People often ask me why I bother to go after religion, why I don’t just leave it alone if it helps people. The problem is that the effects of religion are prevalent in so many aspects of society that it holds back society in many ways. One such example is the recent overturning of Roe vs Wade ruling that allowed a right to women who wanted an abortion and taking away rights for millions of Americans for religious reasons from a few federal Supreme Court judges who sneak their agenda through a legal loophole. There is a reason why women have limited rights in staunchly Islamic countries, and why Saint Augustine advised in the 5th century that women should not be enlightened or educated. Religion does some good for the spirit in hope, comfort, and sense of community. However, the overall results not only don’t promote real critical thinking or philosophy, but leave the practitioner spiritually blind, lacking in compassion, understanding and an awareness that any Eastern philosopher would know. Despite the claim of the religious, religion is not spirituality, and in this article we will explore why.
The religious probably don’t want to know about the scientific studies and metanalysis reviews of a negative relationship with religion and intelligence1, or about religion correlating inversely with intelligence2, or about why atheists overall are more intelligent3, so I will instead try to focus on religion purely with regards to a spiritual platform. First off, there are many authorities who take the stand that religion is not spirituality, like University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, University of Maryland Medical4,5, and Columbia University’s Dr. Lisa Miller who shared the view of science regarding religion in that it is entirely environmental rather than spirituality (what she defines as a transcendent awareness) which is innate in us.
This is one difference between the two, but there are many. When was the last time a Buddhist monk was accused of being too shallow, or of being materialistic, or of having a large ego, or of being too angry, greedy, mean-spirited, selfish, unethical in business, disloyal, addicted to alcohol, or any other moniker that religion does not address? Where are the guided steps to enlightenment among the endless verses of the Bible and Quran? Regarding just the materialistic mindset alone, according to Psychology Today, “What some would call a spiritual awakening leads such people to become less materialistic, more empathetic, and more generous”6, yet we see a materialistic viewpoint from the religious all the time and the Quran and Bible both encourage this mindset. They certainly do not promote anything like the notion of suffering resulting from desire of the worldly (such as in Buddhist Pali-Canon), or that the material world is illusory, not meaningful and does not transcend.
This is why, according to Columbia Encyclopedia, “philosophy rejects dogma and deals with speculation rather than faith.”7 The limitations of religion’s faith and dogma are too great for any real consideration as a philosophical system. I go into detail in another article I contributed to this magazine how Bible verses support the shallow and material world view, but while the Abrahamic texts do not encourage obsession with the worldly, they certainly do not discuss any deeper sense of reality or perceptive viewpoint in depth, they do not address eudaimonia efficiently, what Lucretius writes in On the Nature of Things, “concerning matters not obvious to sense…”
Do religious people really strive for inner reflection and an honesty with oneself? Do such complex issues even have a place in the Bible among the thousands of verses so repetitive and local in nature that even modern theologians leave it to the side for real philosophical inquiry? Spiritually, we need more than the hope, sense of community and comfort that religion provides. Buddhism in comparison is a philosophy thought of by man and for man. Not involving a belief in a god according to Stanford.edu, Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion (as religious historian Diane Morgan noted, the Buddha -Siddhartha Gautama- knew he would be deified but could do nothing about it), its results are science-backed, transcendent, and provide insight as well as purpose to the individual.
Before his death, Gautama’s teachings were already spreading throughout a large region of Asia. But the fact that those teachings linked the human spirit to transcendence and understanding -something Allah, the Christ or any other claimed religious entity cannot provide- is what is so fascinating about the Buddhist philosophy. This is something that the known monotheistic religions historically have shown to lack, and such a strong hold on the individual and society keeps those societies from growing spiritually. Why isn’t philosophy known for lowering one’s intelligence? Isn’t it absurd that it is religion that is affiliated with such embarrassing statistics? The narrow-mindedness encouraged by scripture, the intolerance of so many aspects of life – even critical thinking in favor of faith- is why we get such unintelligence in the religious. The lack of a deeper awareness, transcendence, and understanding is so painfully obvious among the religious that it is frankly annoying the rest of us.
Where is the transcendence? Where is the knowledge that helping the whole is what is natural and is a meaningful happiness not found in the materialistic world view of texts Bible or the Quran? Why does the Bible not go past such a world view? Instead of spirituality, both texts focus on shallow hedonism, with subtle mentions of wealth in the Bible with gold, silver, riches, and exaggerated calculations of 7×77 of one’s wealth. Both texts don’t address pride, which is clearly a problem for the religious. They don’t address the narrow-minded pettiness of anger and vengeance, ego, and other difficulties which Buddhism addresses with guided steps on day one of the spiritual journey. A Muslim being angered by someone offending him because of his religion is why Islam is also not spiritual. There is a lot of punishment for nonbelievers in the Quran, there is extreme humiliation for those against Allah, there is advice on hitting one’s wife if she does not obey, but not a lot of what would be comparable to the guided steps of Pali-Canon Buddhist philosophy. Proof of this Biblical materialistic world view remaining until the present is in Psychology Today: “As human communities grew, a belief in gods who could punish wrongdoers or support agriculture also took hold, an idea that still holds great power today.”
But it is not just verses of one or two aspects of locality in the Bible and Quran that still hold weight. Religion doesn’t address the pressures of social status, financial security and materialism so pervasive among the spiritually blind religious person. As mentioned earlier, it promotes tribalism, hedonism, materialism, ego, pride and anger. Everywhere one looks in the Bible, they are likely to come across one of the preceding themes. The defense from theology that the verses were all people could understand at the time is challenged by the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama 500 years before Jesus. Another argument from theists is that “science doesn’t know everything”, but not only has not one scientist in their right mind ever claimed to know everything, not only has science never claimed to know everything, but being the best arbiter of truth we have for the explanation of life and the universe, scientists knows infinitely more than theologians would on such matters. In a way, it’s funny how the religions of the past all have the same imprint of the time period’s mindset; Zeus beating his wife and the Abrahamic God being a jealous sociopath have a common ring when thinking about man and daily life back in their respective times. What isn’t so funny is how such an ignorant worldview is kept to this day by the religious. Does divorce still not hover around 50% in a country that largely considers itself religious? Such childish behavior with one another that is void of discipline and a greater understanding and awareness of one another. This is why acts like the overturning of Roe vs. Wade reflects the limitations on society from a root source of countless limitations.
The simple fact is that God doesn’t exist, therefore religion is not spirituality. If he existed, he would have come up with something deeper than the early Greek philosophers or even Lucretius -100 years before the Christ. Just Lucretius alone was trying to understand atoms and basically physics and the nature of the universe. Overturning Roe vs Wade shows a lack of awareness that Dr. Miller referred to earlier in this article. It shows how desperate the religious are to force their misguided notions on the masses. It shows how utterly unaware the religious are to the compassion needed towards others. Religion is a bad influence because it holds society back (literally). Forcing others to live how you want them to is not only as narrow as the Biblical scriptures, but shows how ignorant of so many aspects of life the scriptures are. It is why Americans don’t read the endless tales and one-liners written by people who would lose badly against any modern 7-year-old in a debate on literally any topic. When we discuss Christians of history, we are talking about people who destroyed evidence that Jesus was taken right out of Hindu myths, then claimed that there is no evidence to the Jesus-Krishna claim. These are the same people who mentioned salt 30 times in the Bible, but not one mention of what would later be the cell or the atom like Democritus or Aristotle. These are people who in the modern day talk about all these complex theories, all unfalsifiable, but didn’t include any such complexity in the mind-numbing local verses of the Bible. Again, they had 30,000 verses to do so. This was before the modern apologists of today, before the Christians destroyed proof of Christ being stolen from Krishna myths and before the Biblical authorship by what Bertrand Russell referred to as savages.
1 The Relation Between Intelligence and Religiosity: A Meta-Analysis and Some Proposed Explanations – Miron Zuckerman, Jordan Silberman, Judith A. Hall, 2013 (sagepub.com)
2 Frontiers | The Negative Relationship between Reasoning and Religiosity Is Underpinned by a Bias for Intuitive Responses Specifically When Intuition and Logic Are in Conflict | Psychology (frontiersin.org)
3 Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D. Why Are Religious People (Generally) Less Intelligent? | Psychology Today. 12/26/2013.
4 Ehrlich, Steven D. reviewed. NMD. No date given. http://www.keckhospitalofusc.org/condition/document/14285.
5 Last reviewed 10/13/2011 http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/spirituality-000360.htm.
6 Spirituality | Psychology Today Australia. Reviewed By Psychology Today Staff. No author or date given.
7 “Philosophy.” Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition. 2013.