Thursday, April 4, 2013

Religion Isn't Going To Disappear

For years, popular pundit Bill Maher has been faithfully attacking religion in his writing and through the
Bill Maher
media.  From his movie “Religulous,” which was released in 2011, to his many, ongoing pronouncements, Maher has led the anti-religion charge. He doesn’t pull any punches.

Typical quote: "I certainly honestly believe religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity. You know, it’s just selling an invisible product. It’s too easy. These questions about what happens when you die – they so freak people out that they’ll just make up any story and cling to it. Things that they know can’t be true."

Lately, he’s been calling on everyone opposed to religion to stop worrying about offending people of faith and join in his crusade.

He may get a few to sign up, but their efforts are doomed to failure, as much as the medieval Christian crusaders were unlikely to capture and hold Jerusalem for any length of time.

Just for starters, religion in ingrained in the human psyche just as Jerusalem was then encased in a Muslim world.  It’s not a matter of culture.  Elements of religious thinking date far back in human history.

Religious symbols worldwide
Scientists trying to discern a reason have suggested that religion served as a kind of glue for the fledgling human society.  Basically, humans do not equipped with any special traits for defense, such as claws, size, strength or speed.  We only have our ability to work together.  Any antisocial human would likely have been an easy supper for African predators.

As a result, evolution would have guaranteed that any technique that bound humans into cohesive groups would have endured.  Religion served that function well.  It ensured people worked together for what is still seen as a common good. 

Nothing has changed in thousands of years.

In addition, religion is a powerful motivator, encouraging people to behave altruistically even when it’s not in their best interest.  The first behavior rules are directly tied to religion, the dos and don’ts later enshrined in the 10 Commandments.  It doesn’t matter if they are divine or human: they provide a framework that allows us to live in increasingly crowded communities.

Religion also provides hope.  The reality that we are a meaningless form of life on a meaningless planet simply making laps around the sun must have been too overwhelming for most people to contemplate.  So, they created the illusion of a God to give some meaning to their lives.

Peggy Lee sang about that concept in a Jerry Leiber-Mike Stoller 1960s’ song titled “Is That All There Is?”

Is that all there is? Is that all there is?
If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing,
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,
If that's all there is.

I know what you must be saying to yourselves.
If that's the way she feels about it, why doesn't she just end it all?
Oh, no. Not me. I'm in no hurry for that final disappointment.
For I know just as well as I'm standing here talking to you,
when that final moment comes and I'm breathing my last breath, I'll be saying to myself:

Is that all there is? Is that all there is?
If that's all there is, my friends, then let's keep dancing,
Let’s break out the booze and have a ball,
If that's all there is.

That’s all there is, but we don’t party our way to oblivion because religion creates a smokescreen that gives us the illusion of more.  As a result, we create, we build, we work, we strive, no matter how ridiculous our religions are.
Moses getting the law

As Maher is well aware, it’s very easy to belittle any faith.  Can anyone really think a late relative is reborn as a cow?  Or that a universal God gave all the laws to a single man on top of a mountain, rules followed by virtually no one on Earth?  Or as Maher complained:

 … people who are otherwise so rational about everything else … believe that on Sunday they’re drinking the blood of a 2,000 year old god. That’s a dissonance in my head.

Maybe some of the nonsense, as Maher has pointed out, explains why a growing percentage of the population has deserted today’s religion.  That only means that modern faiths are likely in their lengthy death throes and, like the religions that preceded them, will fade away to be replaced by something that provides yet another false answer to our questions about our own existence.

In some form, however, religion itself will continue, regardless of Maher or anyone else he recruits to fight against it.  It’s in our DNA. No crusade will end its hold on the human psyche, and it will continue as long as there are humans to beguile.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

You can enroll in his on-line class, Comparative Religion for Dummies, at

1 comment:

  1. Maher is an publicity-seeking entertainer. He should never be taken seriously!

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