Welcome to the fourth installment of my Throw Oz Under the Bus Blog Challenge. For the second week in a row the challenger is Miles, the bastard. Last week he had me discussing the finer points of playing with ones prostate.
The Positive Impact of Religion on Civilization.
Some would say that religion hasn’t had any positive impact on civilization. Even the indomitable Bertrand Russell felt that religion has only contributed two things: Fixed the calendar, and help Egyptians to learn how to predict eclipses. That’s it.
While I’m not one of the Four Horsemen of Atheism, I am certainly an enlisted man in the army of unbelievers. Now, Old Bert is one of my all-time favorite thinkers, both in mathematics and philosophy, but I do have to disagree with him on this, which is easy, because he’s dead.
I feel, quite strongly, that all good deeds done in the name of religion could have been done without religion. But, that does not mean I should discount the fact that it was done with religion. That would be like if a friend helped me paint my house, and instead of thanking him, I said, “Well, anyone could have helped.” While true, that would clearly be in the Dick Move category.
Religion played an important role in the development of civilization. Some archeologists and anthropologists would even go so far as to say civilization began because of religion. The current consensus is that agricultural development in the Fertile Crescent was the catalysis for humanity’s rise, but evidence is mounting at Gӧbeki Tepe, an archaeological site that dates back 11,600 years, that it was in fact supernatural belief that got the ball rolling.
If that pans out, I’d say that was one hell of a positive impact on civilization
Another possible positive is Art. Proponents of religion often state that without the awesomeness of God no artist would have had the inspiration to create such beautiful works of art. Bullshit. Tell Frederick Delius that he couldn’t have composed Mitternachtslied Zarathustras without divine influence, or tell David Gilmour it was God that told him what notes to play in Echoes. God is not the only source of creativity.
It is a fact that the wonderful works of art by Michelangelo, Donatello, Raphael, and Leonardo da Vinci could have been created without church involvement; those turtles would definitely have continued to create without the church. But without the funds provided by the church how prolific could they have been? Could Michelangelo, on his lowly income from fighting crime, have afforded a block of marble large enough to sculpt the statue of David? I think not. Like most artists, he would have died, broke and alone, in the sewers, with no one to care for him but a rat.
Hold on, I’ve just been told I may be confusing my artists with my ninjas. Sorry about that. Either way, could have been done without religion is a far cry from was done without religion.
Religion has not only provided some positive impact on society, it has some benefits for individuals as well. When times are tough, it can be a great comfort to believe that it will all be okay. Realizing, and accepting that you have no control over the world, only how you interact with it, can releases stress and anxiety. Atheists do it by saying “Well, shit happens.” Unfortunately, not everyone can accept that, so they give their lives over to God. Technically, members of AA could quit drinking without God, but they don’t. Some people need the reassurance of a benevolent being that watches over them. Others need the threat of a whip to keep in line. The fact is, some people are just better believing ridicules shit. I’ve always looked at religion like a life preserver for those that can’t deal with the horrors of the world, and some of us have learned to swim.
To sum up, here is a quote from Patton Oswalt.
“Please do not stop believing in the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard, because you’re actually helping people out with your craziness. Don’t stop believing in that stuff, please, I beg you.”
Thanks for reading