The Lasting Nature of Religious Views

I’m one of those people who most days feels the world would be somewhat better off without the Abrahamic faiths.  That is, somewhat better off without Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

To be sure, I don’t meet many Jews, Christians and Muslims that I dislike.  I tend to dislike their faiths, but not them.  If it were up to me, they’d all find some other religion and be happier for it.

Of course, I have a major concern about my feeling the world would be better off without the Abrahamic faiths.  Maybe that’s because I have a lot left to learn about the historical influence of those faiths.  For all I know, they’ve each had a greater positive impact on humanity than I can — in my ignorance — give them credit for having.

For instance, what influence, if any, did the Abrahamic notion that “all souls are equal” have in promoting political equality?  I myself have no idea, but I think political equality is largely a good thing, and that it is possible the notion “all souls are equal” played an historical role in promoting it.  I just don’t know whether it did or didn’t.  And because I recognize I’m ignorant of many things that I could know about the Abrahamic faiths, I tend to wonder whether my feeling the world would be better off without them is justified.

As you might know, I was raised in a largely Christian culture — rural America of the 1960s and 70s.  Now, either you simply cannot be raised in a culture steeped in Christianity without adopting some Christian views, or it is at least extremely difficult to not adopt some Christian views.

I don’t mean it’s difficult to avoid professing Christianity or declaring yourself a Christian or thinking you are a Christian.   Instead, I mean it’s extraordinarily difficult to avoid seeing the world like a Christian.  Allow me to offer a brief example of that.

Belief and faith play a central role in Christianity.  So much so that many Christians think of their spirituality in terms of what they believe, or the degree to which they have faith in Jesus, and so forth.  Growing up, I absorbed that Christian notion and for many years in my youth thought religion in general was essentially about belief and faith.  Only as I began studying some of the Eastern religions did it occur to me that what someone believes or has faith in might have little or nothing to do with their spirituality.

I could give dozens of examples of how I absorbed Christian views even though I  grew up rather agnostic towards Christianity and never — so far as I can recall — considered myself a Christian, except for one month in middle school.  When you’re immersed in a Christian culture, you have an extraordinary tendency to absorb Christian notions.

It interests me that so many of my friends who have given up this or that Abrahamic faith still in many ways view the world through one or another Abrahamic lens.

Some anthropologists estimate the world has seen over 100,000 religions come and go since the famous caves of Europe were painted 25,000 years ago.  I have no doubt that — if humanity survives long enough — each of the Abrahamic faiths will in turn disappear, replaced by other, perhaps newer, religions.  Yet, I wonder how many Abrahamic notions will outlast their religions?  How long after the last person to self-identify as a Jew, Christian, or Muslim has passed on will many of us still see some things through the Abrahamic lens?

It’s not my intention here to go into the reasons I feel the world would be somewhat better off without the Abrahamic faiths.  There must be dozens of reasons, although I’ve never counted.  But I’m fairly sure most of the things I object to in those religions are notions that will outlast the religions themselves.  Perhaps some of the better ideas found in those religions will also outlast them.

9 thoughts on “The Lasting Nature of Religious Views

  1. I’m not sure why you single out “Abrhamic” faiths. I have no use for “religion” of any stripe.

    I am unaware of any way in which childhood “religious” “teachings” have influenced me, in that I have no faith, and “religion” is nothing but faith.

    I do not always put “religion” in quotes. I have done so here to make a point: This blight on humanity is nothing but a long con, and dignifying it with the name it requests is like calling someone who pretends to be a healer to get your money “doctor.”

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  2. @ Eunoia: Welcome to the blog!

    @ Twoblueday: It’s my opinion that religion, for the most part, is not worth it’s room and board. However, I don’t think we’ll ever be entirely rid of it, and there are some teachings that I find useful. Overall, though, I feel less than happy with any religion and especially with the Abrahamic faiths.

    @ Webs: Good point!

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  3. Paul:

    Abrahamic religions stand out because two of them actively proselytise as part of their religious duty. Their devotion to one man’s message/ preaching also make them rather cultish in appearance (and if people do not mock that, I see no reason to mock Scientology either!)

    Older religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Judaism (which I am aware is an Abrahamic one too) do not try to convert others. Of course, a Jewish friend of mine, married to a Hindu man, says that Hinduism’s hierarchical nature bothers her; but that was a societal construct, not a religious one in its origin. This is an interesting thread. I am surprised the conversation has not become more diverse and eclectic 🙂

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  4. Fanatics are there in every religion, even in Hinduism. Spiritual masters (atleast the ones in India) would say Spiritualiy has nothing to do with Religion, which I guess is what you were saying.

    In fact there is a Spiritual Temple in India called Dhyanalinga in the city of Coimbatore, which welcome people of all religion. The Temple focuses on the divine energy in the form of an ellipsoid a.k.a the Shiva Linga.

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  5. @ Shefaly: Good point! I think their proselytizing is only part of why I feel the way I do about them, albeit probably a big part.

    @ Dinesh: Yes! I completely agree that spirituality has nothing necessarily to do with religion.

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