3.  Comments Regarding the Phenomenon of ”Religion”


The above presentation leads to the question how religions originate, are maintained, and elaborated in human thought, as well as possibly also in the thought of other “conscious” beings in the universe. One has to consider three important components in this context:


*       The search of humans to explain observed phenomena through findings of causality.

*       The capability of the human brain for thought visualizations (concepts or images appearing in the mind independent of sensory perceptions – in the course of thoughts and in dreams developed, changed, and expanded).  These visualizations can be mentally processed and expanded as in a virtual reality and, at times, be equated to reality. [1]

*       The tendency of most humans to hold on to a once-accepted system of concepts.


The similarity of sleep and death leads to the presumed parallelism between dream and a continued existing of human awareness or the “soul” after death and a spiritual next world. 


The first statement leads to the explaining of special natural and mental phenomena by means of causing forces to which, consequently, a reality has to be accorded.


The capability to establish and enhance thought visualizations lets vague ideas or weak perceptions – as, for example, a breeze of air, a shadow, or an effect of light – develop into concepts of spiritual beings.  A continued expansion of such concepts leads to almost any concepts of gods, as they appear in the religions of various cultures.  Increasing philosophical thought and observation of life and nature lead to higher religions – that still remain virtual realities.


Therefore, religiosity must be expected in all human cultures.  In other words, religiosity does not occur naturally by itself, but necessarily in consequence of the capability for visualizations in the course of human thought, as a virtual reality in the minds of humans.


Once the virtual reality has found a certain inner coherence and becomes part of cultural tradition, even increasing contradictions with better insights into actual reality at first do not bring changes of religious concepts or philosophical dogma.  The reason may be a defense against loss of mental security or destabilization of cultural coherence, especially since contradictory insights initially don’t offer new, internally coherent systems of thought.  The defense of the habitual religion or the habitual system of thought occurs mainly through selective observation or formation of personal preferences and priorities.  Thereby, each religion finds enough observations that justify its continued existence and people define what they consider as the most important argument. 


Additionally, the administrators of these religions – the priests – do not want to lose their positions; nor do the simple people want to lose the traditions they are endeared to – that provide security – in case of Christianity, even the hope for a much better existence in a next world.    


Thus, many people live in two worlds, the religious and the real one – Sundays in prayer and in church, Mondays in business or in the scientific laboratory.


Human religious thought went already once through a big step of abstraction when the animist polytheism was displaced by the faith in only one God in heaven.  The quiet springs in nature did not harbor nymphs any longer, the wild oceans were no longer ruled by Poseidon, and the sun was not a God-driven heavenly chariot any longer.  How was it possible that all those deities that were so evident before, were now, all of a sudden, said never to have existed?  The diverse Christian cults of saints and the adoration of Mary, with numerous chapels and places of pilgrimage where absolution could be obtained, were a substitute that did people good.


Now, the necessity for another step arises – for a theology that does not only explain human life and sees the world in human dimensions (as Christian theology mainly focuses on), but to a theology that also includes the greatness and the dynamic character of the universe, that knows about the origin but also about the vanishing of many billions of galaxies and that puts us humans in our place therein.  Such recognition leads to further abstraction of our view of the transcendental force of Creation and our existence and, therewith, also leads to the heavily counting loss of a faith in a much humanized, “personal” God-“Father” who walks hand-in-hand with us through life.


But one should not thoughtlessly take away the all too human concepts from those here on Earth, who find therein a very significant comfort and ultimate support in their often so very difficult lives.  Because, where, after all, can we go when suffering severe strokes of fate or in caring compassion?  Some aspects of Christian faith are among the most touching, supportive, and challenging visualizations of human development in thought and emotions – arising out of the potential of our nature that was given to us by Creation – and providing some direction for our real lives. 


On the other hand, one should gladly get rid of those abuses of religion that where such a burden to mankind throughout history and still are in our time.


We actually need four levels of human faith: 


o      The old cult of offering sacrifices and giving thanks to the forces of nature and of destiny in a simple way – for those who live close to nature and for the simple of mind.

o      The strict faith in moral laws and a divine judgment – for our urban societies as they become wealth-, power-, and pleasure-oriented.

o      The faith in humanly addressable forces of destiny, in forgiveness, love, and a merciful “God-Father” – for all who struggle in life, who search, and must often suffer so much, also in compassion – and also for the gratefully joyful ones.

o      The abstract view of the grandiose, dynamic universe and of the uniqueness of the consciously thinking, sensing, and acting living beings therein – with the need for active and responsible struggle in life, but also with the possibility of personal development and service to others, with responsibility for the environment entrusted to them, with joy in observing Creation, and with acceptance of the unavoidable.


Each of these forms of religiosity is justified by, or based on, a personal, individual observation of Creation and human life: 


*       The basic religions are based on a view of a divinely enlivened Creation close to nature – as in the old religions of all agricultural people who prayed for harvest – with the exception of the degeneration of certain sacrifice and ritual cults that historically developed out of them.  The more modern, romantic love of a harmonious nature at the root of our natural being and longing for peace therein is an extension of this old religion, based on human need and selective observation.

*       The religions focused on divine laws are justified by the need for a higher foundation of those laws beyond arbitrary change and interpretation in our selfish and materialistic urban societies – if not leading to obsession with the exaggerated observation of spurious laws.

*       Faith in a God-Father is based on the emotions as given to us by nature and on our values that search in the originating force of Creation for their own origin, their lively resonance, and, emotionally, for personal help in fate – if not historically exaggerated in a fixation on human guilt and paralyzed by intellectual, stubborn, narrow doctrine, ritual, and priestly hierarchies.  

*       The abstract view is based on the view of a transcendental foundation of the originating, evolving, and vanishing Creation, its structure by the laws of nature and its dimensions of freedom, as well as on the recognition of the limitations of humans, but also their unique opportunities and responsibilities in the fulfillment of their lives and participation in their surrounding world – if not degenerated into moral instability and emptiness of the soul.


Ultimately, there should be no difference between science and religion or theology. 


There can be no dominant position of science where there is no factual knowledge.  Science is well advised not to overly intellectualize matters of human emotions and sensibility for beauty.  The reduction of human emotions and sensibility for beauty to utilitarianism has obvious limits as shown by experience with the unrestrained exclusivity of such an approach.  Their reduction to a level of scientific understanding is not always a justification for prescriptive formulations.


There can be no dominant position for theological doctrine where there is no knowledge.  Theology and religious thought are well advised not to overly mystify matters that can be addressed rationally.  There are obvious limits for the assumption of rigid positions or dictating behavior on the basis of beliefs as shown by experience with the unrestrained exclusivity of such an approach.  The elevation of specific religious thought by some believers to a presumed level of divine will is not a justification for the setting of generally binding, global doctrine.


There will always be plenty of room for differences of view between the scientific search or methodological limitations and the theological speculation or religious fervor.  Careful restraint in such areas of contradiction and humbly projected expectations should be a base for dialog.


After all, there is still the political sphere of thought, legislation, behavior, and arbitration – as in assessing the rights between individuals, societies, or nations – where neither science nor religion should attempt to be the controlling force – at best, plain ethical thought and practical experience can suggest solutions.



[1]  The manipulation of visualizations occurs in the minds of technical designers in the process of creating a new product.  Most people can draw pictures of objects, individuals, or situations that they heard about.  A more life-like development of visualizations occurs to writers of fiction novels.  They often experience how characters in such fictions take on “a life of their own”.  These characters can develop their personality, go through experiences of their fictitious life, and make decision leading to consequences.  It is not uncommon that people – and not only children – believe in stories, which they invented (visualized) themselves, when their ideas were very intense, when they were important to them, or after telling or hearing them often enough.  This can be observed in all historic religions and ideologies, even in our own time in political systems with exaggerated personality worship of their leaders.