Why is it religion is so prevalent in todays highly scientific society? Is it a sign there is a God of some sort that is fundamentally part of the universe or could there be an alternate explanation. For 98% of my life I have believe the former to be the case. Lately though I have been considering alternate theories. What does that have to do with Lego’s? Is probably what you are asking. Don’t worry we’ll get there. 🙂
Venturing out my own relatively new hypothesis1 I think the reason for religious belief always comes down to feelings, at some point in our lives we experience a oneness with the universe or God whatever it may be. Often times this comes after a long struggle to figure out the whole reason we are even here on this planet. Why does that happen?
I think one day we look up at the stars and realize in the big picture we are an insignificant spec on a insignificant marble in on the edge of a backwater galaxy in the middle of nowhere in the universe. This feeling makes us desperately want to be special. We seek that out via prayer and by studying scriptural texts, we look to gurus, prophets and leaders to help us find that special thing. Then something clicks and for a moment we feel like the most special thing around. Whichever book we happen to have open when this happens becomes our true reference, our faith and that which we cling to. It is in our nature to do this. That’s why even false prophets will be followed in the right circumstance.
A corollary to this idea is that if you are raised in a particular culture your spiritual awakening will most likely involve the book of that culture. If on the off chance you never clicked with your culture you might find that piece of specialness in another one and become a convert to that culture. Your awakening will often coincide with a difficult time in your life, the loss of a loved one or the struggle to overcome an addiction. These are impulses that drive us to these grand questions of why. Most often the answers to why are found in one religion or another. Because religions are an effort to formalize these feelings and deal with them. People that share common outlooks group together and add substance and ceremony to the concepts they propagate and in doing so imbue them with meaning.
It is fairly easy to see the illogic in the cultures that do not represent your internal truth where you found the answers to why in our search. You almost think it silly that a person believes what they do as a muslim or even atheist and are sure you know better. If only they could see the light you think smugly. This illusion of insight leads to conflict between belief systems.
You readily apply logic and reason to others beliefs that you simply ignore when is comes to your own. Sometimes a person steps back and applies the same logic equally to all the religion she investigates and ends up becoming spiritual but not religious, agnostic or even atheist. But even the most militant atheist though looks at the same night sky and comes to the conclusion that by whatever chance happened in the universe he or she is damn lucky to be here and now, enjoying the sky and thus feeling special. However, along with the feeling of being special comes the desire to be vindicated.
That is where the trouble comes in, desiring vindication is also a human trait. We want to be right. I know I do, if I say I can do something and others say I can’t, that is the single biggest motivation for me to get it done. We loath being wrong, this is well known in religions as well, they call it being puffed up in pride. Some call it arrogance and recognizing the dangers of it promote humility. If we can learn to take our personal perspective with a huge grain of salt we will soon realize there is beauty in all viewpoints whether they are true religion from our perspective or not.
That is where Legos come in, this last weekend I saw the new Lego movie. The hero of the story was special, He was even call the special, he was prophesied to come to pass, and yet the prophecy was made up. The magic of that moment was circular, it didn’t matter if the belief was founded in reality or not, the act of believing made the outcome real. The one place unassailable circular logic exists that even the most ardent realist with agree with you is this. When we believe we are special, we really are special and that affects us in a positive way. (so long as we don’t get too arrogant about it ;))
Even the most ardent atheist wants to feel special, they want to make a difference, this is a human trait, not a religious one. A very religious man I met not long ago, die hard defender of the LDS faith told me once that his atheist friends viewed every moment of this life as a gift, much more so than his religious ones. I know the feeling, once you accept the idea this just might be the only dance you get it makes you want to do the best with it you can. For me that means in no small part making it a great place for my posterity. To me that is one way I can be special, by setting the stage for those that come after me, giving them the chance to reach higher than I did, hoping they might stand on my efforts to learn without fear and progress in knowledge.
Being naturally skeptical though certainly kicks the old feeling of special right in the gut every now and then. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be the one to fulfill the prophecy or the one to be the hero and change the world. As one who just isn’t really sure about God and is definitely convinced all religion is myth, I’d like to say that the beauty of religion for me is the promotion of the idea that you are special and you can achieve the dreams you set your mind too. I see it as a myth, but for me so is Santa Clause and he still makes people feel the spirit of giving every year.
Even if believing we are special is for a made up reason, it is still a reason to be special and that is a good thing. To me this concept found in a movie about legos promotes the very idea that the church of the Fridge was founded on. That or maybe its just my own confirmation bias kicking in, either way I think it is pretty awesome.
- I realize that my ideas on this subject are likely not really anything new and there are probably others out there saying much the same thing, so if you have to, consider them new to me. ↩
Your points are well made.Why do people need to feel special ?.I am not really sure but some how we all do and religion can use that for and against us depending on how easily influenced you are.However we can’t all do something earth shattering that changes the course of human history right,wrong we can by being the best we can be by being good parents,employees,employer etc( I know being good is subjective).My point is you don’t need religion to make you a “Good” person.Quite often in fact it makes you a much more judgemental person,narrow minded and cruel and unjust (Recent events in Paris illustrate this point).It ok to in my opinion to want to feel special and important etc,just realize it’s also ok for others to want the same thing as guess what they do.Point being we are no more or less special than the person next to us and thats ok.Embrace life make the most of what you have because I believe you only get one shot at it and guess what that’s ok to.
I enjoyed your post. I have to disagree though with the thought that religion promotes the feeling that you’re special (yes, to a degree) and therefore helps you to reach your dreams. My (LDS) experience is such, that goals were pre-defined, they were not my own dreams. Being special never required much of anything. Any effort, mediocre and uninspiring, was lauded. Therefore I never had a real measure of what is special. Being female, I was given few examples of what my goals could be. Really the only ones were temple marriage and having children. I made them my goals and strove for decades to realize them. Now, in my late 50s, I realize they were not really MY goals at all, they were my father’s and mother’s, my bishop’s etc. In trying to fulfill their dreams for me I never found out what my goals should or could have been.
Yours is the reason that I left that religion behind, I realized that I was setting my daughter on a similar course. The LDS church is extremely predefined in roles especially when it comes to females.
I hope see determines her own path and thus doesn’t end up looking at the past and wondering what might have been.
If I gave the impression that the path religion chooses for you is a good thing that was my mistake, my only goal was to identify the good things due to the idea of being ‘special’.
I have recently been thinking about life as a mind game. We have to make up stories, I have called them, but I like the term ‘myths’, about all the important questions that give us a reason to do more than eat, sleep and reproduce. I think there are cultural influences on our need to feel special. Some Asian cultures put more emphasis on belonging to a group, for example. But feeling you are part of something bigger than you and that has your back, that you belong to, feel loyal to and that will be loyal to you. These help anchor us from what would otherwise be existential freefall.
[…] about us as if we’re not here. (Fortunately, the Church of the Fridge can return the favor by explaining religiosity.) All the more reason to come out as non-believer, and not be shy about it.) Bruce won’t even […]