What you’ve written is brilliant and exceptionally well-formulated. To use a Spock-ism, “a dazzling display of logic”.
There are two things you might consider adding to your treatise.
The first is that religion was created as a control mechanism. Most of us were raised by parents who instilled in us a moral compass through reason, punishment, and reward. This has worked well for the majority of us; we, in essence, know how to “color inside the lines”. For those of us who didn’t pick this up, there are laws. Namely, we have evolved a system of laws that imposes restraints on our corporeal existence if we violate the rules of fair play. (To some extent, this system has been debased by moneyed interests – a failing of capitalism – but that’s another rant too lengthy to explore.)
Some people either ignore the law, feel it does not apply to them, or feel the rewards of breaking the law outweigh the penalties of being caught. They play a qualitative game of expected values and decide breaking the rules does not bring with it sufficient negative consequences. Some may not care what happens to their corporeal existence (they’re on meth, self-destructive, devalue themselves or others, or just plain don’t care).
Enter religion. The last vestige of control.
Religion carries with it the threat of eternal damnation. If threatening your physical existence (“while on this planet”) doesn’t keep you in line, threatening “your immortal soul” is often a very effective mechanism to keep people in line. We often see criminals regularly in confessional booths. Yet they lie after swearing not to do so…on a Bible. Contemplate that for a moment.
This is why I call religion “the last safety net of social control”. If parents, authority figures, and threat of law don’t get you in line, fear of the ever-lasting punishment of God will.
This leads me to the other thing. You go on at some length about death being the cessation of bio-chemical processes. The issue for many is that they believe there is a soul/body duality. That is, they believe the body decays whereas the soul is everlasting. Death brings with it the separation of the immortal from the mortal. First off, no one has proven, can prove, or ever will prove the existence or non-existence of a soul. The question of a soul, taken by itself, is somewhat meaningless considered in isolation. We multiply our uncertainties when we ask “what happens to the soul after death”? The assumption is that the soul is safely couched inside our squishy bodies throughout our lives and, upon death, springs free from the decaying bodies like a freed prisoner. We can’t prove that, either. We don’t know where the soul comes from or where it goes. And uncertainty is the soil from which fear grows. That’s where religion gets you.
The whole ‘soul’ idea has, I believe, its roots in religion and metaphysical studies. It’s another way a system “puts the fear of God” into us from an early age. The real fear of death is, put simply, the fact that we’ve passed the two-minute warning, the clock has run out, and the score on the board is not what we would have liked it to be.
The thing I dislike about religion is that it wrests critical thought away from the individual. The whole “universal categorical imperative” and the Age of Reason is swept aside. Do what is right because it is logically right and advances the cause of humanity…not out of fear. Surrender your will to others and be forever enslaved by them.
That’s about all I have to add to your magnificent collection of arguments. Aside from the fact we’ve evolved beyond the use of fairy tales as a means of social engineering, our basis for everyday life should be rooted in a more communal, logical, and scientific basis. Moving away from an arbitrary collection of rules and mechanism of control is a step towards greater self-determination and individual maturation in a healthy civilization.
Thanks for putting together an excellent website.
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