The Role of Religion in a Secular World
Updated: Jan 10, 2020
How many times have you heard someone say; “I’m spiritual, but I’m not religious”.. ? I never quite understood what that means exactly. I often wonder if those that have formed that world-view had done so because of the stigma attached to traditional religions, or whether they’ve actually taken the time to ask the big existential questions and arrived at that conclusion themselves?
In saying that, there are other world-views; ‘Agnosticism’, which suggests that “I don’t really know, but I’m open to both the existence and non-existence of a deity and will go where ever the evidence leads me; or ‘Atheism’, which takes a naturalistic or humanistic world view and firm position on the non-existence of a God of any kind; 'atheism' having seen a recent resurgence with the emergence of the new atheists lead by Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris (among others) and to a lesser extend the likes of Richard Carrier, a very articulate, well read intellectual in his own right.
So what is the role of religion in this increasingly secular world?
Some would suggest there’s no room for religion in the modern day, that religion divides instead of unites, that religion is the cause of all war in the world. I beg to differ and find all those arguments rather trivial.
One must take the time to understand the arguments, look at the evidence, embrace the theology before jumping to such conclusions; I wonder how many people have actually done that? Would it not be fair to suggest that we should draw conclusions based on what we know and have taken the time to understand and not by ignorantly jumping on a hype train? You can’t prove the existence or in fact the non-existence of a God, so the best we can do is look at all the evidence available to us as objectively as possible. That evidence is best considered from several points of view and a good place to start is:
What is the historical record, what does it say, what can we know with relative confidence and what’s clearly an embellishment of some sort? What are historians saying, what is the general discourse when considering the historical claims of different religions?
SCIENCE, PRIMARILY PHYSICS, BIOLOGY AND TO A LESSER EXTENT NEUROSCIENCE.
What does science actually tell us about the emergence and existence of the universe? Did the universe have a beginning or has it always been here? What of evolution; does the notion of evolution discount outright the possibility of a God? Is everything just physical matter, if so, what do we make of consciousness and the mind; are they instinctive developments brought upon by the fight or flight responses in evolutionary processes; or is there a deeper meaning / significance there? Does it leave room for the ‘super-natural’?