"Our unique ability to invent fictions and then believe them."
You might think he would give religion as an example of an invented fiction that humans then believe in but, no..."Money", he said. Haran points out that money doesn't actually exist. The paper dollar has no intrinsic value in fact. Neither does that number on your bank statement. There aren;t even paper dollars sitting in a vault somewhere that exist in that case. That number on your bank statement only has value if you believe it has value. It is a fiction that exists and has an effect only if we believe in it!
I had not thought of it that way, having been conditioned by my upbringing to count my pennies as having actual value. My childhood was enough years back that the penny of that day did in fact have value because it was actually made of copper. Not true of today's coin. After thinking about this, I have to conclude that Haran did in fact give one of the major religions as his example. The one universal religion shared across every sect is money.
Now enter E. O. Wilson who says, "I'm NOT an atheist but religion should be eliminated!"
"Humans everywhere have a strong tendency to wonder about whether they're being looked over by a god or not. Practically every person ponders whether they're going to have another life. These are the things that unite humanity.
"This transcendent searching has been hijacked by the tribal religions. So I would say that for the sake of human progress, the best thing we could possibly do would be to diminish, to the point of eliminating, religious faiths. But certainly not eliminating the natural yearnings of our species or the asking of these great questions."
E. O. Wilson International Business Times Story
Wilson says that he is not an atheist, he is a scientist. I think we're playing on semantics here but I get his point. A truly thoughtful person understands the difference between saying, "since there is no evidence for the existence of something then it must not exist" and saying, "there is no scientific evidence so while I think it is most unlikely, there is always the possibility that the thing in question exists." The difference between science and religion is the difference between "think" and "believe". Back to Wilson's observations:
"...every tribe, no matter how generous, benign, loving and charitable, nonetheless looks down on all other tribes. What's dragging us down is religious faith."Let's note that each of the three major religious faiths in today's world has as its foundation, what is called in the Christian version, The Old Testament. All three versions are mostly identical except for minor differences and all three call for killing those who don't share the "One true faith". Think about that. You might look up the definition of irony while you're thinking. It's different from sarcasm but springs from another distinctly human trait that not all humans share, unfortunately.
Now usually when E. O. Wilson speaks I listen...And when my opinion differs from his I usually work on changing my position but not in this case. Wilson wants to replace religion with science. I think that idea neglects a most basic human trait. It is not only as Haran says that humans invent fictions and then believe them...It is that we MUST believe them. It is in our DNA at this point. Even mine!
I personally have looked at my religious tradition and find that while there are truly lovely and poetic aspects of it that I dearly love, there is in fact absolutely no evidence whatsoever that its tenets were given to a small middle eastern nomadic tribe above all other humans on the planet by a supernatural entity. None! Yet it and thousands of other forms of the belief in the supernatural exist and thrive, regardless of the incredible suffering they bestow on humans, both individually and as a whole.
What to do?
Wilson wants to replace science with religion. I think that's a noble idea that would work nicely if there were no humans involved. The human brain as it is now constructed must have a religion. It is obvious that the ones we have now are miserable failures, with emphasis on "miserable". I conclude that we need a great new progressive religion that is not based on the contradictory , bloody, and murderous Old Testament but on scientific thinking coupled with kindness toward others and reverence for the great natural systems of our planet which allow our survival. It was kindness, after all, that was the great simplified message of Jesus. A new gospel must be written and proselytized or human civilization will vanish from planet earth. As it is we are headed toward a great showdown between religious empires. Either one of them will triumph and the humankind will end in environmental destruction. Or they will all destroy each other in a more immediate weapon formulated Armageddon.
I hereby call for a new Council of Nicea to write the new religion. The old testament must have the stories of how supernatural beliefs were used to drive murder and war (Hitler claim he was doing Jesus' work in ridding the world of Jews, for instance). The evils of the "one true religion" must be demonstrated in children's fables. Our history abounds with morality plays that show the evils of organized religion, such as the Christianity justified extermination of native Americans and the Old Testament justified enslavement of Africans. These new gospels must be written with kindness and forgiveness..."They know not what they do"...."Go and sin no more!"
Above all we must understand that the greatest act of kindness toward one another is given in the care of our Earth. The Earth has been in it's current existence for roughly 4.5 Billion years...Mankind for less than 250 Thousand. As things look now we are in our last millenia unless we do something.Mankind needs religion. Let us be the creators this time and build a new one that won't fail us as all the others before have done. Let us create a new religion best said in the line;
"I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together"
Let us create a new religion.
Let us revere fact, and science, and critical thinking.
Let us act in kindness toward others as ourselves.
Let us write new songs to sing.
Let us know that the ultimate kindness to others is caring for the Earth and its great systems that sustain our lives.
Let us face the knowledge that this will be hard.
Let us replace believing with thinking.
After all, this is simply love.