Developmental Religion

Are all religions equally good? Beyond improvement? What constitutes improvement of a religion? Should religions advocate improvement of themselves? Should they share/communicate with each other?
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Developmental Religion

Post by wvanfleet »

I attend a Christian organization that emphasizes helping the disadvantaged, locally and globally. Their Sunday services are totally theologically oriented, with some uplifted hands as God is worshipped and prayed to, accompanied by rock music.

However, one of the pastors meets with me and we talk about our differences in worldview. Such discussions are valuable to both of us, and his Sunday talks reflect his awareness of the respectability of non-theological, non-supernatural approaches to understanding the world.

The value to me is that of understanding and accepting the nature of our species and where it is in its development.

The best equivalent of this effort of mine with regard to understanding our species is the effort of child psychologists to understand the process of development of children in their path to adulthood.

The difference between this approach to children and my approach to our species is that child psychologists know fairly well what children will become, because there are currently also adults to observe, whereas our species has never seen itself at a later stage of development than it has currently reached.

It should be noted that child psychologists do not berate, deride, or condemn children for being where they are in their development. Instead, they honor children for who they are and for who they eventually will become (given favorable circumstances).

We do, however, see older children picking on, ridiculing, and bullying younger children, focusing on their “immaturity.” (And unfortunately adults, especially parents, may do the same). But child psychologists see the current stage of a child’s development as a necessary and important step in the wonderful process of maturation.

Well, we also see those who have less tendency toward supernatural beliefs (all the way to a professed absence of such belief) behaving in a similar (hostile) manner toward those who have more such tendency. And we see the more supernaturally-oriented fighting back.

Now I well recognize that there will be the issue of “who started it.” The less supernaturally-oriented will say that they have been marginalized, stigmatized, discriminated against, and even tortured and killed by the more supernaturally-oriented, and they see themselves as fighting back. And that also certainly has been and is true.

But this intolerance, in both directions, does not add anything positive to the quality of our lives. Instead, it is associated with much PSDED (pain, suffering, disability, and early death).

So, being a Humanian, I must look for and advocate ways to have greater tolerance between those of different degrees of supernaturalism (including the professed totally non-supernaturalistic).

In this Christian organization that I attend, I am impressed with the positive regard that they have for each other and for humans in general. Their God is perceived as a loving God, Jesus is seen as advocating love for one another, and they, themselves treat each other and outsiders well. There is no talk of the Devil, of evil, of hell, and of the need for punishment. There is an impressive presence of goodness in that organization, including an extreme sensitivity to the suffering of the disadvantaged and concrete efforts to do something about it.

And they are accepting of non-supernaturally oriented individuals like me as a valuable friend. (Now, I’m not speaking for all who are there; certainly some have a more fundamentalist approach to non-belief, and would tend to avoid significant relationship with me. But such is not present in the Sunday services or in the relationships with most of them.)

The pastor of whom I spoke above gave his talk today on skepticism, and indeed pointed out that (1) we should count on, and probably hope for, a change in our religious beliefs over the decades of our lives, such that what we believe now is probably different from what we eventually will believe, and (2) we have to live our lives now according to who we are now. We can’t wait and wait to live our lives because of our awareness that we will probably at a later time have a different view about how to do so.

Now even though he was explicit in suggesting that the theologically skeptical might temporarily accept a theistic orientation just for the good that it might bring, I knew that he also acknowledged that the theists might eventually have a less theistic orientation in the future. He was saying that it is okay to be who you are now, even though, hopefully, you will be further along in the future, whatever “further along” might entail. He was saying that it is okay to tentatively believe, as well as to be skeptical.

I think that this developmental perspective is an extremely valuable one, for the tolerance and good will that it makes possible.

I would much rather be surrounded by tolerant and friendly supernaturalists than by angry atheists who see a necessity to stamp out religion, irrespective of the good that it may contain. (I hasten to add that of course not all atheists are angry and/or intolerant.)

This is not to say that I have no loneliness by virtue of having this developmental view of our species, because the developmental view is certainly not at all widespread or even accepted. I am indeed avoided to some extent by theistically oriented individuals, and I am ridiculed by some atheists for seeing any good in religions.

Nevertheless, I believe that the developmental orientation to understanding our species is the way we should go, in order to live by the REUEP. And it is to this pastor’s credit that he honors skepticism in the place of dogma and progressive religious maturation in the place of rigid defense of the archaic.

If we ever are to get beyond our perpetually self-induced pain, suffering, disability, and early death, we will have to have tolerance, understanding, and even honoring of the full range of human experience and understanding, with the extension of helping hands for those that are ready to move forward in this hard to imagine maturation of our species.

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