Yesterday we saw why political society should not take an inferior place to Religion. Today we will end our consideration of the Myth of Religion by discussing the truly useful and beneficial role Religion can play in society.
Religion’s useful role in society
All this criticism of Religion that we have covered during the previous week does not imply that it has no useful role at all to play in society. We have meant to show only that Religion should play no direct role in government. This is because Religion, as it is practiced by the majority of believers, can do nothing directly to make government better. On the contrary, as we have seen, it tends to make government worse by increasing the intransigence of religious partisans. It is almost impossible to find compromise—a necessary element of government—when you think that the slightest deviation from your beliefs will cause you to forfeit your immortal soul.
Nevertheless, Religion can indirectly benefit society. The proper place of Religion in human life is to link people back to the source of their being, to remind them, and make present to them, the source that stands behind their lives, the power than makes the world beautiful, awe-inspiring, and lovely. If Religion was pursued with its proper end in mind, more people would be at peace with themselves and with others, and the need for vicious attack and refusal to compromise would cease. Indeed, the need for government would begin to wane as well. For what is government but an attempt to restrain people from misbehaving, or, to put it another way, an attempt to force people to do what they should do anyway?
We have seen that the Myth of Religion causes people to get their religious beliefs mixed up with their political beliefs, and that this must be harmful to society because Religion as it is currently practiced can do nothing directly to improve society. But because Religion exudes an aura of great antiquity, the Myth of Religion is almost imperceptibly confused with the next Major Myth: the Myth of Tradition. We will take up the difficulties generated by a mistaken reverence for Tradition beginning tomorrow.
Until tomorrow, then.
13 December 2012
by Alfred George filed under