Many would claim that religion provides the framework for morality; that without religion, our world would be a nasty place in which to live. But surely, to think that without religion, we would all be ‘axe-murderers’ is far from the truth and suggests that not one of us possesses an ‘innate’ sense of morality. Well before the religions of ‘modern times’, human beings were cooperating and helping one another, perhaps believing in multiple gods, spirits in their environment or the over-seeing care by their deceased ancestors. Was that religion or superstition? (see future post: The Superstitions of Religion). Is there a big difference?
So, from the point of view of ‘morality’, do we really need religion and are the ‘modern times’ religions/beliefs any better than those of the past? And is there a difference between someone who is religious and someone who simply believes in ‘God’?
Wars and atrocities have been instigated by religious/believers and by atheist/non-believers alike. Certainly, the worst case scenario is religion (or any other ‘ideology’, for that matter) high-jacked by the unscrupulous politician, priest or military general or any combination of these individuals reaching for power by ‘riding on the coat-tails of God’.
Do we need religion? That question (as well all the others in today’s blog) is probably moot. Like it or not, religion is part of the human psyche and religion, in one form or another, is here to stay.
The following TED talk by psychologist Jonathan Haidt is an interesting approach to religion.
*Religious belief: subject of research for the novel The Tao of the Thirteenth God – Amazon Kindle.