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A different interpretation of religion?

The recent article published on the BBC and reposted here on about the phenomenon known as 'somethingism'--or a very liberal form of Protestantism--tends to support an alternative view of religion that I have had for several months, and which I would like to bring up for discussion. (As I was writing this, a new video by Sam Harris also featured by talks about how much broader the term religion is although I disagree that religion is failed science).

The old idea of religion that most of us hold is that religion is based on belief--meaning a firm conviction that something is true. It is why we use the words theism and atheism, and the religious debate in the west has largely revolved around whether or not God exists.

I think this view is inadequate, both because our argument tends to involve all forms of radical non-theistic religious beliefs, as well as other forms of irrationality such homeopathy or other anti-scientific and anti-rationalist positions.

Instead, I propose a new way to look at religion--as group identity. Not all group identities are religious, but they do share similarities. Religion seems to pass across generations through stories or myths that provide explanations, meaning and purpose to people's lives. This can also apply to political ideologies such as fascism or state communism, which show every sign of being religious and yet non-theistic.

I think group identities have even begun to influence modern atheism, and why atheist movements are prone to falling into the same irrational traps, behaving in very strange almost religious or irrational way.

There are plenty of interesting scientific experiments out there which show the power of group think. The Milgram experiment is one famous example, and the Stanford Prison Experiment is another famous example, but there are plenty of alternatives, and various literature and information out there which shows the power of crowds, and just how easy we are to lose our sense of self or reason and even sanity.

It is important to understand that group identity is not necessarily about irrationality or immorality, but I see it as more about a failure of understanding and a kind of schizophrenic insanity or madness, because it involves a loss of self and losing touch with reality.

The alternative to group identity is authentic individuality, an individuality based on using reasoning judgments, moral judgments and a fairly coherent and rational understanding of reality based on scientific naturalism. Personal psychological development and personal experience are also important factors in being a healthy individual.

What I want to state here most of all is that we all tend to seriously underestimate the power of group thinking in controlling our minds, and we all assume that we are perfectly sane, rational and moral. I think group thinking is far more powerful, and it explains religion, as well as many of our political and social problems.

Do you agree or disagree, and what are your thoughts?



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