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Replacing Religion? June 24, 2009

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, religion.
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In the modern world, most of the roles and functions of religion have been taken over by other institutions.

As H.E. Baber writes:

What once was religion has already been parcelled out to a variety of different institutions and agents – metaphysics and ethics to philosophers, wisdom literature to self-help gurus, pastoral counselling to therapists, and charity to secular non-profits and the welfare state. Science explains natural phenomena and technology provides a means for controlling them.

But Baber points out that despite that loss of function, belief in religion and the paranormal persists. And she thinks these are related.

I doubt that that residue [of religion] will dissolve because I understand the draw of religion and also, I think, the appeal of paranormal beliefs. It’s the yen for the spooky – for wonders, marvels and stangeness, for mysticism. We read ghost stories for that metaphysical thrill and experiment with psychotropic drugs. Religion delivers it most effectively.

Is this a plausible account of the persistence of religious belief? A “yen for the spooky” can be satisfied in ways that do not involve the hardships of ethical commitment, personal struggles with faith, conflict with non-believers and all the other burdens of religious faith. What is effective about the way religion satisfies this “yen”?

This explanation just raises the question why, if the “yen for the spooky” can be pursued through ghost stories, drugs, and the pseudo-spiritual silliness on TV, etc.  do we need religion?

 

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

or Visit the Website: www.revivingliberalism.com

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Comments»

1. Paul J. Moloney - June 25, 2009

I have gone on in some length in my own writing concerning the term “metaphysical”. It might be that the analytical school is based on hatred of that term. I think the term should be discarded. The way it is used in the article by Baber demonstrates why. I have absolutely no idea what she means by her use of the term. Metaphysical means nothing and everything at the same time. Supposedly the use of the term means you know what you are talking about, even if no one else does. People use the term without explaining to others what exactly they mean by use of the term, which means to me they do not know. If metaphysics is anything, it is the name of a book by Aristotle. Aristotle did not write about metaphysics, he wrote about the first principles of reality. It seems to be the case that people usually are not talking about the principles of reality when they use the term. You do not find philosophy in the metaphysical section of the bookstore.

2. Dwight Furrow - June 25, 2009

Paul,

You’re right that many people are confused about the meaning of this term, or at least its philosophical meaning. But I don’t think Haber is relying on that confusion.

Metaphysics is the study of the nature and structure of reality. I think that is how she is using the term.

But she thinks that the kind of “spooky” stuff you find in a “metaphysical” bookstore is what religion delivers.

3. H. E. Baber - March 18, 2012

Is this a plausible account of the persistence of religious belief? A “yen for the spooky” can be satisfied in ways that do not involve the hardships of ethical commitment, personal struggles with faith, conflict with non-believers and all the other burdens of religious faith. What is effective about the way religion satisfies this “yen”?

Interesting. And I just hit this now, three years later. As a religious person I don’t take the ethical commitments of my church seriously, or have any personal struggle with faith or conflicts with non-believers. Why should I? I consume the good stuff of religiousity and ignore the rest. Religion satisfies the yes for the woo-woo by providing buildings and ceremonies. I consume this and don’t pay any attention to the bullshit. why should I? Enjoy religion and ignore the stuff that you don’t like. Support the buildings, the art, the ceremonies and ignore the garbage.


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