Sunday, December 29, 2013

Do Humans Require Religious Fairytales in order to Behave Morally?

Angels
While the role that religion plays in regulating human behavior is obvious, I've often asked myself why?  Why do people need scientifically implausible tales about messiahs, people being raised from the dead, beings fluttering around on wings and an omnipotent deity barking down orders from the stratosphere in order to behave with some modicum of decency? And even then we sometimes find ourselves in the presence of monsters. When I was younger, I would have said that secular culture and the "golden rule" could fulfill the role of ethicist in our lives. But over time I have come to see that secular tools for social regulation, such as laws, courts and jails are limited in scope, a lowest common denominator, which is as it should be in a democracy. The problem is getting from normal human egocentrism to  transcendence, a journey so treacherous and filled with false starts, that few of us ever make it there or even come close. Christian theologians have throughout the millennia assumed that human beings only rise above their egocentrism, and behave morally, when bribed with something nature refuses to offer -- eternal life.

All religions proffer the promise of succor and emotional shelter in a brutally, unpredictable world. But what distinguishes Western religion is the disdain for and insistence that it can manipulate the immutable laws of nature.  It is no wonder that so many of America's best scientists these days are being  imported from non-Christian Asian countries.    

RELATED POST:  In Battle Between Science & Religion in U.S., Asia is the Winner