Another take I have is that religion is useful to the extent that it is comforting to people to think that when they die, they dont really die. I think the belief in religion is a self-preservation mechanism overall and its heavily rooted in our evolutionary past.
Richard Dawkins long before he wrote about the God Delusion wrote about our genes in The Selfish Gene. Roughly the premise of the book and what he laid out in-between was evidence showing that we make most of our decisions based upon the maxim of the principle: SURVIVE AT ALL COSTS (hence, The SELFISH Gene). [...]
Getting back to Religion; since survival is so hard wired, its no wonder we WANT to believe in the idea of SURVIVAL even AFTER we pass on. Its so hard wired as an instinct that it doesnt matter if it doesnt make any LOGICAL sense, since survival itself is a primitive reptilian pre-logic force, we have a desire to want to survive and keep surviving and so anything that BEST allows us to do that, we will be predisposed to want to believe it. [...]
i'm lovin' your thought process here. it really mirrors my own thoughts when i started thinking about religion seriously. here's something i wrote up when i was a kid (and liked to write real fancy-like). it was inspired by some long nights of reading Nietzsche and not Dawkins, but we came to the same place i think.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty--that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know," wrote a poet named John Keats a long time ago. Our minds have evolved to equate beauty with truth. But our truth is not some intangible thing. It is anything life-furthering and species-preserving. That is truth. To deny this is to deny ourselves and what we are.
We embrace beauty in all its forms, the foremost and progenitor of all worldly beauty for us being the beauty of the human form. Someone who sees nothing of beauty in the world can still see it in the human form, since it is a basic part of ourselves. To recognize human beauty is the most fundamental species-preserving trait we have. Without it we would become extinct, for the sole purpose of recognizing human beauty is to procreate. But beauty takes many forms in our world because of the fact we can recognize human beauty--symmetry, proportion, color, form, and ultimately purpose. We have abstracted beauty, abstracted symmetry, proportion, form, color and purpose into the physical and the theoretical: poetry, music, painting, architecture, literature, government, philosophy, and religion.
Beauty is truth to us; truth is beautiful to us. That which furthers our life and furthers our species is beautiful to us, desirable for us. Religion furthers our life and furthers our species eternally, thus it is eternally and absolutely beautiful. So, being that which is beautiful to us is truth to us, religion has become the absolute and eternal truth.
Conversely, atheism does not qualify as beautiful. It does not further life and does not further the species. It does not give you assurance in life or promise immortality. It does not ring of truth, since it is not beautiful in the way we have evolved to recognize beauty. The atheist thus seeks to become more than his instincts. The atheist asserts that beauty is NOT all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. We recognize that beyond the biological level, our falsest opinions are that which is most life-furthering and species-preserving. That which we are extremely drawn to by its absolute beauty is that which is absolutely false.
As an atheist, I break from my biological instinct and my base desires to seek out only beauty. I am wary of that which is most beautiful to me--the absolutely beautiful. These things are nothing to me but surgically enlarged breasts and buttocks and lips, fake and artificial but beautiful on a superficial level. Religion is thus a grossly enlarged fake and artificial human abstraction to me that is only superficially beautiful. I try to understand why I am strongly compelled by subconscious instincts and desires on a rational level. I choose to evolve and better my self on a conscious level.
But my opinion is my opinion, and you have not easily a right to it.
- July 2002