If Religion Could be Shown to be a Delusion
Would Mankind be Happier? More Peaceful?
The lustre of the present hour is always borrowed from the background of possibilities it goes with. Let our common experiences be enveloped in an eternal moral order; let our suffering have an immortal significance; let Heaven smile upon the earth, and deities pay their visits; let faith and hope be the atmosphere which man breathes in;—and his days pass by with zest; they stir with prospects, they thrill with remoter values. Place round them on the contrary the curdling cold and gloom and absence of all permanent meaning which for pure naturalism and the popular science evolutionism of our time are all that is visible ultimately, and the thrill stops short, or turns rather to an anxious trembling.
Religion consists of believing that everything that happens is extraordinarily important.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step towards the diminution of war, every step towards better treatment of the coloured races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized Churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its Churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
Although I was not brought up in a religious household, and I suppose if I were pressed, would have to admit to being a kind of incurable atheist, I’m nevertheless strongly convinced that religion performs important social functions in the transmission say, of ethical values between generations, and that a society that does away with it, that ceases to engage in any kind of formal religious instruction, is a society that’s likely to be less good at maintaining social order than one which maintains a measure of religious faith and observance. And that is based purely on historical observation... So I think one really does away with Christianity, or indeed one does away with God at one’s peril. Human beings do seem to behave better when they have some sense of moral authority in the world, and indeed some kind of formal system for inculcating good ethical behaviour.
I am not religious, and I regard the adoption of religious faith as incompatible with openness to truth. Nevertheless, the possibility that propositions of religious faith are true cannot be ruled out. And far from its being the case that they have been derived from religion, it is my belief that, historically, things have been the other way about, and that religious doctrines have been arrived at as a result of the possible truth of these propositions. It is because they could be true, and human beings have exceedingly powerful reasons for wanting to believe that they are—though the propositions themselves cannot be adequately supported by rational argument—that they have become articles of religious faith. The drive behind the motivation comes, very obviously, from fear of death.
It is an error to think that faith delivers us from the fear of death or that the latter is the origin of religious faith. It is rather love of life that delivers us from the fear of death, and this love is found in believers and unbelievers alike.
Fr. Ignace Lepp
It is spirit that is the principle of unity, and matter that is the principle of division. And as soon as this truth is admitted, religion will no longer appear as an unessential and extraneous element in culture, but as its most vital element. For religion is the bond that unites man to spiritual reality, and it is only in religion that society can find the principle of spiritual union of which it stands in need. No secular ideal of social progress or economic efficiency can take the place of this. It is only the ideal of a spiritual order which transcends the relative value of the economic and political world that is capable of overcoming the forces of disintegration and destruction that exist in modern civilisation. The faith of the future cannot be economic or scientific or even moral; it must be religious.
A philosopher with commitments to atheism and Marxism, Jurgen Habermas (1929 - ) startled his admirers in 2006 by proclaiming, “Universalistic egalitarianism . . . the autonomous conduct of life and emancipation, the individual morality of conscience, human rights and democracy, is the direct legacy of the Judaic ethic of justice and the Christian ethic of love. This legacy, substantially unchanged, has been the object of continual critical appropriation and reinterpretation. To this day, there is no alternative to it.”
The [scientific] knowledge exists by which universal happiness can be secured; the chief obstacle to its utilization for that purpose is the teaching of religion. Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific co-operation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.
Somehow I have always had an inner and unaccountable conviction that any religious expression of truth, however bizarre or uncouth, is more sufficing than any secular one, however elegant and intellectually brilliant. Animistic savages prostrating themselves before a painted stone have always seemed to me to be nearer the truth than any Einstein or Bertrand Russell.
[Northrop] Frye fiercely emphasized the Bible as a central element of education. A grade eight student who didn’t know the story of the prodigal son, he pronounced, “has been deprived of one of the keys to the whole imagination and thought of western culture, no less than if he had been deprived of the multiplication table. An educational theory which does not recognize this is not just a mistaken theory: it is criminally negligent.”
John Ayre (biographer)
The key to culture is religion. (13:05 minutes in)
Daniel Dennett (TED Talks)
The date of the Gospels, the historical evidence for the existence of the man Jesus Christ: these were interesting subjects which came nowhere near the core of my disbelief. I didn’t disbelieve in Christ—I disbelieved in God. If I were ever to be convinced in even the remote possibility of a supreme, omnipotent and omniscient power I realized that nothing afterwards could seem impossible.
The great obstacle to the conversion of the modern world is the belief that religion has no intellectual significance; that it may be good for morals and satisfying to man’s emotional needs, but that it corresponds to no objective reality.
Thoughts about Religion
If God wants us to do a thing, He should make his wishes sufficiently clear. Sensible people will wait till He has done this before paying much attention to Him.
The Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of God’s scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to over-ride human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless.
C. S. Lewis
IRRELIGION: The principal one of the great faiths of the world.
Most people have some kind of religion—at least they know what church they’re staying away from.
Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.
Message from an Algerian fundamentalist faction taking responsibility for a massacre: We are that band, with God’s permission, who kill and slaughter and we will remain so until the word of religion has prevailed and the word of God is raised high. Let everyone know that what we do in killing and slaughter and burning and pillaging is close to God...
Nothing is worse than a bogus religion, and nothing is more bogus than a vague emotionalism divorced from thought and philosophy.
From an ad for a self-help tape: ‘Where is this divine power, and what enables you to access it? As sages have known for thousands of years, there is only one way to do it. This power already resides inside you. All you have to do is unleash it. And how do you unleash it? Simple, you get in touch with your higher self—the part of you that exists beyond your ego.’
Only the spirit gives life. The flesh is of no avail.
Jesus of Nazareth
The New and Old Testaments are full of the hopelessness of looking for anything but tribulation in this world, and the senses stand condemned as gross deceivers which enslave and ruin their addicts. We are to die in the flesh to be re-born in the spirit.
Religion by its very nature is unpopular, unpopular with the ego.
Speak, Lord, for Thy servant is listening.
1 Samuel 3:10
RELIGION: Insurance in this world against fire in the next.
Men despise religion; they hate it, and fear it is true.
Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakeable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.
Religion in the broadest and most general terms possible...consists of the belief that there is an unseen order, and that our supreme good lies in harmoniously adjusting ourselves thereto.
Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
Whenever a man talks loudly against religion, always suspect that it is not his reason, but his passions which have got the better of his creed.
Veneration of a force beyond anything we can comprehend is my religion.
When a man is freed of religion, he has a better chance to live a normal and wholesome life.
Religion is the one force that is stronger than self-interest and sensuality, that is capable of transforming human nature and altering the course of history. The danger of religion is not that it is too weak or too abstract to affect human conduct, but rather that it is so absolute and uncompromising that nature is overwhelmed and crushed.
You have to be very religious to change your religion.
Here has been the contrast—as a Protestant, I felt my religion dreary, but not my life—as a Catholic, my life dreary, not my religion.
John Henry Newman
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