The Enlightenment was centuries ago. Why do you think people still cling to outmoded ways of explaining the world, such as religion?

I don’t see history as linearly-progressive. I believe we learn much from our past, and value history. Our story is an accumulation of our thoughts, our lives and our predecessors’ ways of living: and it contains many, many truths. We don’t always learn from the past, and often forget what used to be known. There have been many darker periods in our stories when we acted foolishly despite the “progress” of generations. So, I do not see any thought as “outmoded,” especially in the context of its time. That’s not to say I don’t think some things should change (we SHOULD learn from our past), and so learn to treat women as equals—a lesson we still have not learned—to be careful with our resources, and to test practices to see which ring true (i.e. homeopathic remedies).

Nor do I see the Enlightenment period as anything that was a total disregard of religious thought. I am not an expert, and most of my historical interest lies further back (I love reading/learning about Anglo-Saxon England, for example), so I’m probably not very well qualified to answer your question. But that period is full of beautiful writing and interesting ways of thinking (such as existentialism). Some even embraced traditional stories and truths (Søren Kierkegaard, for example). So, different ways of thinking took a precedent over past, but no total divorce occurred.

I have a difficult time with the tone of this question, I must confess. It feels superior, as if we (or he/she for having asked it) is so much better than our predecessors. We’ve conquered religion! We don’t need to “cling to outmoded ways”.

It sounds hubristic.

We live in a world where we are slowly destroying our own climate through greed and disregard. We, in the past 100 years, have amassed more than enough destructive power to obliterate the surface of our planet. We fight open-ended wars with remote-controlled devices and fill our minds with thoughts of fear, and death, and destruction. We are less egalitarian than many civilisations from our past: looking back at the Saxons, who—even owning slaves—seem somehow less politically crippled than we seem to be now. We watch gladiatorial displays in which losers are humiliated and scorned and winners enthroned, for a short time, in our media and consciousnesses. We grow enough food to feed the planet and more, yet people starve, and the difference between the world’s richest and poorest seems bigger than at any time in our story. And, for the first time in decades, we are leaving our children with fewer years to live than ourselves.

I’m afraid I don’t see this current reality as superior to all that’s past, and I don’t rush to disregard something because it is not currently fashionable.

I hope that we do learn, and that we learn to dismantle the structures of religion which allow terrible things to happen behind sacredly-closed doors. And I hope power people wield through controlling thoughts and feelings as with religious dogma lessens.

But I do cling to many ways of thinking. I don’t think the world would be better without faith. Without the embodiment of Love, nor the teachings of selfless giving I learned as a kid.

Regarding atheists…

No, I haven’t mistaken, though I do wish whoever you are had read my response in its entirety. I did not say that atheism *is* a religion, I said that atheists “can be religious themselves.”

I don’t really want to get into an impassioned, anonymous argument about atheism and deism. I feel the world confirms my rational belief in design and benign order. I believe that selfless love is a better way to live than pseudo-altruistic opportunity, and that God exists. I don’t call all atheists evil, nor do I think their belief system inferior to mine. I disagree with it, and I have experienced a God of Love greater than my own doubt (which is often the greatest thing in my own life).

I do, however, think that there is a religion of atheism. To me, religion is evident whenever people flock to an order (and hierarchy, perhaps) to be exclusive. They tend to disparage others. The implied insult—that I, as a believer in God am superstitious—in the question makes me wonder whether the questioner may have religious tendencies him/herself.

What thing or things can a religious person do that an atheist cannot?

I don’t know, sounds like a clinical trial might be in order?

I’m uncomfortable with the idea of religion, and that discomfort is growing into something akin to distrust.

I sort of see “religion” as a way to organise faith and belief into a structure. Traditionally, this structure has been a default in many cultures—because the organised belief and faith were heavily integrated into the social structures too. In the West, this tradition has become eroded. I don’t see this as bad in itself. It may prove to be hugely good, because it makes a person’s faith their own responsibility and maybe allows for a stronger connection with Love. Religion can get in the way of faith, and in the way of Love, especially if the structure of the religion is particularly authoritarian or the ideas closely controlled.

I do believe in a loving, creative God, and I follo the teachings of Jesus, but I’m uncomfortable with the structures and manifestations of “religion”. The way I see it, I think, is that if God is infinite and also benign (Loving), then those who want to Love, and those who question will ultimately find Love somehow. Religion might limit this questioning, and limit our own understanding of Love.

That’t not to say I don’t see truth in religious teaching, or that I am a complete non-traditionalist (my instinct is to embrace tradition, though my conscious thought is conflicted where I don’t see the truth in a tradition). Some traditions are good, or contain good or are useful or are beautiful. I think the ones which are narrative rather than proscriptive are most close to Love, at least for me.

So, I might surprise you by saying perhaps a religious person can hide behind an institutionalised version of the truth to justify not thinking for themselves?

Oh, I also think many athiests can be “religious” themselves, by the way. If the profound belief that nothing beyond their potential state of empirical knowledge becomes a structure, then it resembles nothing more than religious thought-laziness. So, be athiest, be religious, but don’t hide behind either. Be you, and I pray you find Love.