There is no good reason to be religious.
By that I mean, for those who are atheist, agnostic or otherwise non-religious, there are no longer any good, logical arguments that support a shift towards a religious life.
Let’s take a look at the most prevalent arguments. There’s only one logical starting point – the ageless argument that God exists.
Of course I’m talking about Western monotheistic religions here, but extrapolate this argument into “gods exist” or “spirits exist” or what have you.
Back in the age when Christianity was the overriding way of life in the Western world, the argument for God’s existence was common and rarely questioned.
Even scientists, philosophers and mathematicians composed logical rationalizations for an omnipotent ruler.
But as science started providing good explanations for more and more phenomena, God’s existence began to be explained by miracles and the very existence of creation.
Now, science has provided explanations for these mysteries as well. And while the “Big Bang” theory and Darwinism are merely offering an alternative and incomplete explanation for existence, they seem much more plausible to nearly every person not already indoctrinated with a belief in God.
It appears evident to me that defenders of religion have all but given up on this line of argument.
If anything, there has been motion in the other direction; atheists have begun convincing some believers to give up faith. But in any case, most religious people have now recognized that God as a concept no longer holds any intellectual traction.
The funny thing about these arguments is, once your first one fails, the ones following are usually even less convincing.
The justification for religion that I’ve heard most of late is this: that religion is needed in society to cultivate and uphold a sense of morality.
I can’t even begin to explain how flawed this is. Suffice to say, though, that religious morality (at least the Judeo-Christian view of morality dominant in North America) is, without a belief in God, only one of many moral schemes. And it’s a pretty blemished one too, considering its record with homophobia and other intolerances.
Philosophy departments, with their study of ethics, have done a far better job of creating moral frameworks for humanity, which, coincidentally, are entirely independent of a divine presence.
But you don’t have to be an intellectual or a believer to be moral – you just have to have a sense of compassion.
The simple truth is that it is archaic and unwise to hold a moral framework based on universal principles handed down from ancient tradition.
The 10 Commandments aren’t going to be making converts any time soon.
Another argument I’ve heard often is: “Well, aren’t you afraid of what is going to happen to you when you die?”
Yes, a little bit. I think everyone is. But are you suggesting that I should believe in God merely because it’s comforting to do so?
It’s also pretty damn comforting to think of myself as a supermodel or to think of the world as peaceful, but evidence suggests otherwise.
Likewise, there’s no logical support for the existence of heaven or hell. There’s nothing in the sky but air and nothing in the ground but dirt and rock.
Neither is there any reason beyond scripture to believe in alternative planes of existence (except maybe for some very abstract physics).
While life after death is a nice story, that’s all it is – a story. And for people that didn’t hear this story every Sunday since infancy, it’s a pretty lame one, too.
I only have space to bring to attention one other argument: that it is important to preserve religious traditions for the sake of family and community solidarity.
I don’t think this is wrong, but at best it convinces us to celebrate a handful of holidays in the short run.
It’s certainly important to have traditions, but they change over time, and there’s no reason to believe that religious traditions are somehow superior to secular ones.
There’s probably a number of arguments that I’ve had to gloss over here, but I’d hardly expect any of them to be more convincing.
The truth is, religion has lost all of its ability to sway non-believers.
While religion was once “the opiate of the masses” in Karl Marx’s words, it is now the domain of metaphysical cowards and moral simpletons.