Has society outgrown religion? Essay
Has society outgrown religion?
Has society outgrown religion? // A hindrance to society or a useful delusion?
Over eighty percent of the planet’s population partake in some form of religion, which would lead you to believe that it really does have a huge benefit to us not only as individuals but as an entire species. But could this be misleading? Once you remove the people from this eighty percent that follow religion only as a family tradition, or because it’s the simplest explanation to the questions for which they don’t have answers and leave the people that truly and honestly believe that religion is still in-date useful to society, one could argue that the number probably isn’t so overwhelming.
Why is it that religion seems to have lost its veracity? It could be argued that religion just isn’t what it used to be; it no longer provides believable explanations for the phenomena that we as humans long to understand, such as the origin of the earth or even the origin of life itself. Nor can it provide feasible answers to questions such as “what is the meaning to life?” or “what is truly good?”
So why is it that we no longer believe the answers and explanations provided by religion to be true (or even feasible)? Most of all, it’s the scientific processes allowed by vast technological advancement. Since the theories of Darwin, Galileo, Einstein, etc, which provide proof along with their explanations, the power of these old-age tales has been massively decreased whilst the urge to search for more and more scientific truths has rocketed.
Although the advancement and application of science does not entirely rule out the possibility of a God (or intelligent designer), it does wash away the initial value of religion. Barely anyone believes in the tale of the earth being created in seven days, or that a man called Noah took two of every animal and put them on an arc whilst God caused forty days of floods or even that mankind begun with two people named Adam and Eve, so surely it would take a true idiot to believe in a heaven or hell and thus follow the moral values by which we should abide in order to avoid the misfortunate fate of ending up in “hell”.
Could the idea of heaven and hell be something which is as beneficial to us as the advancement of science? The German philosopher Jurgen Habermas claims that religious thinking is the centre of a just and humane society; he states that things such as human rights and social order derive from Judeo-Christian thinking. “Even if society wanted to ‘outgrow’ religion, it would struggle to know where to go next.”
This view is not dissimilar to that of Friedrich Nietzsche, who theorised that religion created ideas such as “sin” and thus guilt – which logically leads on to the fact that without the fears and rewards presented by religious teachings, humans would have very little reason to behave “morally” at all.
So is it really the desire to hold society in this state of ‘morality’ and ‘social order’ that prevents the age-old tales religion from vanishing, or could it be something far closer to home? One could argue that religion is merely a means by which people find meaning and direction within their own lives.
Organised religion provides us with a set of rules to live by and presents us with “rewards” for following them; we are given a sense of duty to fulfil our roles as humans by going good not only by others but by ourselves. Religion provides us with a sense of community, it lets us believe that there is a great man in the sky that is always there to listen; it creates a more realistic ‘ear’ in the form of church groups and other religion-based communities. Essentially it gives us the sense that we can do right, and that we can act in order to achieve the ‘ultimate individual goal’ – reaching heaven.
Is reaching heaven really the ‘ultimate individual goal’ though? It seems entirely futile to waste potentially your only life aiming for something which may not even exist, and it makes no sense that we as people would be rewarded by God for spending our entire lives taking blind faith in something that we could only eschatologically verify. Looking at things from this point of view it seems that religion is not nourishing or useful to us as human beings, but in fact a complete hindrance.
The vast amount of religions and the degrees by which they vary also creates a huge hindrance to us as a species; religion and the conflict between each separate one causes more bloodshed than anything else in the world. When people feel the need to violently attack each other in order to prove one God’s worth over another, and this is allowed (or even encouraged) by the rules within that religion it would seem that something is terribly wrong. It is also in this case that the promise of a heaven or hell for following the rules of religion is something which doesn’t benefit society, but instead leads individuals to believe that it is okay to commit homicide or suicide to fight for their cause, as God will still ‘love’ them.
Essentially, religion is both a hindrance to us and a useful delusion. If only we could learn to take the “good bits” from religion such as the strong moral values, social order and general good will and learn to let go of some of the values that we really are beginning to outgrow – such as the things that science is now taking over – then religion would be of benefit to us all. Such an approach to religion could even take away the strength behind it that not only causes conflict and bloodshed, but causes us to potentially waste our lives by aiming for an afterlife that we cannot even guarantee exists. Either way, it seems that religion (and the values held within it) is going to be here for a long while yet.