A theologian I am not but I do muse about the existence of GOD so The New York Times Magazine (3/04/07) article Darwin’s God by ROBIN MARANTZ HENIG looked like it might answer some of my questions. It did present a scholarly assessment of why we believe in a God but I must confess I did not fully comprehend many of the anthropological or Darwinian terms. Overall the article did not give me any reason to champion either an atheistic or religious point of view. After reading the article I went back to something pointed out at the very start . “ Call it God; call it superstition; call it as Atran does, “belief in hope beyond reason” - whatever you call it, there seems an inherent human drive to believe in something transcendent, unfathomable, and otherworldly, something beyond the reach or understanding of science” (I would add that it is also beyond the reach or understanding of theologians). That I could buy. Does that make me an agnostic or just someone who recognizes a need to believe in something beyond the teachings of mortal man?
The article did shed some light on my current attitude toward organized religion. Among the references to the works of Scott Atran, Henig points out that people’s belief systems often need an emotional component. Per Attran “If your emotions are involved, then that’s the time when you’re most likely to believe whatever the religion tell you to believe. Religions stir up emotions through their rituals - swaying, singing, bowing in unison during group prayer, sometimes working people up to a state of physical arousal that can border on frenzy.” WOW! Is that why I strayed?
Looking back at my own history with organized religion I realize that what eventually led me to divorce myself from the Church was a distaste for emotion arousing practices. As an example I found it difficult to participate in the practice of exchanging “ peace be with you” via a handshake or an unwanted hug from the people around me . I did not need what I felt was an expression of emotion per the instruction of Rome when I knew full well this was a ritual and bore little relationship to what people really felt about one another.
My distrust of theologians is best illustrated by an Associated Press news report on 4/21/07 in which it was reported “Pope Benedict XVI has reversed centuries of traditional Roman Catholic teaching on limbo, approving a Vatican report released Friday that says there were "serious" grounds to hope that children who die without being baptized can go to heaven.” Catholics have long believed that children who die without being baptized are with original sin and thus excluded from heaven, but the church has no formal doctrine on the matter. Theologians have long taught, however, that such children enjoy an eternal state of perfect natural happiness, a state commonly called limbo, but without being in communion with God“. Innocent children not being in communion with God? Whose God could this possibly be? Why did it take centuries to reverse the teaching? Probably because it no longer provides any emotion arousing purpose.
Laws, rituals, unique personal garb, what real purpose do they serve? Organizing the masses so that they are subservient to some religious hierarchy? I can’t help but think about Muslims and their 72 virgins. It is believed by some that Muslims are motivated to terrorism because the Koran, the Bible of Islam, tells them that fighting non-believers is a duty of every Muslim and the only way to be certain of going to heaven is to die fighting in the cause of Allah. What awaits them is the pleasure doled out by 72 virgins. The Koran is quite specific that the only way to be certain of getting to heaven is to die in jihad. How accurate these teachings are occupies the time of theologians. Accurate or not, a religion provides an emotional component which arouses frenzy which in turn results in deaths so that the perpetrator can live out eternal life in a place called heaven in a pornographic state of ecstasy.
In the final analysis this whole subject “why do we believe” and in addition “what we believe” is incomprehensible. I guess that makes me a religious agnostic !