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Do you think the world would have been better without religion?
Posted: 06 March 2011 03:07 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve been coming to the conclusion that if religion had never existed throughout the history of humans, that life would still go on. I understand the argument that some creationists say that religion helps people deal with their daily lives, but I don’t think that people were ever required to believe in a religion for the human race to have gotten to this point. When you consider how much destruction religions have caused throughout the years, it kind of paints a picture of why people’s lives were so miserable to begin with. Either way we’ll never know, but I thought it would be interesting to hear everyones input on the issue.

[ Edited: 06 March 2011 04:39 AM by ExMachina ]
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Posted: 06 March 2011 10:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Religion is a method for one person to control many. Without religion, well, the world would look a lot different, and so would we. Humans would be more prone to compromise, because you wouldn’t be able to convince people to rush toward their deaths. Discrimination in the ancient world would probably be more rampant, as it was a big unifying force that would allow past enemies to fight along side eachother.


It would definitely be a strange and different world.

Know that Religion is a social tool. Discussing what our society would look like without religion is like wondering what our houses would look like if the hammer had never been invented.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 11:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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ExMachina - 06 March 2011 03:07 AM

I’ve been coming to the conclusion that if religion had never existed throughout the history of humans, that life would still go on. I understand the argument that some creationists say that religion helps people deal with their daily lives, but I don’t think that people were ever required to believe in a religion for the human race to have gotten to this point. When you consider how much destruction religions have caused throughout the years, it kind of paints a picture of why people’s lives were so miserable to begin with. Either way we’ll never know, but I thought it would be interesting to hear everyones input on the issue.

I guess I don’t really understand this thought experiment. To me it seems along the same lines as supposing the world had always existed the way it does now.

In other words, religious thinking, eschatology, and metaphysical musing have been a progressive and evolving element of human culture as long as we have been able to examine history, and drove the curiosity that lead to the Enlightenment and eventually the scientific revolution in the West. That was kind of the important part of Nietzsche’s “god is dead and we have killed him” speech…that ironically the tension that Western, dualistic religions feel with the natural world drove the exploration and discovery that eventually allowed us to view god as mythological, rather than practical.

The condition of the world probably would have been “fine” had religion not happened, but it would have been fundamentally different. We might not have ever even had a scientific revolution. I guess I just kind of miss the point of this line of speculation?

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Posted: 06 March 2011 11:25 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Scndthe2nd - 06 March 2011 10:50 AM

Religion is a method for one person to control many. Without religion, well, the world would look a lot different, and so would we. Humans would be more prone to compromise, because you wouldn’t be able to convince people to rush toward their deaths. Discrimination in the ancient world would probably be more rampant, as it was a big unifying force that would allow past enemies to fight along side eachother.


It would definitely be a strange and different world.

Know that Religion is a social tool. Discussing what our society would look like without religion is like wondering what our houses would look like if the hammer had never been invented.

Re: the bolded part. I think that’s a stretch. Could you defend that a little bit more specifically?

Humans, like all animals, have an evolutionary proclivity toward taking advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves for advancement, even at the expense of other animals or even humans. Anecdotally, tribal histories and the consensus of anthropological evidence across many many different cultures seem to suggest that this is true. Hell…corporate America shows that humans will co-opt just about anything for a profit.

And that’s kind of the important thing. Religions weren’t usually just *invented* by some guy trying to subvert whole groups of people. More often you had some guy using a set of mythologies or beliefs or common ethics, codified or not, that already existed to get people to follow under one heading that was then used for political purposes. But that could be anything: religion, ethics, race, gender…any arbitrary feature to which you could loosely tie an ethical sensibility.

Religion may be used as a social tool in some cases…I don’t think even religious people will deny that (well, okay, some might, haha), but to imply that that’s all it is is a bit reductionistic.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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The_Au_Mean - 06 March 2011 11:25 AM

Humans would be more prone to compromise, because you wouldn’t be able to convince people to rush toward their deaths.

Re: the bolded part. I think that’s a stretch. Could you defend that a little bit more specifically?

You’re probably right about this being a stretch. I’m thinking about religion used decisively under tribalism, in particular, I’m thinking backwards that ‘lieing to your people isn’t a viable solution, so other solutions have to be sought’.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 03:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think without religion, we might have missed out on some truly wonderful art, whether that be the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or John Milton’s “Paradise Lost.”

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Posted: 06 March 2011 03:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I think some of the architecture was good, but religious art never impressed me.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 04:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Do you think the world would have been better without religion?

Does Cerebus have 3 heads…

To the extent that religion is just one of many superstitions,it might be human nature to be superstitious, so this was partly unavoidable.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 04:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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The more I consider and study the idea of god, the more I believe it exists only in our minds.
Dr. Michael Persinger of Laurentian University in Ontario, Canada performs an interesting experiment
that is described here http://science.discovery.com/videos/through-the-wormhole-creator/
As to whether the world would be “better” I can’t say, but IMO it would definitely be different.
Check out an abstract here:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6664802

If the belief in a deity exists in our brains then it most likely serves (served?) some evolutionary purpose,
as nature weeds out the useless pretty quickly.  What that purpose might be is social cohesion, a common
tendency to believe in an external binding agent that separates “us from them,” which may have been a
critical issue thousands of years ago.  It seems to have lost any usefulness, other than social control, with the advent of
automatic weapons, high explosives, and nuclear weapons.

[ Edited: 06 March 2011 04:48 PM by TeachScience ]
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Posted: 06 March 2011 05:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I think that the original question is kind of nonsensical. While we recognize the dangers of it nowadays and are striving to temper it, religion, by all evidence, is an inherent part of human sociology, and this is the same across all cultures, no matter how separated. If humanity arose without religion, we would have had to arise as something other than humans.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 05:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The world would have been much worse without religion. Religion is the attempt to ponder and address great questions and to live in a manner that is oriented to that understanding.

The world would have been better without theism.

Why do we insist on not making this distinction?

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Posted: 06 March 2011 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Scndthe2nd - 06 March 2011 10:50 AM

Discussing what our society would look like without religion is like wondering what our houses would look like if the hammer had never been invented.

This is an exercise in Mental Masturbation. Its a fantasy, actually its been most explored by the movie industry. We can comprehend certain factors, but with a generally unclear vision of motivations for tribal actions, and i’m talking more precise tribal actions, everything we talk about here is speculative.

That being said, As a tool, Religion was progressive for its time. The problem is people are still using it.

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Posted: 06 March 2011 07:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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TromboneAndrew - 06 March 2011 05:15 PM

I think that the original question is kind of nonsensical. While we recognize the dangers of it nowadays and are striving to temper it, religion, by all evidence, is an inherent part of human sociology, and this is the same across all cultures, no matter how separated. If humanity arose without religion, we would have had to arise as something other than humans.

I’m sorry to have so deeply offended you with my ridiculous question. LOL

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Scndthe2nd - Yes and like masturbation, you do it to make sure that everything is still in working order.

[ Edited: 06 March 2011 07:10 PM by ExMachina ]
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Posted: 06 March 2011 08:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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First, I don’t believe the progress of humans could occur without, at some point, assuming a god or controller.

Second, the growth of our civilization has been so unbelievably complex with more than myriad causes and ancillary occurences that it’s impossible to guess what it would be like if any particular factor had been changed.

Third, all animals including humans are subject to conditioning, i.e., recognition of and subsequent behavior based on the relation between cause and effect, even if it’s only coincidence and not really there.  Since, as a matter of course, we or others control much of what’s happening around us, it’s not a big jump to assign anthropomorphic causes to natural occurrences.  In other words, I think it’s pretty well to be expected that people who can’t explain things that happen, especially those based on far more power than they can generate, will assume some superior power or god.  Then, over centuries, as people learn the natural causes of more and more of these things, the need for and belief in a god recedes.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 03:57 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Occam my thinking is that even without religion there would still always have been authorities that control the population. I can’t think of a single thing that religions have brought to the world that has progressed the human race. In fact, ever since the religious zealots have been in control, science has only been held back. It’s only until lately that we made the enormous discovery that the earth isn’t the center of the universe. Of course, the guy who discovered this (I believe) was burned at the stake. I believe that science could have taken us much farther historically if it wasn’t for the churches constant manipulation of the facts. Their radical claims that they have all the answers was only a distraction to the evolution of science.

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Posted: 07 March 2011 02:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I agree that in the main it has been destructive and held progress back, but I think the earliest forms may have been the only vehicle that helped the small tribes develop moral behavior necessary to survive as a group.

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