Thursday, February 09, 2023

A Higher Purpose

 I know, it's a long quote to be stuck in as though it's a meme, but it's a topic I've discussed with others more than a few times, over the past few years (including just yesterday, with me muddah).

I'm an outsider to religion in general, having been raised agnostic. Still, over the years, I've begun to recognize there are logical benefits which come of those religions in widespread practice today. 

This is what I've gleaned, so far: most modern religions have been built on the idea that man can and must rise above his animal nature, and the structures of those faiths provide guidelines for doing this. A successful religion persuades entire societies to become forward-thinking and civilized (what Shapiro and others will call "Godly"), creating advantage for both the individual and the collective – be it family, church, community, tribe, or nation. 

The most powerful message in all of these religions is "control your impulses." Acting without thinking can have dire consequences – whether it's the toddler grasping for something on a hot stove, or the man who seduces his friend's wife. The child risks deadly burns, and the man – at best – ends up with a woman he knows can not be trusted, and loses his friend in the process. At worst… we've all seen the headlines. 

Codes of conduct such as the Ten Commandments benefit individuals even more than they do the group, eliminating "blowback" or cascading risks for the person who chooses to live by the code, greasing the gears of society. But more importantly, they provide a means for learning to respect oneself. They are goalposts, exercises in self-improvement (toward enlightenment or godliness); with each goal met, strength deepens and confidence grows.

Spiritually strong individuals make strong societies. Persons who live beyond the moment are able – and often eager – to lift up others who are less capable, who, in turn, help the weaker still and (as has often been said), a rising tide lifts all boats.

Any set of beliefs which fails to encourage thoughtfulness and restraint must therefore fail human civilization, and deserves to be relegated to the ash heap of history, lest humanity end up there instead.

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