As an author who focuses primarily on science, fact-based thinking, and atheism, I find that many of my conversations end up stuck in religion. Even those who share a clear and open-eyed view of the completely delusional belief pattern of religion, as well as the real social harm that it causes, still end up at stuck at “yea, but we need religion.”
Their suggestion is that, despite the obvious insanity of it, we’re stuck with religion. After all, some people clearly just need religion to better cope with life. They need the support that religion provides, whether real or fantasy. Implicit in this acceptance is the assumption that there is and can be no secular alternative. We have become co-dependent upon our mass delusions.
To those folks I say, look, we’d be completely fine without religion. In fact, if a miracle actually happened and religion disappeared from the planet, it would be quickly replaced with far more healthy fact-based alternatives. The disappearance of religion would open the space at least for rational secular alternatives to blossom and grow to fill any sane, legitimate need. All the money going to churches would be available to them to grow and flourish.
We have plenty of secular support systems already. We have an arguably helpful and supportive secular government, charities, clubs and associations of all sorts, NGO and volunteer organizations, and familial and interpersonal relationships. If religion were to disappear, I am fully confident that there are plenty of fact-based support and comfort systems that would expand and blossom to provide socially healthy alternatives to provide any legitimate benefits that religion may offer.
You know, we are always irrationally fearful of losing anything we have, even when it is harmful to us. Yes, cigarettes are killing us but don’t you dare take them away! Perhaps gas stoves are no longer needed and are giving our kids asthma, but you can pry my gas stove from my dead burnt fingers!
Moreover, we have a tendency to put too much emphasis on what little good someone or something offers while minimizing all the negatives. At one company we had a true bad apple named Tanya. Tanya did virtually no work and spent all her time proudly fomenting dissent. Yet when I asked my boss why he didn’t fire her he said “well if I did who would do the little bit of work she does?”
Finally, we have another tendency to think of things we rely upon as indispensable, irreplaceable. I am a fan of Amazon, but many folks think it is terrible. Yet, most would not wish to do away with Amazon because, after all, we depend on it too much. Like it or not, they would say, we need it.
But I think it is safe for me to assert that you’d be just fine without your cigarettes or your gas stove. Work will go on just fine with Tanya gone, and in fact less can be more and productivity will probably increase. Someone will pick up her work with hardly a notice. And if -<horror> Amazon went out of business tomorrow? The market would quickly adjust and you’d have plenty of ways to buy whatever it is you need. Within weeks they’d be no more than a distant memory, like Montgomery Ward or Sears and Roebucks.
Similarly, we overly focus on whatever good comes from religion and we mistakenly worry that it is indispensable and irreplaceable to meet our needs. We practically imagine that civilization would crumble without it. But it would not. We’d do just fine, and, as with Tanya gone, probably much better. As much as Amazon executives or church leaders would like you to believe that they alone can sustain you, they are not truly essential and irreplaceable. No one and nothing is, including religion.
So fret not for the loss of religion in the world. The planet will keep spinning and people will end up in a much better place when we finally escape from our delusions.