Religion and civilization
Just read a kind of interesting note on religion and its effect on people. The writer noted (sort of) that complete hostility seems misplaced when treating religion even from a skeptical point of view, since most people need religion to support their morality most of the time. Religion has a "civilizing effect", and while religious fervour might have led to outbreaks of savagery, human society might well be more brutish without its influence.
Well, that's a lot of ifs. I have to admit that I'm rather skeptical of religions. Faith in general is something I look upon more kindly, and I can understand the belief in the existence of God. Unfortunately, I can't in good conscience accept such belief as truthful, because doing so would mean forsaking strict standards of thought for comforting superstition. Kind of like taking all the things you don't understand and slapping on the label "religion".
In any case, I've come across this idea before, and I can certainly accept it with some reservations. Religion is probably an essential feature in the process of civilization we go through, and it answers our need for explanations in a rather simple and understandable manner. It is also a structuring process taking place inside a society, or perhaps better said to be a structural part of the whole society and thus part of the whole process that instills values in individuals.
An interesting aspect of this is how different religions are suitable for different social conditions, and of course, how they adapt to those contexts. Unfortunately, the most powerful religions pretty much end up as part of the established power structure, and often impose severe limits on intellectual freedom inside the society. General attitudes and interests tend more and more towards truths established by the dominant religion, which in turn means that other explorations are rejected or even treated with hostility as a challenge to the reliability of the religion's message. The more powerful a religion is, the more extensive and insidious this effect tends to be.
Well, that should be enough of high-handed generalizations for now.
Anyway, happy Chinese New Year. Year of the Rooster, here we come.