Religion: Anachronistic Perhaps, Yet Still Valuable08.25.10
If you see the world as something to be understood, you will seek to understand it through many voices, idioms and perspectives. To dismiss all religion as mere anachronistic bunk is a closure of the mind, not an opening.
While I agree, I don’t know that I agree in the same way that Sullivan means it. I haven’t used that precise term – anachronistic – to describe religion before, but it’s relatively close to my feelings toward it. I don’t know that my issue with it is that it’s old-fashioned so much as that the rigid structures of religion are itself closed-minded, ignoring new evidence and thousands of years of human development, ingenuity, and discovery in favor of some ancient texts.
At least, that’s the case for the Abrahamic religions. One could argue that since their texts are so old, that they must be relevant and worthy if people are still worshiping them after all these centuries of new ideas and new religions have come to pass.
The same can’t be said for new faiths like Mormonism or Scientology. Those followers intrigue me the most, especially the latter. To think that people subscribe to a set of beliefs that include some pretty out-there sci-fi babble in an age where we have so much scientific evidence showing that there’s no way the universe is trillions of trillions of trillions of years old stuns me.
So where do I agree with Sullivan?
It’s precisely because those people stun and baffle me that these religions are worthy of studying and investigating. We’re all so different yet we all have so many traits in common. Why am I not religious while others are extremely devout? Why do certain cultures tend to embrace such different faiths? Or is it their faiths that determine different cultures? These religions, and the human race’s constant desire to believe, offers all kinds of information that we can dissect and study from sociological, anthropological, and psychological perspectives in order to learn how our minds and cultures evolve and function.
Just about everything involves religion. Just glance at the news and try not to incorporate Islam, Judaism, and Christianity t0 understand what’s going on. From the two wars we’re fighting in the Middle East to the already-existing mosque near Ground Zero in NYC to award speeches, it’s impossible to separate humans from religion.
And even for those like myself who follows no religious institution, my doing so is notable because of my lack of religious desire. I admit that I frequently dismiss the concept of religion as anachronistic bunk, as Sullivan says, but I don’t dismiss its impact or its intellectual worth when it comes to understanding our world. In that sense, I don’t see my beliefs as being a closure of the mind at all because one doesn’t need to give credence to religious faith in order to investigate our world so much as accept religion’s existence and how it affects people, places, and things.
I just keep it in its place along with other myths, legends, and fables that speak volumes about ourselves as self-conscious beings and human nature than they do anything related to defining our existence or explaining the afterlife.