So what do you find captivating my friends? What ideas or demonstrations of love and purpose really draw you in and resonate to the core of your being? I ask this because I desire to narrow in just as much as anyone else on what we can actually know and treasure deeply within our existence. It is this notion in itself that unifies me with my religious friends.
Also, I feel the need to emphasize this friendship. In the last eleven months or so I have been going hard against the things that I once passionately believed in. My hope is not to convey this desire to eradicate every notion of religion and spirituality from people’s minds. I in fact am happy that people passionately disagree with me. At the heart of my atheism is a desire to find the best methodologies that advocate pure thought and the least amount of error when arriving at conclusions about life’s deepest questions.
I want to be wrong so as to know how I can be right about anything. This brings me to the topic of this discussion. What is the role of religion in this pursuit? Also, does religion arrive at its conclusions by allowing critical analysis from the onset? My honest opinion in this regard is that most religions to my knowledge do not spring from an endeavor of critical thinking. They spring from a claim of revelation and authority. In other words, religions appear to be built on a “he said, she said” type of foundation. It then creates a link of inspiration and authority from the first prophet to the very last. Even that process in itself is quite varied and controversial among religious adherents.
The way in which religion has evolved itself to start batting in the field of critical thinking is via the process of thousands of years of trying to create a closed system of Theology that appears to be internally consistent within itself. What makes this process look very suspect to the outside world is the vast majority of disagreement among Christians, Muslims, and Jews as to which closed system is the right one? There are of course multiple theologies with multiple scenarios for salvation and damnation. Some require certain works and rituals, others require rituals and creedal assent, others are only concerned with the simple question of what you ultimately take on by faith or creed alone.
This is due in large part to one significant fact. The way in which religion is both formed and propagated throughout the world appears to be very similar for every culture. Certain charismatic figures rise up and teach a certain view of God and the world and then pass this on to those who desire to zealously carry the torch. Any inconsistencies within the Scriptures that relate to a lack of information or clear contradictions are then minimized and put into an agnostic category. The passages that seem more clear and suitable to one’s closed Theological system are then highlighted and taken to bring more weight to the overall discussion.
Quite frankly, this makes the idea of establishing any kind of orthodoxy and ideological consensus absurd. Orthodoxy essentially translates over to whatever one picks and chooses as their system of authority and interpretation. It conveys the human knowledge problem that says, “I’m right and you’re wrong.” It also conveys a lack of relevant facts that could actually put these questions to rest about what truly is orthodox or not? What religion now appears to lack the most is a consistent and coherent explanation as to why these ideas of the divine have evolved to become so amazingly diverse and contradictory from one another?
The theory of human evolution however, seems to have pinpointed a very important observation in this regard. Religion is born, propagated, diversified, and goes extinct in conjunction to those cultures that first brought them forth. Religion is as human as it gets!