Thursday, February 18, 2010

Oh, Religions, Why Do Ye Tempt Us?


Why is it that religion is attractive as a kind of practical philosophy of life for so many people? I was reading an article on this subject by paleontologist, Gregory Paul. He argued that if people are sufficiently secure from worry and subsistence lack, then religion would greatly decline. He states,
"If the entire planet enjoyed the same level of secure prosperity seen in France and Sweden, there is little doubt that the number of devout believers would sink to the teens or single digits, no matter what organized religions did to save themselves—even if nontheists did little to promote secularization."[1]
If this is right, I wonder, then, why some very financially well-off, and otherwise psychologically stable people still find religion a valued and practical activity to participate in. Perhaps formal religion as we know it, using traditional institutions as we seem them now, will go away, but I find it hard to believe people will forgo making transcendental postulates about reality.

For example, even mathematicians, a bunch known to be committed to efficiency and minimalism, argue vehemently about whether or not Platonism is a necessary metaphysical stance when dealing with the profound usefulness of mathematics for describing the concrete world.

I can only imagine that if just this one area of abstraction is up in the air for debate, then how much the more things like morality, consciousness, and beauty will create metaphysical opportunities for transcendental posits.  No, I don't think an economic or material happiness explanation is sufficient to explain the presence and decline or continuation of religion.  These issues may amplify how quickly people will reach for religious answers, buy they don't explain why religion is attractive (rather than not) when such matters are not worrying people. 

O.

REFERENCES

[image] Jaydee "Tempting" Flickr March 28, 2009 (Accessed Feb 18, 2010)

[1] Gregory Paul "On What Makes Relgion Popular -- Or Not" Science and Religion Today (Accessed Feb 18, 2010)

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2 Comments:

At 1:32 PM, Blogger Mediocrates said...

Perhaps it has more to do with one's education and knowledge rather than fear, insecurities, or hardships. In the book "The Evolution of God" ideas about god or gods or other metaphysical beings were always posited to explain what was believed to be otherwise unexplainable phenomena. For example, the author mentions a tribe of people who lived on an island prone to earthquakes, and came to the conclusions that the island was on the back of a giant hound and that the earthquake was merely the dog scratching. So it seems, to me, that religion is not just a moral buffer to protect one from hardships (the author actually addresses that as a unique facet of western thinking that doesn't apply to all metaphysical traditions), but that religion is "kept around" because it helps to structure what is otherwise unknown and unexplainable to the common masses (life after death, human origins, etc.). As long as people are uneducated and don't want to think, religion will persevere. Remember, regardless if someone is wealthy or not, they can still be an idiot that avoids all difficult thought (hence religion, the easy way out).

 
At 5:23 PM, Blogger Guy Gadbois said...

I think many are attracted to it because it provides an all-encompassing backstop to life's worries. I would also argue that it has a psychologically calming effect, e.g. "What, me worry? It's in His hands."

 

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