Michael Battalio

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Serious Conversations (part 7):

        A bit of a disclaimer, this is the seventh in series of serious blog posts about religion and philosophy. If you have ever chatted with me about philosophy and religion and very much disagree, be prepared for that to continue.
        These are my responses (Edited, of course, to offend as few people as possible; although offense is inevitable with me.) from a conversation I am having with an atheist friend of mine about the meaning of life, consciousness, physics, the kitchen sink, religion and a couple of moral issues thrown in to boot. This entry is about control.

        Previously my friend hit upon an important point, that religion and science are different methods for explaining the same thing. Also, she noted that religious ceremonies were created so we could control God. Here is my perspective: I find it difficult to let go completely of religion because I like the hope of control.  Assuming what I pray for gets answered, I can in some respects control whatever I want.  But with the things I cannot control (for example, a safe drive, an extra scholarship offer, acceptance to whatever grad school, that it will/will not rain today), without prayer, I really have no control.  They are left to luck and chance.  So, letting go of religion means letting go of a level of control.  I think that’s part of the reason that religion is so hard to disavow.  Who would want less control over their lives?  Christianity is particularly good about saying that if God hasn’t answered your prayers yet, you aren’t praying enough or in the correct way. Prayer and religion give people a way to swing the odds in their favor, and people are greedy.  They will take whatever method they can to get what they want, even if it is trying to use God to hurt others chances, say for winning a football game or getting a job. (Let me just say as a matter of personal belief, even before I started questioning my faith, God does not care if you win a football game. Your prayers for your team were no stronger or better than the prayers for the opposing team. God doesn’t care. Stop thanking Him. He didn’t do anything to help your team.)
        Control might also be considered the root of religion and part of the reason why religion is still around. Faith gives you a level of control where logically or scientifically you should hold none. But to tone that statement down, and to not give faith undue credit. “Miracles” do happen in the sense not that God has necessarily done something for you, but in the sense that, for example, life is very resilient and can heal itself without an explanation from medicine (or insert some other “miracle” in place of a medical miracle). I would expect that the occurrence of that will continue to decrease as we become more and more knowledgeable about ourselves and the universe It’s just easier to attribute “miracles” to an omnipotent God than it is to attribute them to our own ignorance. The part of me that still clings to belief wants to believe in the miracles though, but as we understand more and more of the world, I feel it will become more and more difficult.
        I’m also inclined to believe that culture had a major influence on the survival of some religions over others. It would make sense that dominant cultures, that for whatever reason became dominant, would have a greater chance of spreading their religions. And that fits the facts. The dominate cultures of the Far East have religions that dominate the Far East, and the dominate cultures of the West have Judeo-Christian religions that have come to dominate the West.
        And again, I believe it is the very nature of religions that ensure their survival. Judeo-Christian religions are very big about spreading the faith. Followers are even told they will be rewarded for more and more converts. I’ve never heard of the Ancient Roman or Greek religions being about that.
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