What atheists can learn from religion: This op-ed is by an atheist and is asks a critical question — does religion have any value to the non-believer? He says yes, because there are issues with the human condition that religion was “invented” (his word) to solve, which non-belief cannot fix.
We can then recognize that we invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise.
God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes.
In the end, he finds value.
Religions merit our attention for their sheer conceptual ambition; for changing the world in a way that few secular institutions ever have. They have managed to combine theories about ethics and metaphysics with practical involvement in education, fashion, politics, travel, hostelry, initiation ceremonies, publishing, art and architecture — a range of interests which puts to shame the scope of the achievements of even the greatest and most influential secular movements and individuals in history.