Notes From Babel

Humanity Without Religion Ceases To Be Humanity

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John Derbyshire suggests that the question “Can humanity survive over the long term without religion?” can be answered in the same way as the question “Can humanity survive over the long term without music?” I disagree. Religion is not “just a feature of the general human personality.” On the list of qualities that make up our humanity, I would put religion closer to language. Thus, imagine that all known languages were obliterated. Humans, so long as they remain such, will forge ahead with some new way of communicating, i.e., through language. Similarly, even were we to reject every known systematic method of organizing metaphysical premises in order to make sense of the observable world (i.e., religion), we will forge some new one. This is because, of course, the pursuit of knowing things is essential to being human. That is to say, without music, we might say we would be “less” human. But without language or a method of knowing stuff, it is fair to say we would cease to be human at all. Featherless bipeds, more like.

At its root, religion is really little different from metaphysics. And humans need metaphysics for important things like, well, knowledge and morality and justice and so forth. Every religion takes on a culture of its own, and adopts a fair number of silly and nasty habits. These idiosyncrasies really seem to get atheists and secular humanists and “brights” and what-have-yous all bustling with agitation. But to deny metaphysical truth, which is the kernel of religion, is to yank out the whole foundation of human knowledge.

[Some further discussion on this point at Secular Right.]

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Written by Tim Kowal

April 23, 2009 at 2:39 am

Posted in Philosophy, Religion

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