Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Spiritual Evolution

There are some interesting thoughts about religion from Sally Gallagher, professor of sociology at Oregon State University in this article. First, the reporter sets the stage:

Religion was supposed to fall by the wayside as mankind became more enlightened, according to sociologists during the 1700s, when science and reason were touted as the key to human evolution.

When church attendance began to fall in the mid-20th century after several decades of significant scientific discovery and invention, it looked like their prediction might come true.

Then Professor Gallagher takes over:

We were supposed to ‘grow out of it’ but that’s not what actually happened. Americans are very religious. In fact, they’re all over the map when it comes to religion. ...

Religion provides a moral framework for people to understand and address the biggest questions of life.
After noting that the public's respect for all institutions, including churches, suffered in the wake of Watergate, Gallagher claims "the pendulum is now swinging back" and that the segment of church membership that’s growing the fastest is among people in their 20s and 30s. After a period when people would take their dog for a walk on a beautiful day and call that a spiritual experience, they are returning to traditional denominations and expressions of religion for the benefits they provide: instant community, support and affirmation. Such things look particularly good in an unstable society or when people are experiencing a divorce, losing their jobs or facing some other major change in life.

In a completely post-modern society where absolute truth does not exist, the ground becomes unsettling and there’s no place to stand and decide right from wrong or who’s "good" or not, she explained. Humans are wired, however, to do just that.

People are fundamentally religious in the same sense they are fundamentally social or moral, Gallagher said.
Religion plays a key role in achieving self-identity because it offers that transcendent, outside-ourselves perspective of what’s true about life and mankind, and it helps people figure out "what’s better and what’s best" within the context of community, she said.
You don't have to be a believer to understand the attraction of that.

John says,

You don't have to be a believer to understand the attraction of that.

Yes, you do.
What? you don't feel the need for community, support and affirmation? You think all those atheists who flock to PZ's blog to post repetitive statements of their beliefs don't?

It is a basic human need, even if you (or I) think theists are looking for it in all the wrong places.
I agree with you, John.

Of course a feeling of community serves a human need, and Larry is simply being obtuse by saying it doesn't. There are plenty of scientific studies that demonstrate that, going way back to the work of Ferdinand Tönnies.

It's part of the basic creed of non-religious fundamentalism to deny all positive claims that involve religion and religious believers. Just like it is part of the basic creed of religious fundamentalism to deny all positive claims regarding those who don't follow any religion.

The mindset really isn't any different.
In fairness, of all the things Larry is, "obtuse" ain't one of them. He has (earned?) a reputation as a "curmudgeon" and has come to relish it, I think.

But if he wants to keep it, he'd better stop publishing pictures of himself that resemble my grandfa^H^H^H^ uncle so much.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

. . . . .


How to Support Science Education