Phylogeny of religions by CPurrin1. Incorrect in parts, but something.
In this 2007th year marked by someone else’s prophet, I’d like to say that I like faith. Contrary to katakata, I am not anti-Buddhist or anti-religious in any sense. I only tend to comment on stuff that interferes directly with my life, like Fundamentalist Buddhism, notably in Parliament. I actually have great respect for faith and fond memories of my now depleted store. What I do object to is a faith of certainty rather than a faith of submission and doubt. Any Islamist, Christianist, or Buddhist who proclaims the supremacy of their religion and castigates anyone else doesn’t typify faith to me. Importantly, the same goes for Atheists who gleefully try to ‘disprove’ faith and are so certain of others being wrong. My own experience with faith isn’t of any specific conclusions, or of any superiority to anyone else. It was simply of loving something and feeling greatly humbled by that love.
I’d like to briefly address the Atheist argument that faith is a destructive force. On their side they cite religious wars, persecution, and intolerance. There are numerous examples of the above. I don’t dispute this, but I also think that there are too many confounding variables (power, politics) to make the conclusion so one-to-one. The truth is that the overwhelming majority of humanity does practice some kind of faith. In fact, Atheism does not even show up in the demographics of religion, and around 75% of people adhere to the five majors. I have an instinctive revulsion to an argument which writes off most of history and humanity as stupid. It’s elitist for one, and smacks more of judgment than useful social theory. My first argument is simply that faith is important.
History: For all its sins, religion is also responsible for our system of time, most art, magnificent architecture (Pyramids, Angkor Wat, Notre Dame), literature (Ramayana, Bible) and was for a great part of human history the guardian of knowledge and writing. It also preserved and spread language, culture, and formed a basic moral code that actually leads to decent lives and societies. Not that it is perfect, but it is a standard.
In technology the word ‘standard’ has a special meaning. HTML and GSM (phones), for example, are standards. HTML isn’t especially awesome as a programming language, and it’s not optimal. There are a lot of contradictions, kludges, and stuff it can’t do. It is, however, widely adopted (warts and all) and that standardization lets you build a million things on top of it. Same thing for Windows. It kinda sucks, but people have settled on it and people have been able to communicate and build countless structures of business and knowledge on top of it.
In the same way, even religions with liberal doses of crazy form a standard, one that you can build a civilization atop. Not the greatest civilization or an optimal one, but something. It was the first thing that took us out of family/clan/race orientation and into something bigger and more inclusive. Not totally inclusive (obviously), but it’s something. That’s one reason I’m not quick to criticize religion on technical points. I know it’s hacky, but we have built amazing things on top of it.
Humanity: Back to the present day, the majority of humans simply do have faith. That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it is deserving of at least an academic respect. I’ve found that I learn more about people by observing what they do rather than judging it. Not that some things aren’t wrong, but in the past when I have judged I have also stopped learning.
Religion could be an antiquated delusion, but as a social scientist you can’t simply ignore it. Religion is there and has been there at the most crucial moments in human lives – birth, marriage, and death. You may think it’s stupid personally, but that’s not an intellectually honest place to start.
Finally, I have often had Atheists argue to me that God does not as if that proves something (or is provable). Honestly, I will gladly concede that point. God, Nirvana and Allah don’t exist. Fine. My uncle is also dead. I still love him.
The existence or non-existence of God is to me, irrelevant. What is important is loving Him/It/Her and living a better life. What is important is using some standards to build a more stable society. It’s OK to love something that doesn’t exist. It can make you a better person. The love is what is important.
Faith has been with us throughout history and it is with most of us now. I’m not saying that anyone needs to have it, but I do think it deserves some academic respect. Billions of people have had faith for thousands of years, so it’s no minor psychological phenomenon. Hours of stoned brain power has been wasted on whether something greater exists, when the more important question of faith has been left largely unstudied. I’m in the odd position of thinking that religion needs more respect from that minority and a bit less from the majority, which I guess pleases nobody. However, I’m simply not that interested in whether God is dead. I’m more interested in how humans live.