'tis time I weighed in on "religion". I've been taking pot shots at it in comments for a while now, and Koshersalaami, whose decency, intelligence and judgment I respect greatly, took me and others of perhaps similar beliefs as mine to task, indirectly, in his most recent post, In Defense of My Having a Religion.
Those who aren't familiar with his presence here might guess, correctly, from his avatar and pseudonym that Kosh is Jewish. In his post he succinctly and clearly explains what Judaism means to him, and he defends it from accusations that all religions are bad. I don't disagree with him on this at all. I tried to explain my own belief in a comment on his post, but it came out clumsy and half-baked. I'll try to do better now.
In my previous comments, on other posts, I've attempted to distinguish between what I call “social religion” and just plain “religion.” By “social religion” I mean the kind one finds in organized congregations or theologies. They all tend to be hierarchical, with authorities who interpret belief systems that address how people should behave. It's this surrender of a religion's adherents to authority that causes the trouble for me.
Those with the power of authority are human, and if they're trying to interpret the “will of God” they run the very great risk of assuming their own "will" reflects that of the god they claim to represent. And we all know what Lord Acton said in his timeless letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887. I'll start it, you chime in and we'll finish in four-part harmony. Here we go: “Power corrupts, and absolute power...” Sing it, children! “...CORRUPTS ABSOLUTELY!“ Amen, that it does – especially when the authority reaches up to embrace an infallible ultimate power whose every whim, as interpreted by the embracing lesser beings, dares not be questioned. Heads have been lopped, torsos dismembered and flesh burned to a crisp to drive home this point.
History shows us that secular power seizers throughout history have used authoritarian religions to whip, behead and immolate their subjects into submission. Still happens, with some religions, and the potential for it to happen right here in the good old U.S. of A. could be only a handful of votes away, as some alarmists are happy to tell us. Sadly, I believe them.
So, am I an atheist? I don't believe so. Do I believe in God or a god? I kinda do, altho “belief” might be too strong a word. I do visit from time to time a rather urgent faith in the notion that at the end of the day, when all is said and done and the rooster crows and the cows come home, that the human species is capable of being more than a speck in the cosmos, a speck so insignificant it's not even an irritant. Then again, this might be ridiculously vain.
Maybe all we should hope for is to be an amusing speck or one that contains something of value to whatever intelligence or collective unconsciousness there might be that might stumble upon the speck that is us and pause long enuf to look at it intently enuf to recognize its value. If the speck survives, that is. Maybe its survival alone would be the value it offers.