The Atheist’s Guide To Religion

 
 

Welcome to the new 2012 edition of the Atheist’s Guide website. Ever questioned the role of religion in your life or society in general? Then this website is for you, even if you’re not a poor downtrodden atheist or agnostic. Everyone will find information here to help understand, if not appreciate, religion.


Humanity may be basically divided into two camps: those who see religion (or some aspects of it) as a problem, and those who don’t. Those who don’t may get out of here quickly by clicking the left button on their mouse. Just ignore the mayhem going on around the world by various religious factions trying to exterminate each other in the name of God.


To those who do see religion as a problem, I would suggest that it is difficult to solve any problem if you don’t understand what caused it. This is where this website, and my book, hope to make a major contribution.



The long dead Roman orator quoted at the top knew nothing about evolution or genetics, yet could there be some truth in his observation? If so, it would go a long way towards explaining why religion persists in today's modern world with its scientific focus. Cicero was not the only one to conclude that something in our natures predisposes us towards religion.


It is probably not the idea of God though, that Nature has imprinted on our minds. After all, if there is something in our DNA inclining us toward religion, it would likely date back to the very dawn of humanity. Religion is a relatively modern phenomena: the brain of primordial man wasn't capable of even framing the concept of a god, or gods.

The idea of God depends upon a much more basic thing: a belief in spirits. Spirituality may be described as a belief in the supernatural, or things which lie outside the normal laws of nature. The realm of Spirituality includes such things as magic, spirits, ghosts and the human soul. To our early ancestors, like Homo Habilis, such definitions would be meaningless. They simply cowered from the forces of nature. Animism, or the belief that every force of nature, every rock and every tree, had a spirit, would come naturally to them. If evolution has passed on anything genetically then, it would most probably be an instinctive belief in spirits.


Instinctive or not, spirituality is likely as old as the human race. That would mean it stretches back over two million years, and predates religion by a huge span of time. It is the keystone of all religions.


The implications are huge. Without this belief in spirits, and the concept of a human soul which is so fundamental to any religious viewpoint, a belief in a Great Spirit, or God, would seem impossible. Religion would be a non-starter.


Not until human reasoning abilities had developed enough would an attempt to put this spirit world into some sort of hierarchy see spirituality culturally morph into religion.


The main premise of this website and my book is that because religion has evolved from spirituality, it harbors a lot of evolutionary mental baggage capable of causing serious harm in today's modern world.


Indeed, it could also be argued that organised religions have hijacked this spirituality instinct in ways that bend it to serve their own interests. Just as the major food companies quickly learned  to capitalise on our instinctive taste for sugar, salt and fat, so religious leaders seeking a power base have ridden on the coat-tails of spirituality. Whatever else they may be, the mainstream modern religions are powerful institutions with serious financial clout, thanks to Mr and Mrs believer.


They get away with this because most of humanity (hard core atheists excepted) feels a need for some form of spirituality and its attendant ritual. Throughout history, thousands of competing religions have rushed to fill this void, often with bloody consequences. Modern humans may still need some form of spirituality, but do they really need religious wars, faulty ethical codes and outdated prejudices?


The idea that spirituality is hard wired into our brains is a controversial one. For example, Richard Dawkins doesn’t seem to even consider it, but talks instead of memes. Indeed, the subject of spirituality isn’t even discussed in The God Delusion.  Too often, the words spirituality and religion are considered to mean the same thing, when in fact they do not.


Although the complex interactions between spirituality and religion form only one chapter in my book, it is a vital one. Most people are comfortable with the idea that genetics play a large part in their physical characteristics, including longevity and susceptibility to various diseases. Ask them to consider that evolution has tampered with their thinking patterns, however, and many of them glitch up, atheists included.


That’s why my companion site, The Spirituality Instinct, is devoted to just this issue. Visit it for more detail on the relationship between spirituality and religion. Simply click on this link: http://www.spiritualityinstinct.com/Spirituality_Instinct/Religion.html


Atheists and agnostics who choose to reject religion should still be aware that the spirituality instinct is always hovering around inside their skulls. The good news is, it can, and should, be rechannelled into a more positive direction than the ones provided by the modern day religions.



                Read The Atheist’s Guide to find out how!

 

Nature herself has imprinted on the minds of all the idea of God.     

                                                                                                          -Cicero


     ©Copyright William Harper 2012

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