The Structure of Religion

I've been thinking a little on the nature of religion, both for my own personal reasons and to formulate a wider policy. No decision can be made in the presence of inaccurate observations, and I think religions can be characterized by three elements.

1) Gnosis: Human beings have religious experiences, this is an undeniable fact. We are on a very basic neurochemical level capable of experiencing sensations of the presence of supernatural beings and of a deep connectedness to the universe. There is a physiogical basis to these feelings, for example epilepsy and various entheogenic drugs, but their physical nature renders these experiences no less meaningful. If you feel like you're talking to God, I cannot invalidate your personal experience of the divine. The presence or absence of supernatural beings has no bearing on the existence of the sensation of gnosis.

2) Community: If a successful meme against Christianity were developed, people would still go the church on Sunday for the social aspects. As a community, you're either a member of not, but just because We Alone didn't have a church upbringing, and parent/elderly focused communities have little personal relevance, doesn't mean that others do not find these communities valuable. As long as communities don't violate the UN Charter on Human Rights, I don't believe we have a right to interfere with their existence. Even if we disagree, we must get along.

3) Memeplex: As this blog has stated in the past, religion is a collection of memes. Some are these are mythical, like Genesis, others are ethical. Religious mythology gets a bad rap here, because many of its adherents believe they can't follow both it, and the scientific explanation of the universe, hence Young Earth Creationism in school, and teaching the controversy. Here, we must make a stand. I don't like state supported meme-myths, but the scientific memeplex is required for an understanding of scientific fact, and we have to promote scientific fact in school.

As for ethics, religious values are a good enough operating system for society. Logical philosophical ethics, like utilitarianism and Kantian ethics, break down in boundary cases. I feel that the ad hoc nature of religious ethics actually leads to a more resilient social structure. The problem is when these ethics also call for denying gay people basic human rights, or advocate stoning women for insane offenses a la fundamentalist Islam. Again, here we must make a stand.

The problem with trying to alter religious memeplexes is that religions, as self perpetuation memes, demand rigid adherence to orthodoxy. for example, the Koran states that it is eternally true. I don't know if there's a good way to encourage social and memetic flexibility without knocking the heart out of the rest of the system. Reform Judaism and mainline Protestantism are fairly moribund.

If there is an answer, it lies in gnosis. The direct experience of God revitalizes religions, and causes a questioning of pre-existing doctrine. Ironically, by bringing people closer to god, we might be able to ameliorate the more damaging aspects of religion.

1 comment:

  1. The Voice of one crying in the Wilderness

    The Argument
    As the true method of knowledge is experiment the true faculty of
    knowing must be the faculty which experiences. This faculty I treat
    That the Poetic Genius is the true Man. and that the body or
    outward form of Man is derived from the Poetic Genius. Likewise that
    the forms of all things are derived from their Genius. which by the
    Ancients was call'd an Angel & Spirit & Demon.
    As all men are alike in outward form, So (and with the same
    infinite variety) all are alike in the Poetic Genius
    No man can think write or speak from his heart, but he must intend
    truth. Thus all sects of Philosophy are from the Poetic Genius adapted
    to the weaknesses of every individual
    As none by traveling over known lands can find out the unknown. So
    from already acquired knowledge Man could not acquire more. therefore
    an universal Poetic Genius exists
    The Religions of all Nations are derived from each Nations
    different reception of the Poetic Genius which is every where call'd
    the Spirit of Prophecy
    The Jewish & Christian Testaments are An original derivation from
    the Poetic Genius. This is necessary from the confined nature of
    bodily sensation
    As all men are alike (tho' infinitely various) So all Religions &
    as all similars have one source The true Man is the source he being
    the Poetic Genius