Friday, October 24, 2008


Whither the Religious?

John Wilkins, clinging, as always, to the Fatal Shore, has a good post up about religion and the hope-triumphing-over-experience expectations of some that religion will wither away:

[A]lthough, as PZ recently noted, some religion is on the decline and more people are declaring themselves to be non-religious (which is not the same has having no religious beliefs, by the way), this doesn't license the easy induction that religion is on the way out. These things run in cycles and like the stock market there are booms and busts for every cultural stock. ...

Humans are pre-set to make alliances and allegiances, because it's a way of ensuring one has the necessary resources to make good. So as long as this is a way of achieving these aims, which are ultimately related to our need to propagate by reproduction, religion will persist, as will other forms of community commitment signalling. ...

I promote secularism, not as a way of eliminating religion, but as a way of ensuring that no one religion can control or eliminate the others, and as a side effect, of ensuring that there is room for nonbelievers to exist as well. Secularism prevents Thirty Year's Wars, and permits Enlightenments. More than that we cannot expect, though we may work towards a less religious society. Ultimately, a lack of religion must evolve naturally (at the historical, cultural, level - I'm not talking about biological evolution here) as it has in several countries, and it cannot be imposed by propaganda or legal means. It must be an organic change, so to speak.

Very nice pun on the post title!
Since many, if not most, of my titles are puns or other wordplay (what Wilkins calls "punes"), it was bound to happen someday!

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