Post 2: Religion and Secularism

I went to a Catholic high school for four years and my graduating class had the largest number of atheists compared to any other class during our time there. This school made my distaste for organized religion peak. There were, besides the atheists, a majority of students from Christian families, and several dozen Jewish students. I felt a sort of pride by considering myself an atheist and being part of the largest atheist class, as if we were somewhat superior to the believers. My pride was relatively lower compared to some of the other pretentious students, who probably would have been pretentious regardless of their self-prescribed religious labels. Thankfully, and hopefully, obviously, people change from the time they are in high school, and I am quite a bit less of the asshole I was 6 years ago.

My aim with my journey of finding my own spirituality will not entail generalizing religious groups. That is not useful or helpful to anyone, especially for the questions I have and the journey I hope to take. I mention my high school background because of two observations that may seem like they should be mutually exclusive. First, it is no secret that atheism, at least in America, has been on the rise in recent decades. There are many factors that account for this, including education and social media access. The second observation, that is more prolonged and not a conscious thought to most people, is that the dominant religions in the world have been dominant for thousands of years. One might think that with the rise of atheism, religions might die out, and others may perhaps be invented. Sure, there are more modern “faith systems” that become popularized, e.g. Scientology, but these are often discredited.

One argument for this is that because of the rise of secularism in Western society, religious claims and miracles that “begin” new religions seem ludicrous; but the majority of the world has no problem believing in miracles like angels coming down to earth and turning water into wine. The explanation for this? It is possible, supposing that a god does exist, that his/her influence upon the earth must be more discreet now than it was 2,000 years ago. Because we as a culture have gotten smarter, have more dependence on science for our knowledge, and have the ability to contact most of the developed world within seconds, a creator’s works may purposely not be as obvious as they once were.

But back to my observation. It seems wild that these religions have such longevity. Maybe this is a naive thought of mine, or maybe it points to something bigger. Most of the major world religions have very similar creation stories. A great flood, the creation of a heaven and earth, and a time when man and animal lived peacefully together are all common elements that stretch across many religions, both Eastern and Western. Perhaps this does point to a universal creator, but the events were perceived and recorded differently, and the rhetoric has simply evolved. There are many other complementary themes, and some events may have actual scientific evidence to prove it.

I have always favored science as a way to know facts and seek rational explanations for things. However, science does not disprove god. Scientists will never have a way to discover the physical and rational reasons for everything that has ever occurred on earth and in space. I have heard that more and more scientists are claiming that there must have been some sort of creator because there are so many things that just cannot be explained (I will research this further, because I don’t have much evidence for this at the moment). Science can also be hard to believe at times because we as individuals are not doing research ourselves. A group of scientists can put out an official journal that is full of lies and the public may actually believe it. This is not so different from the claims that the Bible and other religious books are full of lies and exaggerations. What I am actually realizing as I write is that science and religion are not so different after all. In addition to the above, many claim that religion is not open to change while science always is. This is not necessarily a fact. Many powerful scientists in the past have had their findings challenged and fought to maintain their theories as truth despite new evidence. And many religious organizations today have adapted to modern times. Essentially, there is no wholesome truth about either science or religion. Neither is perfect nor has an answer to all.