Thursday, June 25, 2009

The question: Can religion be replaced?

From the London Guardian-

I don't think religion can be replaced, but then I don't think anything can be replaced; things are what they are and any substitute is something else. With generic objects substitution amounts to replacement: a window, a car, a lamp can be "replaced" by a copy; but anything more complicated is another matter. The notion that something as elaborate and multi-faceted as religion could be replaced is laughable.

Apart from anything else religion is a lot of things and serves a lot of functions, and the closer you come to matching all of them the closer you come to reproducing religion itself. If you don't match all of them then you haven't "replaced" religion.

There are several candidates for least-possible-to-replace aspect of religion. For most varieties the obvious one is the object of worship – the god or gods. If you subtract god or gods and leave the ceremonies and meetings and rules, you seem to be left with something very arbitrary and random. "Why are we doing this when we don't think God is participating?" Secular pseudo-religion strikes me as not just hopeless but also faintly nauseating. I'm not about to sit in a circle holding hands, or worship The Principle of Humanity, or put a list of Affirmations on the wall.

I'm not a good judge of this, though, because I'm not a joiner; congregations of any kind make me feel squirmy. The few times I went to church (Episcopalian, ie high Anglican) as a child, I hated it – I felt bored, confined, suffocated, vaguely oppressed. It was all so starchy and solemn and dressy, for one thing: I had to wear school clothes five days a week as it was, I hated having to wear even more formal clothes on yet another day.

Modern church isn't always like that though, at least not in the US. I once went to a suburban megachurch for a Friday evening service of some kind. It was nothing like "church" – it was more like a rock concert crossed with a pep talk. There was a lot of perky music, and a huge hall full of bouncy young people, all very chatty and energetic and cheerful. Still – there was also an abundance of God-talk, so it was a religious occasion of some kind, and this is the aspect of religion that is so hard to match with anything else. A weekly meeting of atheists? To do what?

More here-

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