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Replacing Religion? June 24, 2009

Posted by Dwight 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