Sunday, 30 October 2016

Sunday Question: “Would religions survive if …?” [updated]


Tweeter Atheist Republic asks a sensible question

Do you think religions would survive if instead of teaching one religion, children were taught the basics of all religions old and new?

I’d add one further point.

Do you think religions would survive if instead of teaching one religion, children were taught

  • the basics of all religions and mythological systems old and new (to see their similarities and differences); and
  • the secular and psychological meaning and importance of ritual (to grasp that rituals giving meaning to life and existence can just as readily be secular); and
  • that religion itself is simply “an early form of philosophy” (to understand that these “first attempts to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values” can be done without resort to faith)?

So, would religions survive, do you think?

And what else do you think might develop?

UPDATE: Relevant, from history’s first great female philosopher:

"Fables should be taught as fables, myths as myths, and miracles as poetic fantasies. To teach superstitions as truths is a most terrible thing. The child mind accepts and believes them, and only through great pain and perhaps tragedy can he be in after years relieved of them."
~ Hypatia, 4th Century A.D.



  1. Would they survive if each child was taught "A is A"?

  2. I think religions would survive, but more as a part of people's cultural identity. So the 'sand' religions would return to the deserts they came from, perhaps lingering in the Mediterranean where they have been entrenched for so long. Northern Europe would revert to the paganism it never really relinquished. Orthodox East would probably be Ok, as would the Far Eastern faiths. They are so old. We can only cope with so much reason. Look how nutty Randbots can get...:)

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  4. Hi Peter,

    This is what the Apostle Paul has to say about your question (from his 1st letter to the Corinthians chapter 1.

    "18 For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written:

    “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise;
    the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”

    20 Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength."

  5. It depends on what you see as a religion.

    I've spent little time in Atheist Republic but it seems that its hardly a fountain of intelligent debate about Christianity. That's a normal approach when such zealots don't like things that clash with their ideology - the accuracy of the argument becomes secondary to the slogans. Irrespective of that I think its built into most of us to look outside ourselves and ask questions about things that are beyond our understanding, and appear likely to remain so, like, "Is what we see all there is?" So, yes religions will survive but the important question remains one of whether one religion trumps the rest or not. Two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong kind of stuff.

    The way you hang on every word of Rand shows that you have your own guru whose utterances, many of which I like at a political and social level, provide answers so that's a religion in my view. For me she does not even begin to answer the big philosophical questions that Christianity addresses.

    Thanks Brendan for quoting those verses.


  6. Maybe some atheists, and maybe even some admirers of Rand can be religious (by accepting what she says on faith), but if you do so you're contradicting what Rand believed. You can "hang on every word" of anyone for two very different reasons - one because you accept their ideas on faith, or two because they are rational and have a sound basis of reality. Objectivism is all about the latter, religion is all about the former. The fundamental tenet of all religions is 'faith', which means believing in something that is not supported by the evidence of this world.

    Wherever you stand on the issue they are two fundamentally different approaches. Trying to conflate Objectivism and religion makes us much sense as trying to conflate evolution/geology with creationism and calling it all "science"

    1. I confess I'm not interested in religion outside Christianity and I agree with you in respect of Objectivism principles but the reality seems to deviate from them. I think I can have a toe in both waters - I can have Christian faith because there is a bunch of history that allows my faith to be reasonably held and science that increasingly seems to require something outside our reality. Boldly declaring its all bollocks (as opposed to thinking its bollocks) seems to require faith because atheists can't sustain the burden of proof for their position.

      I still feel that Objectivism does not address the big questions in life, death, purpose and so on so offers no answers beyond a cold, "We don't matter". There's no point in anything, nothing is noble, everything is permitted and so on. Where is love in all that?


  7. There will probably always be people who find religion appealing, and after all isn’t there a standing joke about atheist vicars? The appeal of religion goes beyond literal belief and it certainly has nothing to do with rational knowledge. The kind of education you describe would probably lead to fewer believers, but I doubt it would kill religion off totally. It might, however, cause a sharp decrease in fundamentalist types of religion and encourage believers to be tolerant of those who have a different outlook on life.


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