By Bill Hendry
The question of ‘moral guidance’ has probably been asked since the dawn of self-reflection: how can we humans best ‘behave’ so that the total (Whole) system is best served? Matthew Arnold’s concern about the retreating tide of the Sea of Faith is pertinent, and SoF continues to explore the human condition. I submit the following thoughts to underline the importance of religion.
- A big brain capable of self-reflection, deep introspection and imagination is inevitably going to engage in phantasy, dreams and speculations (along with rational thought, induction and deduction).
- ‘Religion’ essentially means ‘a return to embracing the Whole’, a word that strongly suggests we, as a species, have a deep-seated need to make sense of the world. Humans are necessarily social beings who will utilise a virtually unlimited range of conceptual mechanisms to maintain a healthy, viable culture (on top of the genetic imperative to survive through regeneration).
- Stories (including memes, as per Richard Dawkins) are a powerful means of bonding (embracing), explaining and providing suggestions for life behaviours, irrespective of the stage in history they occupy. They can take any communicable form (dance, song, art), in intellectual or emotional domains.
- ‘Appeals’ are used widely in advertising and include appeal to authority, majority numbers, threat of danger, the unknown… so it’s not surprising that the supernatural was (is) engaged as an adjunct to bolster what are seen as deep, powerful and important messages.
- It doesn’t matter what the stories are, or their origins, as long as they function effectively as directional signals, providers of reassurance and comfort, and help to explain ‘mysteries’. Science and belief systems (commonly called ‘religions’) perform similar, if not identical functions. They arise from the human brain, which by necessity constructs its meaningful world. Intellectual pursuits and so-called objectification almost certainly do not bring us closer to (absolute) truths. (I personally am happy with the proposition that ultimately, space-time equals zero).
- The only mechanism that operates on acceptance of stories as being potentially viable and efficacious is Darwinian evolution… The existence of God (or any other device or strategy) cannot be questioned if people imbibe these concepts to ‘deep and meaningful’ levels, and thereby, are aided in enjoying relatively more healthy, engaged and productive lives.
Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA articles are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.