Mom sent me some articles about atheism, a topic that is recently popular amongst the scientific community, who after a long period of cultural sensitivity are once again coming out of the closet and proclaiming rationality as superior to dogmatic belief. She asked for my thoughts.
I read those articles that you sent me. I agree with them, and don’t have much comment, except for the question of if religion is useful. I agree that morals can be learned outside of religious contexts, but what people overlook is that religious, mythological thinking is a way all of us once looked at our world. When we are 9 years old, all we know is rules. We don’t know why there are rules. We are not allowed in the living room, because Mommy said so. Religion is like that. The ten commandments don’t need an explanation, they are the rules.
Religious people believe that without belief in the Big Parent, there is no need to believe in and follow rules, and so society would be in peril. Science minded people believe that rules are a rational outcome of our love and relations to a measurable world, and trust that the reasonable will find their own reasons for following reasonable rules.
Some people just never grow up to rationality, to questioning rules.
Religion is useful, in that it can actually be a step up from our previous way of organizing the world, the one we had before we even respected rules. I’ve met people who would lie and cheat and steal with no qualm. They were not rational people either. Religion would be a good thing for them. Better to believe in religious social precepts, if you are not able to even understand why compassion is better than greed. Better to be afraid of punishment from God for doing “bad”, than to act selfishly and hurtfully.
But for normal rational people, we just don’t need religion anymore. We are able to think for ourselves.
This developmental aspect to the religious worldview makes conversation between the pre-rational rule/role people and rational atheists impossible. Neither is realizing that they are talking about two totally different levels of organizing perception. Atheists are certainly more mentally capable than religious nutballs. But at some point in our development, each human had a rule/role type of worldview. Some of us just grew out of it.
Religion is one step above being antisocial, and the step above religion is being rational. In terms of morality, there is pre-conventional, conventional, and post-conventional. Or antisocial, law abiding, and following your own moral sense, even if you must break the law to do so. But some people say there are even higher stages of development. That there are stages of deepening love, deepening awareness that we can explore, and as we do, how we see the world changes.
It isn’t only the religious that can talk about love, but unfortunately the merely rational have no way to talk about love, and so often categorize it as a trifle, some confusion we are stuck with, some remnant of our evolutionary past. If pre-rational includes the religious, and rational includes the scientifically minded, than post rational would include embodying all of ones experiences as well as all of ones scientific insights into a coherent and meaningful whole. The fact that during sex people literally mingle, literally feel inside each other, the fact that empathy can be felt in a handshake, the fact that they eyes transmit so much information in a fraction of a second – what are we to make of these? We can’t ask rationality to explain these sensations, because these sensations are closer to naked awareness, that which uses rationality. It is the hand that uses the wrench. The wrench only fumbles to perform actions on the hand that holds it. It is awareness that uses rationality. Rationality can’t take apart awareness. No matter what actions rationality does, it is awareness that watches these actions. Love is underneath, or prior to, or more fundamental than rationality – when we feel love, we are feeling a force that comes from awareness. It is more real than our understanding, and so to understand it, we have to feel into it, more so than think about it. And so post rationality is involved with embodying awareness, embodying love.