Lately I have been asking myself questions concerning the nature of religion and how I would define it. What is a religion?
I think that in the traditional sense, a religion is a set of faith-based principles that guide ones morality and determine their vision of the world and as consequence, their attitudes and behaviors toward others and their environment. By faith-based, one might assume it means the glorification of a deity such as Yahweh, Christ, Allah, Brahma, or any other of the thousands of entities that have been worshipped around the world since ancient times. But I think that this is a limited view on what religion is, especially when one considers the religions that do not worship deities, but concepts or energies, or even animals and nature itself.
However, religion does not even need to be limited to the purely spiritual or mystical, because I think that religion is something that is made up largely of four components: its desire to define the world, its desire to control its adherents, its desire to gain new adherents, and its desire to damn those that reject it. Now, various religions and types of religion have different ways of doing this, but just in my experience, I think that all religions often follow at least two or three of these, if not all.
Faith-based religions followed out of pagan religions, and I think that in this age of Enlightenment (which we are continuing into) there have arisen political religions, some of which are based off of atheist premises and have placed all of their authority in social theories and doctrines that become almost scriptural in nature.
In recent months I have seen that humans are religious by nature; that humans often need a tribe to belong to as a vestige of our ancient and prehistoric roots. These tribes provide a sense of identity and purpose within the individual, and allow for a collective to form that is more effective than the individual. Collectives are important for getting things done, and when we belong to a tribe of like-minded people who all believe the same things and have certain experiences in common, we will form a religious doctrine to guide us in our lives and structure our thoughts and actions.
For most of our time here on Earth these religions dealt with the beyond, or answering questions that could not be explained with the limited knowledge and technology we had. However, now that we have answered many of these questions in an age of advanced science, much of our dogmatic religious force is beginning to turn into political energy.
Religions have often tried to control the natural instincts of human behavior and curb undesirable thoughts and actions through spiritual condemnation. However, we are beginning to replace the faith-based religions with political religions that do exactly the same thing. We have even atheistic dogmas that claim that certain natural behaviors are toxic or anathema to a progressive society, that we must impose certain sanctions on speech in order to abide by political correctness, that anyone who dares not identify with these authoritarian policies on college campuses or anywhere is a heretic (now replaced with “racist,” “fascist,” or the like).
If you are not an ideological feminist who adheres to the social theories and principles of the “prophets” of the movement, and you dare believe in a different world view other than the rigid ideology of the radicals or even moderates, then to some you are innately misogynistic or anti-women.
If you have ever said anything remotely politically incorrect, then you have blasphemed the “church” and cannot be redeemed due to your wickedness and deserve to have your life and career destroyed.
The witch hunts have moved from the villages to the internet, and people have lost their jobs and had their dreams razed to the ground because of mobs that pushed for their demise for an off-color joke or a disagreement on ideology.
Now, this is not purely a Left-only or Right-only issue, because both radical ends of the political spectrum are guilty of these types of behaviors. But the way I see it, it is equally appalling no matter what side it is coming from. No one has a right to determine another person’s thoughts or ideas, and there must be an adherents to universal truths that we have come to understand so that we do not live in a wishy-washy world of complete relativism. (This is a topic that I will come back to later).
Unfortunately, it is the crazed religious leaders in the extremes that are the loudest and most effective and imposing their beliefs on society, the Left dominating education and the Right still strong in different jurisdictions.
Religion in the traditional sense is being replaced in the younger generation with what is simply religion in the political sense. I have seen relationships, longtime friendships, and family relations end in flames over political opinions. I have watched mobs of people riot and scream out of the expressions of political dogma that they wish to see enforced. People have not become less religious, but rather directed their ideology in a different direction.
I do not think anyone can truly get away from religion in any of its forms because my hypothesis is that we are all religious by nature. I think we evolved psychologically to be religious. But when religion becomes authoritarian and even deadly is where we need to rethink ourselves. If we cannot tolerate a person because we disagree with them on a non-lethal issue (such as capitalism or social freedom) then are we really pro-freedom? Now, I will get into the ideologies that are deadly (Nazism for example) and that need to be put in check, but most people are disagreeing on basic human principles and universal truths and have replaced objective reality with subjective interpretations of fiction. I will explain this over time. This is also a “both-sides” issue.
So, in short, I think that we are fooling ourselves if we try and say that we are not religious. Even if one is an atheist, how much of your beliefs on political issues is based in dogma or subjective interpretations of objective realities (or trying to explain something in abstractions)? Because I think that that is simply an evolution of religion that will continue for thousands or even millions of years to come. If we are here that long.
Let me know what you think in the comments.