I suppose I’m following the counsel of President Hinckley when he said if Joseph Smith did not have the First Vision then this is all a fraud!
I’m trying to be authentic, so for me that means living true to what I’ve discovered about objective reality. If something is not true I believe it disconnects me from reality if I believe & follow it.
However, I accept that people have various reasons for believing in religion: a sense of community, a purpose or meaning of life & a sense of security.
But I also think those things are ultimately built on crumbly foundations if not built on objective, factual Truth!
In the end I am not a relativist, believing that truth is whatever you want to believe. I think truth is solid, reliable, provable & real.
I think the reason religion has such a strong appeal is due to the power of stories, myths & legends on our psyche.
I believe stories, whether true or false, have power.
I think stories can inspire & motivate us. They can teach us useful principles & lessons on good social relations etc.
I’m reminded of Aesop’s Fables.
I think the problem occurs when the story-teller promotes their fictional narrative to the status of factual truth or reality. Especially when the narrative is absurd & bizarre and not related to reality. I think then the danger is that superstitious minds can start to become disconnected from the natural world, other people & their day to day lives, as they start to believe in irrational, supernatural powers & events.
I believe evolutionary psychologists have explained this tendency as an advantageous adaption for our ancient ancestors to cope with a scary dangerous natural world they couldn’t explain or understand.
Now that we’ve gained a greater understanding of the natural world through the medium of scientific research we really don’t need to believe in those myths & legends as actual depictions of reality, even though they are fun to contemplate. (I love Lord of the Rings & Avatar movies).
I think fictional narratives continue to give people meaning, purpose & security, but at what cost? When factual truths are available as the alternative nowadays.
I’m reminded of Paul H Dunn’s spiritually uplifting, but fictional General Conference war stories. Lying for the Lord! Again!
My question is: do the ends justify the means?
I think religions use narrative to control people at the emotional level where they are most vulnerable.
I’m not convinced this is valuable, moral or ethical.
I think these quotes are relevant:
Anthony Campbell, “One reason why religions have such a strong hold on human societies is that they are based not primarily on intellectual beliefs but on narratives.” “Story-telling accesses the human psyche not at the intellectual but at the emotional level where it is more powerful.”
“Religion is primarily a search for security and not a search for truth. Religion is what we so often use to bank the fires of our anxiety. That is why religion tends towards becoming excessive, neurotic, controlling, and even evil. That is why a religious government is always a cruel government. People need to understand that questioning and doubting are healthy, human activities to be encouraged not feared. Certainty is a vice not a virtue. Insecurity is something to be grasped and treasured. A true and healthy religious system will encourage each of these activities. A sick and fearful religious system will seek to remove them.” -Bishop ]ohn Shelby Spong, Retired Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Newark, USA.
Gerry Spence said in his book, “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief.” But sadly this is not the case for most people.