Robert Bellah on "Religion in Human Evolution"

December 23, 2012

How did religion ever get started in the first place?  The late sociologist Robert Bellah spent much of his life pondering the question.  Shortly before he died, he told us religion isn't about belief in God.  It's rooted in ritualistic behavior - and ultimately play.

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"If God didn't exist you wouldn't be here"

Seriously? Is it really the best the great theologians can come up with when answering the question "does god exist"?

God didn't create Earth for crying out loud. Our KNOWLEDGE about planet formation and evolution of organic life constantly expands so why replace this knowledge with myths, otherwise known as religions??

(You aren't exactly matching wits with "the great theologians" when you get into a Internet comments-form discussion, just in case that wasn't obvious to you.)

Sure, we know a LOT more about the geological and even cosmological forces that formed and gave substance to the universe we live in. Any faith that denies those facts is, as you say, dealing in myths. But having faith that God initiated those forces by causing a big bang is hardly the same thing as denying that they exist.

And cherishing a myth and the lessons it conveys while simultaneously accepting that the myth is not literally true is not the hallmark of an unsophisticated mind. Rather, I am wary of those who insist (or even demand) that only ONE perspective shall have primacy, and who get shouty when you propose otherwise. I have seen that kind of person among theists and atheists alike.

You aren't going to get a fact-based society by stamping out religion, anyway. The U.S. is a nation where religion was long ago eclipsed by commerce, and that is a realm in which truth and facts are of no weight whatever unless they serve to persuade consumers. At least religions hold high esteem for truth (even if you and they disagree about its content). Advertisers regard truth as merely one of many tools at their disposal, and not a particularly beloved one.

"Sure, we know a LOT more about the geological and even cosmological forces that formed and gave substance to the universe we live in. Any faith that denies those facts is, as you say, dealing in myths. But having faith that God initiated those forces by causing a big bang is hardly the same thing as denying that they exist."

Having a faith that God initiated Big Bang is precisely the same as having faith that god created Earth in 6 days, or that solar eclipses are caused by God.

Substituting ignorance with myths leads nowhere.

You see, the biggest problem with religionists is that they think they claim to know the truth - they claim to know the word of God, who of course is never wrong.

That's a very dangerous and arrogant attitude to hold.

"Religion is a way of life and only secondarily a way of thinking"

No wonder religion can't be reconciled with science.

“Myth is part of who we are because narrative is part of who we are.”

Myth is part of who we are because ignorance is part of who we are. But that doesn't mean we should continue with myths and glorify myths and ignorance in books and podcasts.

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