It’s Just A Ride

Can religion be replaced? That’s the question CiF posed to Ophelia, perhaps hoping for a shouty advocacy of the New Atheist One World Government. It didn’t work out that way.

My thoughts are these. The question seems to imply a kind of formal replacement of religion with something else. Anyone with any intelligence or decency will know that this is just not possible or desirable. 

But we can make a humbler demand. We can insist that religious authority sticks to what it is good at – weddings, funerals, christenings – and let go of all the other areas it insists on being involved in, such as welfare, education, nuclear defence… The strategy should be one of containment. Keep religion in its box, and it’s fine, even worthwhile. Let religion into the sphere of governance, and you’re looking at Goldenbridge or the Swat Valley.

My second point is one that I’ve made before and will keep on making. Humankind is a mystical animal. Everyone has a metaphysical hunger for the big questions. We are preoccupied by love, meaning, desire, pleasure, intellect, ideology and the qualities of the physical universe.

Religion cuts off this speculation by providing quick and easy answers. It’s the philosophical equivalent of a Big Mac diet. It discourages all speculation beyond its binary afterlives and tinkertoy creation myths and, in so doing, frustrates and retards the spiritual development of humanity.

As Ophelia says in the comments, religion is subject to natural erosion and the great monotheisms will one day share the obscurity and irrelevance of the Egyptian kitchen gods. It will no longer act as barrier in our search for the real answers – and the real questions. Free from fear or incentive, we could take the first tentative steps towards a true spirituality. To finish with Bill Hicks:

The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think that it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly coloured, and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question – is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us. They say ‘Hey! Don’t worry, don’t be afraid, ever, because, this is just a ride.’ And we…kill those people. Ha ha ha. ‘Shut him up! We have a lot invested in this ride. SHUT HIM UP! Look at my furrows of worry. Look at my big bank account and family. This just has to be real.’ It’s just a ride. But we always kill those good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok. But it doesn’t matter because: it’s just a ride. And we can change it anytime we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings, and money. A choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourselves off. The eyes of love, instead, see all of us as one. Here’s what you can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money that we spend on weapons and defence each year, and instead spend it feeding, clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, for ever, in peace.

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