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Religion and the Modern Society

Hello all, dj357 here (Darragh J.) one of the new authors on this blog. I hope you won’t find my anti-theistic tendencies and sentiments too over-bearing, but please, if you do, let me know, as I am still relatively new to writing articles and I would like to alienate as few people as people with my somewhat vitriolic stabs at organised religion.

So, on to my first post, it’s kind of a long one, but what the heck!

These ideas have been harvested from a lengthy discussion with one specific member of the RichardDawkins.net forum, who was of the strong opinion that Religion was an extremely important factor in the history of the world and is responsible for many good things in modern society, as it fulfills it role successfully according to Functionalism. This member was of the opinion that Religion would never truly die out because the role it fulfills in society is too big, and it does the job too well. The roles it fulfilled were such as promoting conformity and a sense of community.

Here I hope to lay out SOME factors as to why Religion is NO LONGER necessary in a modern Irish Society (or any other society, for that matter!).

From a purely Historical point of view, and with an eye to modern day society:
AT NO POINT in the past was there such a massive disemination of scientific evidence and information about the world we live than today.
AT NO POINT in the past were the general public exposed at such a close level to the events going on around the world than today.
AT NO POINT in the past was it so socially acceptable to profess a disbelief or a lack of belief in god(s) than today. (and to easily join an organisation of people of a similar disposition)
AT NO POINT in the past was there such a widespread surge of democracy where people understand their rights and will stand up and fight for them than today.
AT NO POINT in the past (aside from the last 100 years) was it so okay to attack the church of the country one lived in, without fear of being arrested for commiting a crime in heresy and being tortured and killed.
AT NO POINT in the past did we have such a significant understanding of our world and how it and we came to be where we are today, such that we could render the beliefs and claims of Religions useless than today.
AT NO POINT in the past would it have been possible for an organisation of less than 1000 people (FFRF.org) to challenge the seperation of church and state in a court of law and win their case and further the goals of a secular society than today.

ALL OF THESE FACTORS point to a greater understanding of the world around us.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS point to a greater rejection of ridiculous, illogical claims based on an insurmountable LACK of evidence.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS point to the decline in acceptance by the general public of Religion in nearly all but it’s strongest forms i.e. crazy evangelicals.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS lend severe weight to the claim that religion will soon be rendered useless and disappear as a significant force in our society.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS outweigh the apparent growth in Religious population.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS are contributing to a growing Irreligious population.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS tell us that the disparity between Religious and Irreligious population will soon be shifted in the other direction as the newly indoctrinated religious begin to challenge their beliefs as they fail, time and time again, in the face of rational thought and evidence, contrary to the claims of those beliefs, to rationalise those beliefs against the realities of the universe we inhabit.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS and the utter contempt the Irish people have for the Catholic church is why there is in fact a GROWING NATIVE Irreligious population, despite the outward stereotype that Ireland is still a highly religious country.
ALL OF THESE FACTORS show us that our modern society clearly has the tools to do Religions work and to do it better than Religion could ever have hoped for.

In Ireland it is such that the majority of the youth simply do not care about religion and simply do not dwell on it overmuch, beyond the odd mass, traditional celebrations and holidays or the R.E. class in school. However there are many people that you will find who, when asked directly “Do you believe in a god?”, the majority of them would reply with something to the effect of “I don’t quite believe in God per se, but I think it’s important to have faith”, simply because they are used to the bloody tradition. And if they were pressed as to what Religion they belonged, they would say Catholic, simply because the family is Catholic.

I fear that we are becoming like the Jewish community in the US who have a large proportion of their youth “believing in belief” and in the traditions, but taking absolutely nothing from it into their personal lives beyond running through the motions. However, the light of reason begins to shine deep within these people when you simply begin to discuss these matters with them, stripping away the layers of indoctrination, showing them the nonsensicalities of specific ideas or doctrines etc… and you begin to get the DISTINCT impression that these people truly do NOT believe in the doctrines of their espoused faith, but are mere fence-sitters afraid to upset the family dynamic by tearing apart cherished beliefs, or too polite to wish emotional harm upon themselves or their family due to their beliefs (or lack thereof ;))

A little critical-thinking, and a little introduction to the wonderful continuum of Doubt (and the sexy joys that come from it ;)) and you will see that these people will be able to see through the obvious fallacies and sheer idiocy spouted by the major world religions.

And I’ll tell you one thing, if they can deal with no afterlife, they will be a DAMN-SIGHT happier as a secular person than a god-fearing sheep!

Peace.

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3 Responses

  1. The problem I had with him saying religion was an important factor in our history is because he backed this up by saying that without religion these things never would have happened as it was the MOST important factor, and not only do I think it’s ridiculous to try and play a guessing game about possible different outcomes for past events without a thorough investigation of ALL factors involved, which is not always possible and which he lacked, I also think it’s highly presumptious of him to assert that without religion we would not have been able to make such advances in our society, as I firmly believe that the specific functions of religion, e.g. community, conformity etc… can be fully accomplished in a secular society without the detrimental effects of religious indoctrination.

    If you have the patience to wade through our back and forths, you can find the thread mentioned here:

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=52387&st=0&sk=t&sd=a&start=300

    You can also find other threads involving similar discussions with this guy, if you’re interested, here:

    http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=50160
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=50739
    http://www.richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=53862

  2. I have to agree with your friend who contends that religion certainly was ‘an extremely important factor in the history of the world’ – how could you argue otherwise? I would be interested to explore your reasons for your doubt on this. It seems clear to me that until very recent times religion was the center of life for the vast majority of people. Religious observance was the default position for the uneducated masses and religious institutions controlled both government and education. It is only in modern times that we are secularising our institutions, and it remains a work in progress. I find it impossible to see how in a historical context we could avoid the importance of religion.

    I would also agree with your friend that religion has been instrumental in some of our most cherished institutions. They were instrumental in setting up education institutions and religious architecture can be beautiful. I understand that there was little alternatives to religious patronage, but whatever the original motives, we do have religion to thank for the the Sistine Chapel and the writing of Blake.

    Where i depart from your friend is in the reasons for the endurance of religion, now that we have no excuse to be ignorance of it’s truth. I think we are stuck with it and we may never enjoy it’s demise – certainly not anytime soon. The reason i take this view is based on what i see around me. We live in a first-world country in which the people are educated and urbane. We have easy-access to mass-media and an endless supply of education material. Yet, most people are uninformed about the most basic facts about the world, and show no shame about it. We don’t seem to care about what is actually true, and we are a sound-bite culture. News stories are handed to us 20 seconds at a time, attention-spans have become critically aneamic. Look at what passes for debate in the Dail now.

    I largely agree with all your ‘AT NO POINT’ comments, but i think to a certain degree, they are irrelevant to (far too many) of our contemporary culture. All this readily-available information is accessible, but it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction, too much of our news is tainted with agenda and not everyone is computer literate. It is too-easy to believe whatever is ‘revealed’, either at church or on the evening news. As free-thinkers, i feel we are rare, in that we are insulted by ignorance, doubly so of willful ignorance.

    In my experience people don’t care enough about the truth about religion to inform themselves about the facts. The Catholic-church in Ireland is now seen as a harmless institution that does no harm, it’s adherents should be left alone too believe. Religion gives people comfort and easy-answers to the big questions in life. I don’t feel that all the factors stated above point to a ‘greater understanding of the world around us’, certainly not for most people. I would agree that the opportunity for understanding the world around us has improved. I don’t feel that Irish people have an ‘utter contempt’ for religion, a little dismissive when pushed perhaps, but unearned respect is still freely given.

    We should remember that the ‘New Atheists’ are not coming up with anything new. The writings of Thomas Pain and Ingersoll are powerful, and just as dismissive of religions and it’s dogma. Read

    http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/about_the_holy_bible.html

    for a wonderful expose of religion and it’s horrors, fallacies and lies. Ingersoll was a famous man, known as the ‘Great Orator’, and wrote many speeches for the Republican Party in the nineteenth century. Thousands of people would pay to hear him speak, and not just the educated. We have become intellectually lazy and it is the great pity of our times. For an excellent book, with an American slant, get hold of Susan Jakobi’s books, she is a writer for the Washington Post and her books are excellent.

    Religion, i fear, is with us to stay. It offers bullshit in spades and willful ignorance of the masses allows it to endure. I could be wrong though…

  3. I think you’re right about religious identification amongst many younger people. Catholic is more of a cultural description for a lot of people.

    The comparison to secular Jews in the US (and elsewhere) is also apt, for Irish Catholics leaving the religion may be seen as a betrayal of ancestors who suffered for the faith.

    These emotional attachments can persist long after reason leads to a rejection of the tenets of the religion.

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