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Is the future to be free of religions?
Can humans live without religion?
Would humans future be better without religions??
Before we can consider these questions, we need to state a definition of what is meant by religion; I have chosen the dictionary definitions; “belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny. Any formal or institutionalized expression of such beliefs.”
There is a difference between religion and philosophy. Religions have structures and a sets of rules, usually controlled by a hierarchy of humans although claiming to be controlled by one or more non human deities.
While both religion and any specific philosophy have a belief system, philosophies do not tend to have structured leadership and so are far more tolerant of ideas that stray from the basic philosophy.
Sometimes the difference can be blurred, consider the following 3 statements, which owe much to Taoism. Only through cold can you appreciate heat. Only through failure can you measure success. Only though doubt can you come to conviction. These seem to be true statements, even taken individually; when put together they start to form a philosophical belief that all things must be relative to other things and all events are interactions and subject to interrelationships, with other events.
This immediately separates the belief from nearly all religions, which by definition, adhere to the idea that destiny is controlled by an external force.
It is unclear exactly when religions came into human activity or even what those religious beliefs actually were. We have records of the religious systems going back many thousands of years but humans existed long before any existing records of religious activity were made.
The very earliest, very early stone age, groups of humans survived by hunting and gathering, the world they lived in was dangerous. It seems logical that they would wonder if some malignant force was stopping a successful hunt or causing a drought which prevented their food supply being plentiful. Human nature being as it is, some members of the tribal group or family unit, would seek control over others by claiming they could intervene between the group and this malignant force. These became the priests and religious leaders. It may be that these leaders were simply people with better memory of what happened in previous years or just more skilled trackers and hunters; but it is easy to understand how the rest of the group could accept that the leaders had special connection to forces outside the control of the rest. The acceptance that natural events and the natural world itself, are living expressions of some deity, is likewise easy to understand if we suspend all scientific knowledge and reasoning.
In our modern world most physical occurrences are explained with logical and evidential reasoning. We know the sequence of events that cause storms, droughts, forest fires, floods and ice to form. We may not be able to control these things but we have rational explanations for them. If there were no religious beliefs, we would not now attribute anything that occurs in the natural world, to “an act of God.” So the question is can we live without religions? And the answer seems to be yes, we can live and continue the existence of humanity without religions; but would the future of humanity be better without religions? This is a much harder one to answer.
There will always be basic fundamental questions that science can not fully explain. Science can say how the known universe evolved but it can not satisfactorily say why. Nor can it truthfully say that the known universe is the total of existence.
While many deny the existence of an eternal ethereal spirit, many others claim with total conviction that this exists. Not having convincing evidence that it does is not proof that it does not. Science and logical reasoning can not answer fundamental questions about humans, such as why do we exist? Or is there a purpose to existence? Answers to such questions have to be hypotheses since they can not be proven. To provide creative energy to creation, is one such hypothesis.
If we abandon all religions, as defined earlier, but retain beliefs in philosophic ideas, this may well be a good thing. It is certain that fanatical adherence to specific religions has caused bloodshed and war all around this planet, and it has done so for thousands of years.
It does seem likely that humanity needs purpose in order to progress, and we also need wide spread social acceptance of moral codes, basically defining right from wrong, to ensure social coherence. If religions were replaced by anarchy it would not be a pleasant situation.
It does appear that groups of humans work better if they have both purpose and agreement on what is right or wrong; most religions supply these things but they are controlled by other humans, who are fallible, egocentric, and prone to seek material power and control. If there could be a religion without leadership or a hierarchical structure, may be that would work. It would be a philosophy which believed in a deity.
If religions collapse and cease to exist, not by draconian edicts from governments but simply by the ending of belief in their leaderships, perhaps purpose could be provided by science, or rather by a widespread acceptance that furthering scientific knowledge is a desirable thing. The difficulty is that science and the advancing of scientific knowledge, has become too specialised, too remote from both being understood by and from having relevance to the vast majority of human lives.
We already have disinterested, poorly educated, unmotivated sections of society in most nations. I would guess that religion and philosophy have little influence in these groups, they operate in materialistic, “instant satisfaction,” “ gangland” structures with no long or even medium term purpose. One danger in the loss of religions will be the expansion of these aimless social groups.
Unless the world population is reduced, the mix of climate change, disappearance of religious beliefs, artificial intelligent machines, and changes to the global economies, there is going to be an ever greater polarisation between the “rich, educated, and powerful,” and the rest of humanity.
We should all be very careful what we wish for.