Is Religion Temporary?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

For some secular, non-religious people, their hope is that religious people will some day be the minority, that mankind will finally grow out of this unfortunate phase of history.  Religion may have helped our distant ancestors to explain where we came from, why we are here, why we have moral feelings, why we are unhappy, and where we are headed after we die.  The answers that religion provided gave aid and comfort in the face of a hostile world.

But, the secularist may argue, we don’t need religion any more.  The scientific method has served to successfully explain many aspects of the world that our ancestors did not understand.  Religion is on the way out.

Are the secularists right?  Will mankind move beyond religious answers?  Will the deepest desires of man be fulfilled without religion?

I do not see this happening any time soon, if ever.  The worship of God seems like a permanent need built in mankind, not something temporary that will disappear in the near future.  Pastor and author Timothy Keller has the following to say about man and religion in his book The Reason for God:

Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment.  Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition.  This is a bitter pill for secular, nonreligious people to swallow.  Everyone wants to think that they are in the mainstream, that they are not extremists.  But robust religious beliefs dominate the world.  There is no reason to expect that to change.

For the foreseeable future, those who deny the existence of the supernatural will remain in the small minority, as they always have.  It is always possible that they are right and the religious are wrong, but the entire history of man is the history of belief in the supernatural, not just by a few, but by the many.  Humans seek the supernatural – that’s who we are.

  • I don’t think that religion is going to disappear anytime soon either. I think that certain spiritual needs or inclinations are hardwired into the human psyche. I suspect that it was an evolutionary adaptation that enabled man to cope with the awareness of his own mortality.

    On the other hand, I think Keller’s comment is ridiculous. It does not bother me at all that my views on religion are not “mainstream.”

  • Andrew Ryan

    “…the entire history of man is the history of belief in the supernatural, not just by a few, but by the many.”

    One could equally say that the entire history of man is a history of killing, cheating, war and sin. Certainly those who don’t partake in these activities are in the minority. I take pride in being in that minority.

  • There was an interesting line from George Orwell’s 1984 that I can’t quite recall off the top of my head….but it was something about how it’s entirely possible for one man to be sane when everyone else is crazy.

    The idea being that just because an idea is popular, or enduring, doesn’t mean it’s right. I really wish Christians would get a grasp on this concept.

  • Boz

    Timothy Keller said:

    “Religion is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition. Robust religious beliefs dominate the world. There is no reason to expect that to change.”

    Does Timothy Keller produce arguments to support these assertions? if so, what are they?

  • Todd

    I would tend to agree with Bill here. I don’t see religion going anywhere anytime soon. The face of religion is ever changing. From crude unorganized belief (think cavemen), to polytheism (Romans/Hindu), to monotheism (Judaism), to monotheistic sects (Christianity/Muslim), and the future is unknown but likely a further segregation.

    Religion is more of a social organization where people can find a sense of belonging to something that is greater than ones self. I have never had a problem with that concept, it is a concept at the core of secular humanism, and I think that is why religion endures. Religion a powerful uniter of people, and we are social animals.

    The danger of religion is the dogma under which those people unite. I believe if you take a normal person and examine the evidence in favor of the supernatural, the rational conclusion is that there is no evidence. So why the pretense? That is perhaps an answer for another reply. But what I find fascinating is the degree to which a person will suspend reality in order to hold on to irrational belief. My gut feeling is that they are clinging tightly to the social organization that includes their family, friends, and neighbors… but more likely the fear of not belonging.

  • Ian A

    However if you look at the Anthropic Principle at http://ncronline.org/blogs/eco-catholic/fine-tuned-universe-part-one maybe there is something to religion.
    Also I have been reading ‘What we can’t know’ by J.Budziszweski in which he discusses natural law. In the past everyone agreed that there was a universal common ground in that the murderer knew it was wrong to murder, the adulterer knew it was wrong to commit adultery. But now, he mentions the bioethicist Jonathan Glover, who states that some humans are more valuable than others, and so some don’t have a right to life. He regards abortion at any stage to be OK, and it is OK if the mother wants a holiday abroad. Budziszweski sums it up by saying from this standpoint we make up our moral principles as we go along. We can re-create morality to suit ourselves.

  • Andrew Ryan

    The good thing is the in general I believe the negative effects of religion may be gradually getting minimised. Fewer people nowadays justify racist or homophobic beliefs through their religion, and I expect this trend will continue.

  • Andrew EC

    This is a ridiculous argument.

    There are approximately 2 billion Christians in the world. That’s a lot of people, to be sure. But there are approximately 1.1 billion people classified as secular/atheist/agnostic. (See: http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html )

    Combine the secularists with the polytheists, tribalists, spiritualists, Buddhists, etc., and one can truthfully say that the overwhelming majority of humanity rejects monotheism.

    Bill: you don’t honestly believe that you have anything in common with New Agers, polytheists, Buddhists, Hindus, and tribalists. You’re just playing a silly numbers game trying to claim them on your side as “not atheists.”

    It’s true — “not atheists” are not the majority of the earth’s population — at least, not yet. But you Christians have a 2,000-year head start and we’ve almost caught up with you already. Are you sure you want to bet against us??? 🙂