Professor Alexandra Asbille
March 12th, 2012
On the Nature of Religion
Throughout history it can clearly be seen that religion has played an important role in people’s lives. It is the one thing that is consistent across every culture. From Scandinavia to Japan, and from Ireland to Argentina, religion has played a role in the development of these societies. It does not matter what language the people speak or what they wear. Religion seems to bridge the gap without problem, rapidly spreading from one place to another in a matter of centuries, despite there being a cultural and language barrier.
What makes religion so incredibly effective? Why is it that the concept has existed for literally as long as humanity has existed? What is the relationship between religion and culture? Are they two distinct entities, or are they two different manifestations of the same phenomenon?
In order to answer these questions, first, a mutual platform must be developed and agreed upon, which will serve as the basis for development and proposal of arguments. First and foremost, this paper is a rational inquiry about the nature of religion, and as such this paper will establish arguments and analyze religion through the lens of rationality and science. This is not a paper about causality. The arguments developed here are built on the foundations of Objectivism, scientific realism, empirical analysis and strict adherence to logic. Furthermore, religion has to be rigorously defined. Such a definition, however, is difficult to establish. Religion, as stated above, is a global phenomenon that is as old, even older still, than written history. And so establishing a general definition for a phenomenon that has such a wide range of variety is challenging. Nonetheless, henceforth, religion shall be defined as any ideology that proposes supernatural causes as an explanation for the natural world. Furthermore, religion is a purely psychological phenomenon that is developed through culture and can be studied and described in psychological terms.
Reality is defined in many ways. Some people claim that reality is relative and that different realities can exist independent of one another (Kashaba). They claim that reality is not a static entity, and that it is fluid, dynamic, it changes over time, for each individual. Objectivism defines reality as one (rand 1016). Reality exists, independent of our thoughts and feelings, and independent of other external factors. We can interact with reality and perceive it through our senses, but it is static, the same for everyone. It is absolute. From this proposition it follows that there are absolute truths and absolute falsehoods and that rational, objective thought could be used to distinguish between the two. Truths are part of reality if our inquiries consistently and independent of other inquiries suggest that those truths or facts are true and part of reality. A fundamental property of reality is that it has a degree of uncertainty when measured. Reality can be probed by inquiry, but aspects of it remain hidden to the observers until additional information is obtained. This can be demonstrated by the “Blind Men and an Elephant Story”. The elephant is the absolute reality. The blind men proposed their interpretations of reality based on their personal inquiries, however due to the uncertainty inherently present in the measurement of reality, their conclusions were wrong. Only when the elephant was examined in its entirety and when their individual inquiries were shared and aggregated, did a coherent and complete description of the elephant arise. And so any description of reality must be consistent with the conclusions of inquiry. What follows is profound. Every description of reality is subject to future revision and rigorous objective and rational analysis; there is uncertainty in measuring reality and there is interdependence in descriptions of reality. Furthermore,...