Religion was useful, but not anymore

In searching about morality, I notice that religion is described as something that was beneficial to societies from an evolutionary standpoint.

“The adaptive value of religion would have enhanced group survival.” ~Wikipedia: Evolution of Morality

This makes sense.  If you frighten people of a common scary consequence, they likely would work together better – especially if they can’t debunk the fear.  In the past, I can’t imagine many other things bringing people together so well, aside from the threat from a nearby hostile society.

Now, looking at how developed nations tend to be letting go of religious belief, I suspect that demonstrates how traditional religion is losing its usefulness.  We don’t need to be scared of a vengeful God any longer to band together.  Enough of us are realizing how silly of an idea it is, and we have more reality-based issues to band together over now and the abilities to do so.

Though, some of those reality-based issues do end up developing questionable narratives not unlike traditional religions.

It will be interesting to see where things might lead from here.

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7 Responses to Religion was useful, but not anymore

  1. I’d never thought about how religion might help improve teamwork and cooperation, but that does make sense.

    I’ve also seen it argued that one useful thing about religion in the past that isn’t necessary anymore is the quick sharing and implementing of rules for healthy living, like cleaning and grooming habits. For instance, Jewish law required washing hands before eating. Back before we understood what germs were, simply saying “God requires it,” was probably enough to get people to take on these practices. But now, the concept of germs is common knowledge because scientists and doctors have shown they exist, and have used the concept to effectively treat people for a very long time. No parent tells their child to wash their hands “Because God says so” anymore. The kid’s probably learning about germs in school. So while it was probably very effective for a while at spreading healthy practicies like that, religion no longer needs to do that because our knowledge of the world around us has grown.

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Good example!

      Yes, many of us non-believers are quick to write off religion as ridiculous fairy tales, but they do seem to have served some evolutionary purpose. I think it is important that we recognize that.

  2. The atheist perspective is a very healthy dose of skepticism for religiosity. Narratives need to be questioned, theology refined, and religion returned to the roots. Metaphor, fantasy, and fictitious explanations have been adhered to for the sake of tradition. For the practitioners, defending those untruths is a habitual and stubborn defense. Particularly when their sense of purpose and well being is so strictly adhered to those stories.

    Religion has incredible potential for good. It can inspire scientific discovery. Encourage charity. Support a community and build families. If religion has any hope to play a role in the future, Atheists must be an intricate part of that. It is their staunch devotion to the scientific method and truth that will drive religion forward.

    Just as religion may have filled an evolutionary role, now it is the time for religion to evolve. No unsubstantiated claims, no bizarre myths. A unifying and infallibly true religion, powered by scientific discovery, driven by the hunger for the unknown and our own potential.

    God(s) can be found in the mysteries of the universe. Our gradual understanding of these mysteries don’t diminish faith, anymore than following a lantern on a shadowy path makes the light dimmer.

    Our personal and deep connection to these mysteries can also help us solve them. Just as a mathematician may apply different topology to an engineering problem to find a solution that eludes her. Or a doctor may us graphic constructs to visualize ejection fraction. A personal connection to a god could yield useful methods for understanding, particularly when that god is the embodiment of the mystery.

    Thor called forth lightning. It was understood that a lightning storm was an expression of Thor’s anger. Stories like this would educate the children to seek shelter and avoid his wrath. We know differently now, of course. But that personal connection to a mystery yielded useful information. “Seek shelter during storms.” The Roman gods provided detailed stories that were used to understand the planets’ movements. There are thousands of examples.

    What insights might you gather about quantum mechanics? Dark matter? The nature of reality that spawned the Big Bang? A cure for cancer? Could faith, and a personal relationship with a “god of mysteries” help?

    • jasonjshaw says:

      Some interesting thoughts!

      I don’t mind the idea of God being used as a personification of unknown forces. That was essentially how I was able to fit in to the church community when I was learning about Christianity.

      As for religion evolving, I have seen it. I’m not so sure it’s a good thing. I have seen “pro-science” online groups basically stating that all GMOs and all vaccinations are good, without considering that there can be problematic variations of such things.

      There are veganism and new age beliefs. There is Scientology. There are those referred to as Social Justice Warriors.

      Are these new ideologies helpful? They do seem to be like modern versions of religion. I guess they do bring different viewpoints to the table, but when they go too far, they also push people back toward flawed established viewpoints.

      I’m not sure what the answer is, or what direction humanity will go in. I hope that all of the extreme viewpoints being on the table for everyone to now see will end up developing into future generations having a better ability to disseminate ideology from nuanced reality.

      I wonder how long that might take.

      • “I’m not sure what the answer is, or what direction humanity will go in.” Well said. Who could possibly know that?

        Any ideology that is not just simply BASED on truth, but has truth as its pillar would do quite well. Scientologists frequently make claims that can’t be substantiated. Not all GMO’s are good, clearly, because cells that are infected to produce viral copies are genetically modified oranisms. Yet, any common homegrown carrot has genetic anomomalies. Vaccinations, like any medicine, have a risk/benefit associated with them. Typically, and if the healthcare provider is educated, the vaccine can be delivered at the appropriate time, with maximum benefit and minimal risk.

        Religions today are FORCED to change, under threat of being made obsolete by scientific discovery. An evolving religion should not be one that is forced to change, but one that anticipates change, and accepts it.

        Which is why the Oracles can not lie. As discoveries are made, they must be acknowledged, incorporated, built upon.

      • jasonjshaw says:

        I wonder what such an ideology would look like? I follow the online skeptic community a bit, but well, they aren’t really so much a community, but their focus is on truth.

        I guess the question is, can truth-seekers manage to build immunity to ideologies enough to form a religion-like community?

        Maybe that is a possible direction of things to come?

      • “I wonder what such an ideology would look like?”

        You’re looking at it!

        Truth. Find God(s) not in lies and myth, but in mystery. Mastery of the self, maximizing potential, and using that potential to serve the needs of our species.

        Simple in its presentation, effective in delivery, and necessarily democratic and discovery driven.

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