In my mind, there are two methods by which we adopt and accumulate philosophies. On the one hand, there is through religious doctrine, and on the other, there is cultural influence. Of course there is cross-pollination from both, but for this particular example I will explain it as if those who undergo religious educations are apart from those who absorb their ethics from various sources in society. Here is a small example of what I am talking about:
I would like to mention at this point that I am not religious or spiritual, but that I understand those who are, and their reasons for being so. I also understand those who are not. As I’ve illustrated, there are positive and negative aspects to both sources.
One of the things that I’ve noticed in (Western) society is the gradual erosion of ethics and binding agents that make us a society, turning us simply into a large number of people living in the same space. What I believe is missing is a cause, or purpose, which pushes us to act for the common weal. In this instance, I mean people who are mostly atheistic or non-believing. This would make sense, since, not having, like religious people, a deity above us, we only have ourselves to answer to.
This was for me a great cause of misery and dark introspection for a very long time. Ever since Friedrich Nietzsche told us that God was dead, and Jean-Paul Sartre philosophized that life was meaningless, we’ve more or less been mired in our own vain pursuits, allowing ourselves to delve deeply into our animal urges. Those who have not, for having seen the utter pointlessness of doing even that, have spiraled down the path of Nihilism and depression.
Just as a quick reminder, those seven deadly sins that Catholics and Christians believe will send you straight to some version of hell were deemed so because they were disruptive to the proper working of society. That’s the stuff we weren’t supposed to do, or else bad things would happen to us. I don’t think there is a hell. I do think that allowing ourselves to dive deep into all those negative traits is one of the major reasons why we’re going from decadence to destruction, though.
As I said, it’s not because something is deemed a “religious thought” that it’s wrong. Thought is human first, then fitted into some system for its own purposes.
On the one hand, I see us having freed ourselves from religious dogma and antiquated scriptures and laws. Nowadays, people really pick and choose the passages they want to believe in. No one in the Western World will get stoned for adultery. No one will go to Hell for eating shellfish, or wearing clothes of mixed fabric. Thank goodness.
On the other, though, I do think we threw out the baby with the bathwater. We got rid of all the bad aspects of religion, to replace it with— nothing. Or rather, we turned away from a “higher purpose”, to concentrate on ourselves alone (and our immediate families and friends). We’re not so much a “society”, as a group of tribes living among each other and policed by what is now the higher power, our government. Our pursuits are now money, sex, war, and all those obsessions we were supposed to avoid. We always did obsess over them, but now we’ve lost the thing that guided us beyond our primal urges. These “sins” are all, of course, natural pursuits, albeit pushed to obsession. As humans who are looking to evolve and survive, however, we have to develop pursuits that go beyond our “natural” ones. We have to concentrate on our futures. For that, we have to focus on a common goal which does not involve annihilating each other or ripping apart the only planet we have, result which we will achieve either actively or through inaction. Which brings me to another point:
We’ve also lost the urge to govern our own lives. We leave that business to a handful of men and women who pay us lip service once every four years, and then go back to the business of robbing us blind and selling us out. We pay attention long enough to pick the one who won’t screw us over too badly, we hope, then go back to our regular pursuits. We are as much to blame as they are.
I have to admit, I find it all a bit sad. I know we can do better than that. For example, the fact that we get to pick our purpose, if we so desire. I wallowed in misery and hopelessness for so long because I didn’t ever realize I could choose my own purpose, which, by making it something higher than myself, transformed it from something banal and pointless into a worthy pursuit.
I’m not talking about finding a deity, although if that’s your thing, I really don’t have a problem with it. It’s just that a lot of people define who they are by finding something to oppose, and if you are one of those people who can see beyond that little trap, all the power to you. Who you are should be defined by your purpose, not your nemesis. If worshiping God, to you, means helping the less fortunate and being a loving person, you’re doing it right. If it means that you have to hate other religions and whatever interpretation of your scriptures tells you is an enemy, you’re doing it wrong. I’ve known enough people who defined their religious belief not through love but through condemnation.
The same goes for atheists. I’ve spent a bit too much time on the comments section of Atheist Facebook pages not to realize that one of the salient points that their members held was that all religions were bad. End of story. Listen folks, don’t define who you are by hating those who are different. It’s beneath you. At the same time, it just shows us that we’re all limited human beings who need to grow.
What I came up with was an amalgamation of both structure and secularism. This is the basic framework of Universal Sentience. On the one hand, you are free to believe what you wish, but on the other, Humanity is the “Higher Power” for whom we should be working for. When I say secularism, I don’t mean that those who partake must be atheists. What I’m saying is that it is a philosophy open to all, as long as they are willing to accept the two tenets of Science as the yardstick for truth and Love as the engine for action. Simple.
If you think about it, it’s is a good alternative for those looking for answers who do not necessarily want to become religious, as well, the structure is open enough that all may enter, their religious background not being an impediment. The ultimate goal, is, after all, the betterment and survival of humanity.
For that to happen, we need to be able to acquire knowledge from a vast array of sources, and question all our realities. The first step is to unite in knowledge and love, all over this planet.