Replacing Religion, part 4

In this series of posts, I am looking at different human needs, exploring how they are filled by religion, and attempting to find secular ways to fill those needs instead. By doing this, I hope to discover whether the claim that “people need religion” is true or not. Can religion be replaced?

In this post, I’m going to conclude the series by discussing the idea that humans feel they need religion to give them strength, provide a sense of community, and fulfill their need for wonder.

Many people look to their idea of a god to give them the strength to get through hardships or to take on some difficult task. As with their apparent need for a deity to give them their morality (as I discussed in Part 3), I think that religious people need to give themselves more credit for their own strength, without having to look to some supposed god for help. If they still feel they need some kind of support, why not get it from family and friends? If more people looked to other people for help, rather than fighting over which invisible friend they should be looking to, I think the world would be a much better place.

People love the sense of community they get when they get together with others who share their belief. However, instead of gathering in churches, temples, mosques, and other places of worship to give praise (and money) to an unproven god (why does a god need money, anyway?), people could instead gather with others who share an interest in something more tangible, such as helping to feed or house the needy, raise money for underprivileged children, help care for homeless animals, or some similar charitable endeavor. It’s true that people give money to their religious institutions to help with such things, but how much of that money is actually spent on the cause, and how much is spent on the accouterments of their faith (buildings, books, wardrobes, etc.)? As I mentioned in Part 1, even when a religious institution does use the collected money to help with a cause, those being helped often get as much doctrine and dogma as they do food, shelter, medicine, or whatever else they need. Religions seem to have the idea, “We’ll take care of you as long as you believe as we do.”

Finally, many people seem to find wonder in believing that there is  some sort of supreme being that created everything, controls everything, and cares about what happens to people. They look to the supposed miracles caused by these different beings and use these unlikely, unproven occurrences to fulfill their sense of wonder. This is the part of religious belief that baffles me the most, for I cannot see how anyone can find wonder in anecdotal retellings of ancient and/or mystical stories, be they stories about virgin pregnancies, prophets ascending to heaven on winged horses, spiritual leaders returning to life in a newborn child, or any of the other strange beliefs of religion. Rather than look to stories for a sense of wonder, one need only look around them, at our own natural world or (my personal favorite) at the universe around us. A quick perusal of any of the Hubble telescope photo gallery is all I ever need to invoke an incredible sense of wonder – not only in me, but in everybody I’ve ever shown the pictures to.

I’m sure there are many other things people get from their religious beliefs, but I  believe that any and all of them can be fulfilled by something in the secular world.

So, can religion be replaced? I believe that it can. But should it be replaced? I’ll tackle that question in a future post.

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