Belief in God and an afterlife affects how people see reality. What if one day we all woke up without any superstitious beliefs in the metaphysical? What if science caught on and everyone began thinking in the same way about how reality works – would that change the social fabric of Earth? Does religion help or hurt when it comes to doing good?
Think about what John Lennon suggested in his song “Imagine”
Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace
You, you may say
I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world
If religion and metaphysical ideas disappeared would we come together as one? I doubt it, but I think we could start working on the real problems we face. I can’t help but believe that if people didn’t think a better life awaits them after death they would take this world more seriously.
I think religious divides us, but I think something else divides us more: politics. But politics are just the outward manifestation of our inner beliefs which are tangled up in religious beliefs. The litmus test for that division is how we treat the poor.
Some people hate giving to the poor. They feel the poor should work. They feel the poor are undeserving of charity. Welfare makes their heads explode with anger. Paying taxes for public schools galls them no end. Foreign aid and food stamps just annoy the hell out them. Their resentment knows no bounds when it comes to paying taxes.
Other people want to divvy up the wealth and make life on Earth decent for all.
What’s strange the first group tend to be Christians and the second tend to be secular or spiritual rather than religious. To the first group, socialism is a dirty word, even though their God was known for dividing the fishes and loaves so everyone could eat.
So, I’m not sure if religion disappeared life on Earth would be any different.
We are going through transformative times. Communism failed. But capitalism cannot provide enough jobs for all. There will always be a certain percentage of the population that are idle. We have incorporated many socialistic solutions into our economy, and many people hate that. If we revert to a complete free market, where it’s dog eat dog capitalism, we will have a world where the rich lived in armed enclaves and the rest struggle to survive in a cruel uncontrolled Darwinian conflict. The early Christians saw Jesus’ teachings as a solution to this problem, but modern Christians have moved away from those socialistic beliefs.
I tend to wonder if modern Christians haven’t jettison all the Christian philosophy and just hung onto the belief of heaven. They want to be rich on Earth, and rich in Heaven. If these people turned atheists one night I doubt anything about the world would change.
Religion is a distraction like watching TV. Believing in vampires or angels, it doesn’t matter, it’s all fiction. To get the world that John Lennon imagined doesn’t come from giving up religion. What we need is for everyone to stop thinking about themselves and resenting others.
The real solution is to think global but act locally. We have to solve the problem of creating a healthy Earth, and how to create an economy that provides the basics of a decent life for all seven billion people that live on Earth. Our problem is the 10% want everything for themselves and expect the 90% to go fuck themselves. As far as I can see religion is irrelevant to this problem.
Like I said, we’re going through a transformative age that people in the future will name and analyze. Will the Earth survive? The rich want to ignore that issue. They want to get as much as they can for themselves. They do not care what happens to the Earth. They do not care what happens to future generations. They do not care about the rest of the people living on the Earth now.
Humans are a cancer consuming this world. Unless we get our greed under control we will consume everything, including ourselves.
To answer my title question: Unless becoming atheist means becoming liberal and socialist, the disappearance of religion would mean nothing to life on Earth. The real issues to how we live on Earth lies elsewhere. I don’t think greed is a belief. It’s genetic, conditioned and animalistic. Religion neither helps nor hurts in solving greed.
I think people who want to help the world do so because they just want to help the world. But those people aren’t enough. Unless the greedy are brought under control, and we’re all greedy, we can’t save ourselves. Christians want to be saved, but the plight of the Earth is another kind of salvation. Unless we’re all saved, then we’re all lost. Whether a God is watching us or not, it does not matter, because we can only save ourselves.
JWH – 5/16/12