Friday, March 3, 2017

A Little Magic

3rd March 2017

Every author has their little hobby horse, and I am no exception. In fact, some may argue that I like rocking on my ideological pony more than most. But what moves me more than any other is the question of humankind and religion. If you live in the USA, then you are in the majority if you claim allegiance to Christianity and close to the majority if you believe that God created humans in their present form a few thousand years ago. Statistics change a little when you look at Europe, where eighty percent of adults believe Darwin was on to something. In Great Britain, where only six percent of the population goes to church, Darwin's face is even on the money.

The church is trying to stop the slide by recasting itself as a social service, which admittedly has been its best face throughout history. Christians will even suggest that without Christianity we might never have had high art or advanced thinking or developed a social conscience. And some Christians trying to stem the hemorrhage play the all-inclusive card. There is a cloister not too far from where I sit whose adherents sound veritably Buddhist.
But it is all just a finger in the dam. The history of Christianity is just too damning; its central tenet of  Original Sin is just too damaging.
America will catch up. Christianity has already seen a ten percent decline here in the last ten years, roughly equivalent to the dying off of the old folks. And when its young people join the rest of the young people in the developed world, we will all be living in a post-Christian world.
So, the question I am concerned about is this: after religion, what then? I am reading a book right now called "Waking Up" by Sam Harris, an atheist and neuroscientist who is addressing this issue. His stance is Buddhist which requires no leap of faith, and yet he has this annoying scientific parrot on his shoulder that keeps insisting on the sanctity of reason. I appreciate that Harris is trying to explore a spirituality after religion, but what he's offering is rather dry, at least his parrot's version of it is. He pulls on his scientific chops and won't admit that what he's offering relies upon a whole gamut of unproven and unprovable assumptions about reality and value.
The problem with this humanistic approach to spirituality is that it doesn't give us what humans have always hankered after, and what is by nature irrational: magic.

We don't need religion for this. In fact, history suggests that organised religion is actually antithetical to it. But humankind hankers after it nonetheless - how else can you explain a culture's wholesale plunge into the world of Harry Potter? We want the suggestion that this world of the five senses is not all there is. We are in our inception Homo Religiosus, and we will always look up at the stars and see things that aren't there. This is what the spirituality of the future is going to have to take into account  I don't know what the answer is, myself. I know we can't go back to being druids dancing around fires. And I know that at all costs the spectre of dogma must be guarded against. In terms of our evolving spirituality it is much easier to see what it should not be than what it could be. But part of the answer has to be an honest look at where the religious spark came from in the first place.

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