Missing The Elephant

17 Feb

Missing The Point of Religion

Would you steal candy or a soda from the store if you knew you could get away with it? One experiment with children indicates that humans act morally if they believe a supernatural being is watching them. Religion, according to Ara Norenzayan, is a fail-safe social practice that evolved with primates’ instinctual reliance on kin and reciprocal altruism, to deal with all the problems a burgeoning society creates, like interpersonal violence and honesty.

Two problems:

Firstly, what’s a better mechanism, religion or science?

…I build a scientific case for the evolutionary origins of the moral sentiments and for the ways in which science can inform moral decisions. As a species of social primates, we have evolved a deep sense of right and wrong to accentuate and reward reciprocity and cooperation and to attenuate and punish excessive selfishness and free riding. On the constitution of human nature are built the constitutions of human societies.

And, why atheism, especially when discrimination against atheists is the last human prejudice?

It seems belief is not necessary for the social good religion performs, and atheists give the lie. Ritual or just the emotional need for a community explains why persons go to church or temple – like my mother-in-law – but these non-believers wouldn’t think a supernatural being actually is acting. Atheists affirm the theory, value the cohesion religion provides, and ignore the proselytizing.

Humans – the crazy species that needs fictions to force us to do what we can’t do for ourselves.


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