Science Based Religion
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28-02-2011, 10:11 PM
Science Based Religion
Some of the most basic functions of religion are to help us understand our place in the world - to help us understand the world we live in and feel that we are part of a larger purpose. Yet, nearly all religions were developed before modern science and its amazing insights into ourselves and our world. I often wonder what a religion would be like if it was developed today and based only on the facts discovered by science.

Science has discovered facts which make it clear that we live in an incredibly ancient universe, exploding with great energy, forming itself into billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars, and most with planets orbiting them. Science has also discovered that the basic chemicals of life form naturally and easily, and with so many trillions of planets, it is not surprising that at least one managed to find combinations that happened to make copies of themselves, which also made copies, but with occasional variation. This kept happening, with lots of copies and variations of living creatures spreading throughout the world, competing for resources and gradually transforming into all the life on Earth.

Discoveries through science make it clear that humans emerged from this process of competition for resources, and like all living things, only those who are among the best at it will be able to survive through the next generation. This process has shaped our bodies and minds over millions of years, making us better at surviving in a complex and dangerous world. Human traits like our great intelligence, empathy, creativity, moral sense, ability to make inventions, to form complex societies, and to do all that we can do with our bodies and minds developed over long periods of time because each step in that direction helped us live better in the world and were passed on to our children.

This is our story. This is who we are, where we came from and why we are here. These are the facts of the world, discovered with the tools of science. To make this story the basis of a religion, we need to make it personally meaningful, to make it feel to us that we are part of something larger than ourselves that provides meaning and guidance in our everyday lives. A basic need we have as humans is to have that guiding story in our lives and our communities. This is why all cultures have religion.

We are among the first generations of humans to have a factually accurate understanding of our world and ourselves. These facts have caused severe conflict among humans, with some rejecting the facts and others rejecting religion entirely. Since these really are the facts, and since one of these facts is that we need a meaningful understanding of the world and of our place within a larger significance, it seems clear to me that we need religions based in the facts of science.

There are many ways to develop a science based religion, finding the larger themes in the facts which feel personally meaningful, providing a sense of significance and guidance to our lives. One of my favorites is to envision the entire universe as an embryo that is slowly transforming itself, through natural processes, forming stars and planets that develop naturally into life and intelligence. This intelligent life eventually becomes capable of comprehending the whole story of how it came to be, and the universe begins waking up, realizing what it is and starting to understand some of its potential.

Envisioning the universe as an embryo is a metaphor that helps us understand how fundamental and essential we are to this larger process. We are the part of the universe that is waking up and realizing what is happening. We are also the part of the universe that is capable of radically transforming ourselves, inventing new and powerful technologies, developing new forms of intelligence and creating advanced civilizations. We have the power to radically change things, to give the universe abilities it never had before.

Seeing the universe as a developing creature puts life, and especially intelligent, technologically adept life at the center of a very meaningful process. It can be exhilarating to imagine all the possibilities for future technological development, especially to imagine what could happen in hundreds or thousands or even millions of years of technological and scientific development. Beings with that kind of power and knowledge would seem like magical gods to us. It is especially exhilarating to realize that such powerful beings could actually happen, if we continue to survive and prosper.

If we envision the universe as an embryo that is naturally developing into beings that are indistinguishable from gods, then this view of ourselves and the universe could provide us with a meaningful place in the world and a larger significance. Then, what we do in the world seems to matter more, because we can live lives that help promote this potential future. We can act in ways that help ensure a good future for humans, such as reducing destructive conflict, curing diseases, promoting good education, science, technology and having positive social relationships.

The universe as an embryo is only one possible way to turn scientific facts into an emotionally meaningful religion. There are many others, and I believe that the challenge of those in our generation will be to develop religions that provide deep meaning to our lives while at the same time embracing all scientific facts.
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28-02-2011, 11:10 PM
 
RE: Science Based Religion
Religion involves a criteria of beliefs, it has dogmas, it is organized. Religion involves churches or Mosques or other types of buildings designed for worshiping some type of deity.

From your description of this science based 'religion', an altered form of Buddhism would most closely fit the bill. Although Buddhism is arguably not a religion, but a philosophy, a way of life.

I agree that we need to learn science and understand our universe in order for humans to survive and prosper. But creating a religion may just slow us down, if that involves making up stories (as nice as your embryo analogy is, it is still a fictional story.) We need to erase the term religion, and come up with something else with a whole other concept for those who feel the need to be socially connected with other people and want to explore truth and reason.
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28-02-2011, 11:15 PM
RE: Science Based Religion
A religion based on science? They tried that once before. It didn't work.

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Seriously though, have you been reading the novel, Blasphemy?
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01-03-2011, 01:34 AM
RE: Science Based Religion
Science is the examination and testing of ideas to seperate facts from fiction. Religion is a belief or set of beliefs. They are not mutually compatable, from what I can tell. The religion part will corrupt and damage or destroy the science part in the process.

The need to believe in gods, superstitions, etc, etc, is a human weakness. We need to replace religion with a sense of awe about the real world and universe, but not by creating a new religion.

When I find myself in times of trouble, Richard Dawkins comes to me, speaking words of reason, now I see, now I see.
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01-03-2011, 06:47 AM
RE: Science Based Religion
I agree that "religion" is a loaded word, and it's difficult to imagine a new type of religion without thinking that it necessarily has to include everything that existing religions do. However, I don't think that dogmas and rituals and places of worship are necessary parts of religion as a general concept.

Those are certainly parts of religions that are based on the concept of obedience, which is most religions that we are familiar with. But once you take out the concept of obedience, you no longer are forced to believe in a set dogma or follow prescribed rituals.

I'm talking about rethinking religion as thoroughly as we have rethought our worldview through science. Think about what parts are essential and what parts aren't.

Just because we now have science, it doesn't mean our basic psychological needs have changed. We are still animals who find ourselves in a big, complex and scary world. We need to make sense of it and we need to feel that we are part of something larger than ourselves and also important to that something larger. We need a guiding myth at the very least.

And, of course, myths are fictional stories. But if they based on truth, they can be useful ways of summarizing the real world.

The real problem is that we currently have billions of people who believe firmly in religions because they provide them these stories that makes sense of the world. We need to provide alternatives that are based in the actual truth.

It is important that people base their life decisions on what is true, and most people are not going to become science enthusiasts and learn all the facts. They just aren't. But, if they have a good metaphor for what's actually going on, that is far better than the completely made up stories they have now.

(28-02-2011 11:10 PM)Free_Thinker Wrote:  Religion involves a criteria of beliefs, it has dogmas, it is organized. Religion involves churches or Mosques or other types of buildings designed for worshiping some type of deity.

From your description of this science based 'religion', an altered form of Buddhism would most closely fit the bill. Although Buddhism is arguably not a religion, but a philosophy, a way of life.

I agree that we need to learn science and understand our universe in order for humans to survive and prosper. But creating a religion may just slow us down, if that involves making up stories (as nice as your embryo analogy is, it is still a fictional story.) We need to erase the term religion, and come up with something else with a whole other concept for those who feel the need to be socially connected with other people and want to explore truth and reason.
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01-03-2011, 06:55 AM
 
RE: Science Based Religion
If we came up with a brand new 'religion' based on science/truth/reason, it would have 1 of 3 fates:

1. (Best case scenario) People would continue to learn and evolve. This religion would be constant with the times.

2. Other 'denominations' would branch off of this parent religion due to arguments or discrepancies. They would freely create their own ideas and dogmas which would divide people once again, as they have in all past religions.

3. The religion as a whole would develop a set of ideals from the generation it was created in, people would cling to those ideas and not evolve because that is what they are comfortable with. People don't like change!

Cross out the word religion and replace it with philosophy and I would be a bit more comfortable with the whole concept.
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01-03-2011, 01:06 PM
RE: Science Based Religion
I agree. The fate of any religion depends on what people do with it. That is true with any technology, philosophy or anything else we come up with. People will run with it in their own way.

I think it is vital that we communicate and popularize the truth to people. It's extremely important that we humans understand what we are and how our world is. We need to know that we are the animals who consciously decided to make their world a better place for themselves, and who over thousands of generations of struggle have created an advanced technical civilization because each generation helped move this epic struggle of humanity forward. We need to see what humans are, in terms of the larger context of the universe expanding and forming stars, planets and life and to recognize how amazing it is that we exist and to understand the vast potential we have, because of our intelligence and our technology.

What people do with that information will be up to them, but humans can't help but create mythologies that help us make sense of everyday life. Even those of us who are very scientifically minded have our own mythologies, even if we aren't normally aware of them - it's just the way our minds work to make sense of our lives.

My focus isn't necessarily on creating religions, specifically, but in promoting the truth as we know it through science. I just think that as we do this, it will be very natural for people to create new religions with it or even incorporate these truths into existing religions.

Regardless of what people may do with a scientifically informed worldview, we desperately need to spread this information and help people see that this way of looking at our world and ourselves is quite amazing and inspiring and that it does provide a way to live a deeply meaningful life, even without God or an afterlife.

We need science-based worldviews, because the ignorance-based worldviews are too destructive.

(01-03-2011 06:55 AM)Free_Thinker Wrote:  If we came up with a brand new 'religion' based on science/truth/reason, it would have 1 of 3 fates:

1. (Best case scenario) People would continue to learn and evolve. This religion would be constant with the times.

2. Other 'denominations' would branch off of this parent religion due to arguments or discrepancies. They would freely create their own ideas and dogmas which would divide people once again, as they have in all past religions.

3. The religion as a whole would develop a set of ideals from the generation it was created in, people would cling to those ideas and not evolve because that is what they are comfortable with. People don't like change!

Cross out the word religion and replace it with philosophy and I would be a bit more comfortable with the whole concept.
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01-03-2011, 05:27 PM
RE: Science Based Religion
Religion is unnecessary - there is not one thing out there that cannot be achieved without religion.
Peace of mind and community can easily be achieved without.
Morality can easily be achieved without.
There is no purpose to forcing dogma on people.

As for a world view based on reality and facts rather than dogma and emotion - count me in Tongue

Atheism is a religion like OFF is a TV channel !!!

Proud of my genetic relatives Big Grin
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01-03-2011, 05:38 PM
RE: Science Based Religion
I see a few flaws here.

#1. You mention a "need" to have a "guiding story in our lives and communities". You mention this need several times in different ways, but at the end of the day, it seems like you are just saying that we need to believe in something greater than ourselves/beyond our understanding. Attempting to grasp science, nature, the universe and everything in the natural world achieves this. All without religion, secular or otherwise.

#2 The very concept of religion based on science just doesn't make sense. That ones been addressed, so I'll leave it alone.

#3 To take science, and somehow draw morality from it just isn't possible. Science is about facts. Truths. Evidence. These don't have to be harsh things, but the problem is that morality is flexible. Science and our understanding of the world around us changes, but that's different than being flexible. Science improves as we gain more information to further our understanding. Morality adjusts according to the intangible, like emotion, circumstance, and even religion in some (ok, many) cases.

#4 Seeing the universe as a developing creature doesn't help us to understand it. It simply puts a pretty picture around a process that you have absolutely no evidence of being meaningful. To say that the universe is meaningful is to assert a belief with no basis in fact. At least no facts that I am aware of. Do you have any evidence that there is meaning to the processes of the universe.

I thought this post was well written, so I do hope that you don't feel I am tearing it apart. Unfortunately, the reasons you have for making a religion out of science are based on fantasy. Science and fantasy are not compatable.

So many cats, so few good recipes.
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01-03-2011, 08:03 PM
RE: Science Based Religion
Those are fair criticisms of what I wrote. I think a lot of the problem is that I'm using the word "religion" when the word already has been monopolized by specific kinds of religion that we are familiar with. Perhaps the concept of "guiding myth" or "worldview" might be better to not cause confusion.

Although, different people have different conceptions of "religion" and different connotations of what it means, and for them and me, a religion can be as simple as a guiding myth that includes an origin story, a sense of a larger good that we are part of and should contribute to and a set of values that govern how we live.

Viewing ourselves as part of an epic journey of progress helps me clarify what's important. Since I feel that this progress and continuation of life and advanced intelligence is important, than the sorts of values and types of actions that promote this are considered good in my sense of morality, and that which harms this are bad.

This guiding myth acts as a giant framework that helps provide structure to my life. The details need to be filled in by the circumstances of my life, but I do have a larger sense of what's important that extends beyond my life and far into the future.

Seeing the universe as a developing creature doesn't help us understand it any better - that's what science is for. The metaphor of the developing creature is a way of simplifying what's going on, in a way that is accessible to people who don't necessarily understand the science or who enjoy having that kind of story in their lives. Not everyone is an intellectual and is as interested in science as some of us are. Many people do need an accessible and compelling story to help them feel connected to the world.

As far as evidence for meaning in the universe goes, the only meaning in the universe is the meaning in our minds, since one of the main functions of our minds is to create and find meaning in things. Without minds, there is no meaning. It's important to remember that we and our minds are processes of the universe, something that the universe developed in its natural course of evolution.

Before minds developed, there was no meaning to anything, but with the slow development of minds, the universe gradually became more aware of itself and meaning and priorities and purpose developed in those minds.

So, there is meaning in the universe, but it is in the parts of the universe that are our minds. We, and all our thoughts are things that the universe is doing. To the extent that we are intelligent or that we find life meaningful, so does the universe. That view may seem silly or trivial, but it is true.

A lot of what I try to do is to get myself and others to radically rethink even very ordinary things. We tend to get stuck in our thinking, so I like to write things that suggest a very different perspective than we are used to. Seeing ourselves as part of an awakening universe that has been gestating for billions of years is simply a different perspective, and I find it helpful to shift my mind to different perspectives to see how the world looks when organizing all the facts that we know in a very different way.

Also, imagining religion as not a dogmatic, obedience-focused, stagnant organization is something I like to think about. Why does religion have to be the way it always has been? Both atheists and theists limit the possibilities because they are stuck in their thinking about what it can be because all we know is what it has been. Just like people who have had a limited diet all their lives have a narrow conception of "food", we also have a narrow conception of religion.

So, consider the most positive religion you can, completely based on the facts of science. Unload your concept of "religion" and try to understand it from the function that it serves for people, at its best, not at its worst.
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