Should Religion Be Replaced?

In the last part of my Replacing Religion series, having determined that there is no reason why religion couldn’t be replaced by secular pursuits, I asked if religion should be replaced. This is my answer to that question.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always been a nontheist. Thinking back, I can’t recall any time in my life when I believed in anything even vaguely resembling a god. Over the years, there have been a few times when I’ve been relatively outspoken about my nontheism, but for the most part I’ve taken the attitude that people have the right to believe what they want as long as they don’t try to push it on me. Recently, however, I’ve had to rethink that position as religion has begun to affect not only public policy, but the safety of our world.

So if you asked me today whether religion should be replaced, I would answer with a resounding “Yes!” It is time for the human race to grow up. Like a child reaching adolescence and giving up (however grudgingly) her belief in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, it is time for humans to give up their childish belief in gods. For unlike Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny – mythical beings who bring presents and joy to children – the gods of humankind bring hatred, war, and death. Because humans cannot agree on how to worship their god, they kill one another in acts of sectarian violence. Because they cannot agree on which god to worship, they kill one another in so-called holy wars.

“If you’re following the news, you know that the major religions differ in their interpretation of the holy books. For example, one way to interpret God’s will is that you should love your neighbor. An alternate reading of the holy books might lead you to rig a donkey cart with small mortar rockets and aim it at a hotel full of infidels.”    —From Scott Adams’ Holiday Thoughts, 2003

The fact that people cannot agree on what or how to worship should be enough to convince nearly anyone that gods were created by man, not the other way around, for if there truly were an all-powerful, all-knowing creator of everything, certainly he/she/it would be able to get at least a simple majority of humans to believe in the same thing and worship in the same way. However, despite the millions of people who claim adherence to each of the world’s major religions, not one of those religions can claim a majority. Furthermore, each religion is divided into many different denominations or sects, reducing the chance for agreement even more. Christianity alone has well over 30,000 different denominations!

Rather than looking skyward in search of Heaven, God, Allah, or some similar fantasy, humans must learn to look skyward and see that our world is but a tiny speck of rock orbiting a star that is just one star amongst billions of others, in a galaxy that is but one galaxy amongst billions of other galaxies. Any being that could create such a vast universe would have no trouble getting a few billion humans – or even just a majority of them – to believe in the same thing and worship in the same way. Since there is no such majority, it should be clear to even the most devout believer that there is no creator or supreme being; there is only us, humankind, and it’s time to grow up.

“It is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” —Carl Sagan

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4 Responses to “Should Religion Be Replaced?”

  1. I just wanted to say, though we’ve had totally different experiences with life and seeking it’s meaning, I enjoy that we can have the greyhounds in common. Imagine if the world would only let what is “in common” be the point of their interactions; rather than what is different.

    I believe you have presented a concise and well done piece of literary essay to present your case. No matter the “total answer”, I am glad you put your perspective out there. What the world needs now, is not just love. It;s peaceful excepting of our differences.

  2. As a professional archaeologist and anthropologist who grew up in a very religious home and then studied cultures and comparative religions, I think that religion should be replaced by spiritualism. I think that all humans are born with a deep spiritulism that is then perverted by religious doctrines and dogma. Humans need an explanation for the unexplanable and that is where “religion” comes in. It provides the explanation and provides social control. However, the explanations have been written by humans and serve humans. If we recognized and followed our senses (our spiritualism), the world would be a much better place. I’ve given up hoping for this. Perhaps in the next few millenium, it might happen, just as thousands of years of life on this planet has moved humans to this place in time.

  3. The Greytheist Says:

    @Hettie: I agree with you that most humans need an explanation for the world (and Universe) around them, but I don’t think it’s “unexplainable”. Science has done a good job of answering a lot of humanity’s deep questions and I believe it will continue to do so.

    Admittedly, religions almost certainly began as a way to explain things for which people had no explanation at the time, but I don’t think that’s what it’s currently used for.

    In my experience, most people today cling to religion for reassurance that they are not alone (i.e., someone is looking out for them) or to help reduce their fear of death by promising an afterlife. They’re indoctrinated into it as a child by people they trust and they never realize they even have the option to not believe.

    I’m not really sure what “spiritualism” is. I find science and the wonders of the Universe to be all I really need. I guess pondering nature and the Universe is my form of “spiritualism.” :)

  4. I think that what I meant by “spiritualism” is exactly what you say: Pondering nature and the universe and standing in awe of it….and accepting the role of science in understanding it. And I totally agree that many people are indoctrinated from the time they are born and by the time they are adults they are in no position to question anything outside of the religious practices they’ve been exposed to. Those that do are ostracized or made to feel inadequate.

    The churches understand this and that is why there are so many people today who support turning the education system over to them.

    I guess this is a stuggle that will always go on and we can only hope to live in a time when we are not placed in danger for our opinions. But I do hope some day that people will allow themselves to be enlightened. Anyway, I love this question and would love to get a group together to discuss it more in depth.

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