Monday, 7 April 2008

Where is the beef?

beef pie
Religions have existed for thousands of years, and they can be found in all human cultures. Obviously, they supply human needs. Today, we have science. Science can supply certain functions formerly provided by religion, namely in explaining the world. And it does this part considerably better than religion: Creationism has not gained any considerable audience outside of the United States. In Switzerland, for instance, the attempt of pushing creationism into schoolbooks and curricula has been a pathetic failure.

But this does not mean that science can supply all the needs formerly fulfilled by religion. For instance, science tries to avoid emotions and a subjective worldview. But emotions are a basic human need.

This does not mean that religion is necessary for a good life. The point is that all functions of religions must be substituted when we turn away from a religion. If we only substitute the knowledge part of religion by science and forget all the rest, we may suffer from a mental shortage.

The emotional part of religions often has been called spirituality. I do not particularly like this notion, because it is often used in a dualistic sense. That is, assuming a spiritual world besides the material world.

But, certainly, there must be an emotional or mental beef hidden in the religious beef pie. The one depicted here has been described as horrid by the photographer. This may be the case with many religions, leaving us with the old question: Where is the beef?

Instead of spirituality, I like the term mindfulness. We all have a mind, no question. And for mindfulness, mind matter dualism is completely irrelevant. Meditation does work and has a calming and mind-expanding influence even for science-based skeptics like me. This is what matters.

Here is my personal conversion table for my former religious feelings that have been suffering from religious atrophy and have been reactivated by deconversion and freethought:
Religious Non-religious
Worship of God
Being protected by God
Awe of the Universe
"Oceanic" feeling

Photo credit:


John Morales said...

Bah. I don't have (or need) any of those things.

Awe is overrated.

sacred slut said...

Very nice.

I think there are two camps of atheists - some feel the need for the spiritual/feeling side and some do not. I'd like to see more dialogue about developing a non-theistic spirituality. The Buddhists purportedly do it, so why can't we?

kantng said...

I'd say that art can also fulfill that emotional/mental need.

lessertruth said...

Yeah, but don't you think that this assumes a whole lot, in assuming that you can clearly and neatly list all the "needs" that religion "fulfils"? I mean, isn't it terribly simplistic to say that religion's "functions" are 1) explaining the world; and 2) providing an emotional well-being? Actually, do you really think that you can simplify the myriad personal relationships different individuals have with their particular religions to the point of going looking for "replacements"?

kantng said...

i wouldn't really say its simplistic to claim that religion provides emotional well-being, because emotional well-being in itself is quite complicated.