality and has held humankind in a devastating chokehold for more than 2000 years.

We will gain nothing by describing the horrors that religions have inflicted on humanity in the name of their gods. From the crusades and the inquisition, to its devastating cooperation with the aristocracy in fettering and enslaving manís body and manís mind, religion has taken a heavy toll on humankind and on rationality

The horrors of religious institutions are now obsolete and part of the past. As we enter the third millennium, the power of religious institutions is waning, albeit far from dead. The influence of organized religion on the affairs of man is declining steadily. This development is due to such events as the French Revolution, the United States Constitution and the inevitable spread of democracy as the only political system compatible with freedom and the innate nature of man.

Man still interacts with religious institutions on the individual level but the political power of the church over the affairs of man has disappeared, with the temporary exception of a few Islamic nations.

This drastic change in societal power struggles was a product of the Age of Enlightenment. This step up the ladder of evolution was the result of the rational intellect of a new breed of philosophers like Voltaire, Rousseau and Locke. Their visions of a social contract replaced the institutions of feudalistic and religious slavery.

The advances in the enlightenment of man over the last five hundred years were pioneered by a few intellectual giants and by a small minority of rational, intelligent philosophers, scientists and visionary firebrands. A large majority of humanity still goes to church on Sunday, fears its gods and prays for salvation

The masses of men remain emotion-driven animals that have neither the intelligence nor the fortitude to throw off the shackles of religious irrationality. The man who goes to church and prays to god is still carrying the demon of religion on his back.

The next step in the evolution of man must wait until the mass of men has evolved to a higher plane. Intellectual freedom and honesty will allow manís rational mind to exert its full powers and will enable man to assert a higher degree of control over his primitive emotional system

 

 

Chapter 09.08 THE FUTURE OF RELIGION

The archaic belief systems of religion and the supernatural are the dominion of primitive, prehistoric man. Modern man is engaged in the accelerating process of replacing religion and superstition with science and rationality. Superstition and religion will eventually disappear in the dustbin of human history.

However, evolution is an excruciatingly slow process, and the institutions of witchcraft, religion and the supernatural are in no eminent danger of demise. Evolution is unappeasable and relentless, but it deals in centuries and millennia, not in years or decades.

What does the future hold for the conflict between rationality and religion? We merely need to examine the underlying trend of evolution. Evolution will continue to exhibit the same trend that is has exhibited for the last four billion years. Evolution has steadily enhanced specialization by means of increased complexity.

Human beings, who utilize an irrational approach to life due to their lack of rationality, will gradually become increasingly disadvantaged. Eventually, even their survival and the perpetuation of their genes will be endangered.

An illustration of this trend is becoming obvious in Africa: Due to their intellectual disadvantage, people on the African Continent are unable to maintain civilized governments and health care facilities. As a result, the Aids pandemic is ravaging the population of Africa. The inhabitants of this continent are weak and at risk because they lack the complex mental resources necessary to compete with other members of the human race.

Africans are thus unable to provide for even minimal healthcare, and they can provide even less for the educational facilities that might bring about an improvement in the future. The process of evolution will inevitably reduce their numbers and will allow only those to survive who are sufficiently rational to compete with the rest of the world for limited resources.

A believe in a god or gods, mythology or astrology represents negative survival factors and is most commonly found in persons of relatively limited intelligence and initiative. These members of society will be at great risk in the centuries to come.

The future survival of the individual, and thus the human race, will rely on high intelligence and a rational worldview. In the millennia to come, physical prowess and irrationality will dilute prospects for survival. Intelligence and rationality will enhance survival and prosperity.

 

 

Chapter 09.09 RELIGION: CONCLUSION:

Achieving happiness in life depends on our ability to align our emotions and our rational thought processes with Objective Reality.

Religion provided important survival benefits during the early evolution of primitive societies, at a time when man lacked even the most rudimentary knowledge of Objective Reality.

With the exponential growth of knowledge and science, religion hinders man in achieving desired results, including the achievement of lasting happiness. If we wish to free ourselves from ignorance and superstition, it is incumbent on us to:

 

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"Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration -- courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and above all, love of the truth".

                                            Henry Louis Mencken

"A man full of faith is simply one who has lost (or never had) the capacity for clear and realistic thought. He is not merely an ass: He is actually ill"

                                            Henry Louis Mencken

 

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An almost endless number of books have been devoted to the subject of religion. This brief discourse on religions is only one of many chapters in a short book. This chapter may serve as a starting point for our own contemplation of the nature of religions.

Our worldview is of our own making. For better or worse, we all have to lead our own lives, one day at a time.

Gods do not exist and we have to sleep in the bed we make for ourselves. We, as individuals, have the cognitive power to choose happiness or unhappiness. No other person, and certainly no gods, can make us happy or unhappy. Only we, ourselves, can choose to be happy or unhappy. The choice is ours.

 

Due to space limitations, sections in Red are accessible only in the Book or CD "How Life Really Works".

 

 

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