Atheism/Religon as magic
Are our present religions just forms of magic like those of our ancestors and the religions of the ancient and primitive past, back to the stone age and prior to that? We exist in mystery. We desire control.
Religion offers control and an escape from a final death
Hi Charlie. Interesting question.
Every culture and society in every part of the world since the beginning of the human race has formed some type of religion or spiritual practice. Though these religions varied greatly in the rites and rituals they developed, in the beliefs they espoused, and even in the view of who or what they thought the Ultimate Reality or the Divine might be, they all had something in common. Each religion was that culture's attempt to explain the unknown factors of our existence, and to connect with something larger than themselves.
It is my contention that in the days before global communications, it was excusable and appropriate to see one's own culture and religion as central, and to see all the others as not counting quite as much. But now that we can compare all these religions with a few clicks of a mouse, we actually have to work really hard to maintain such insular and provincial worldview.
In the backdrop of the vast quantity of information available in today's culture, I believe is it appropriate to recognize that humans seem to have a need to connect with something greater than themselves. This can be found in work, family, hobbies, etc. but most often it is some type of community, and most often a religious community of some sort. This is a good thing. Religions serve a good purpose in this sense - so long as they don't get carried away with exclusivist and triumphalist concepts. i.e. "Ours is the only right religion." "You have to believe to be 'saved." It is then that they become toxic.
Also, a person must grow in a spiritual sense to get to where they can deal well with the unexplained mysteries of our existence. People at a lower spiritual level NEED the firm explanations that religion can provide. i.e. "How did we get here?" and "What happens after death?"
So religions actually provide a good service to people who still need existential answers. The fact that the answers are not LITERALLY correct does not detract from their usefulness to a certain element of society. And the form of connection religions provide is also a great service for those whose lives don't provide that sense of connection in other areas.
Are religions forms of magic? I prefer my kinder explanation above. Never doubt that there are those who desperately NEED the services religion provides. It is all a matter of spiritual stage. In this sense, atheists who have reasoned themselves out of literal belief are more advanced - yes, in a spiritual sense - than those who have not. But the most spiritually advanced often come full circle, rejoining with some religion or spiritual practice, not out of their own personal need, but out of a desire to contribute their own special gifts to the well-being of that community.