ReligionMonday, Feb 6, 2017 · 1000 words · approx 5 mins to read
Before I start, let me clarify what I mean by religion, so it’s clear what I’m trying, probably desperately and terribly, to talk about. Religion to me is any belief system that gives you two key things. The first is a strong confidence that there’s a higher power of some kind, but one that we can’t objectively measure to be there. You just somehow know it. The second is a strong confidence that there’s life after this one, be it a heaven, or a literal reincarnation, or whatever it is in the belief system that lets the believer cope with the only truth we really know: death.
That’s religion to me, embodied in those twin cop outs; that there’s something to experience after you die, and that things that happen in the reality you experience before then are somehow manipulated by something you can’t prove is present in any scientific way, but yet you strongly believe is there.
If that sounds simplistic, and honestly I know it is, it’s because I haven’t been able to mould modern religions to how I experience my life in any way. Everything in them that makes any sense to me is easily filed under common sense. A sense that transcends any need to categorise it next to unknown belief.
Be good to other people and they’ll be good to you is the big one, but part of being a kid is testing the boundaries of human interaction to see what people will put up with, and what you’ll put up with yourself, as you push their buttons and yours are pushed back. If that doesn’t result in being good to other people because that’s what feels good to you, and to have done to you, then something went wrong somewhere and I’m sorry that’s where you ended up. None of that needs a centuries old book, it just needs you to live.
Anyway, my argument is that religion in that form, especially the globally recognised big ones like Christianity and Islam, is playing out its final act before we clap, thank it for enriching our lives as it did, and then move on en masse to consign their ways of thinking to the history books. Just as they were developed by forward-thinking folks to help others understand the world around them at a time when we weren’t able to work things out in any better way, I think we’ve long passed the tipping point where science and scientific discovery were developed in turn. Science and its framework is the lens which we view life now, and the old ways are dying off.
At least here in the UK, I think we all kind of understand that, just nobody talks about it. Which is a shame, because we could do with new frameworks of understanding to help guide people, especially young people, into reasoning about death and its inevitability in a way that helps us still move forwards, knowing it’s going to happen one day. But that’s about all we need. We don’t need the supernatural manipulator aspect any more. That’s been sat atop the scrap heap for a long time, hasn’t it?
God isn’t real. Bad things happening is not a test of faith in some benevolent entity that’ll look after you when you die. It’s just the entropy of the system we find ourselves in. You’ll die. I’ll die. Almost all of us have already done so. We don’t know of a way to stop that, to make sure our cells are able to keep going indefinitely. But at the end of it isn’t a heaven. It’s just your body no longer consuming energy in the normal way, giving back what it has stored at that point to the universe, either quickly in fire or slowly in the ground.
Bad things happening is either us doing it to ourselves because we’re stupid and can’t see any other way, precisely because of the old belief systems we have, or because the universe has to let the bad thing happen because that’s how Earth biologies work and we don’t know any better, so we get cancer or other things that eventually stop our cells working properly.
I think the former reason for humans to hurt each other is dead, we just need it to play out. As I get older, it’s clear that the generations that believed strongly in the supernatural, in systems that could only explain what’s happening because, are either dead, or old and about to die. And that’s sad because it’s a generation that contains people that I love or have loved, but that’s life. Globally, I think there’s now a generation of young people that’ll be in charge at some point that’ll just drop all of that shit from their thinking and put effort into science to give us the answers we’re always looking for. Religion in that sense is already dead, I think.
What I don’t know is whether I’ll see it die before I do. I’m hopeful, since I’m only 37 years young after all, and I’ve seen a huge amount of progress in just my own lifetime in moving forwards from the old ways to the new, but who knows. We’ll undoubtedly kill each other for a while longer in the name of the supernatural, with the belief in life after this one as the crutch to do so, but that hopefully will dissipate before I’m nothing more than brief fire and longer memories.
Religion is dead, truly. We’re just afraid to speak it, so we can grieve, accept it, and move on. Those that hang on shout loudest, still. This is me not being afraid to raise my voice a little, until those like me have the mic.