In regards to Joseph Frymire’s op/ed last week “Growing Out of Religion,” three brief comments:
To begin with, “Religion” is the name of an extremely heterogeneous class of institutions and belief systems, so that one cannot really condemn or commend, accept or reject, religion in general. In other words, no one believes “in Religion.”
Second, with respect to “the horrors of religion (such as) the Crusades and 9/11,” all such “horrors” pale in comparison to the 100 million slaughtered, and the uncountable millions impoverished, in the 20th century by Stalin, Hitler, Mao and Pol Pot, all of whom were either atheists or, like Hitler, the head of a cult of self-worship. It is especially important to note that the Holocaust in particular was only doable because of modern, scientific efficiencies and technologies.
I would point readers to David Bentley Hart’s Atheist Delusions, a scholarly but highly readable rebuttal to the historical travesty of Hitchen’s god is not Great. Christianity was not perfect, but it was far better then the most likely alternative. Third, if “religious faith has ‘outlived its usefulness,” what more useful faith has taken its place? That is, such a claim inevitably turns out to be based in some alternative belief system.
One common example today is the self-referentiality of “I make up my own mind about my personal values,” an idea only one step short of solipsism (I am the only reality). But since the birth of the modern age the most common alternative worldview to religion, and the one implied in Frymire’s op-ed, is that of a profound faith in reason and empiricism, that is, in scientific evidence. When restricted to the realm of the observable, the measurable, this faith has proved to be more than justified. The great conceit of the modern age, however, was the extension of this faith into the realm of the non-verifiable, a move every bit as “mumbo-jumbo” as those of us who believe in God (or gods).
Any assumption that is not ultimately testable –that compassion is really and truly superior to cruelty, for instance–is a faith-position. Probably the only way to opt out of the mumbo-jumbo of faith is the anti-faith of nihilism, that is, the belief that it’s all a cruel and meaningless joke.
Good luck with that.
Blessings, Jim Norwine