At the dawn of humanity we created stories to explain the world. Religion. It was ancient science. And it stood on as much factual evidence as our senses and ancient tools could muster at the time.
Now, we don’t need to rely on what our eyes and dreams and heritage tell us to believe. We can believe in what can be studied, tested, engineered, repeated and perfected. Science and free unbiased enquiry can reveal a story far more fascinating and beautiful here in the living world, in the present moment, than scripture could ever tell us about half-mythical pasts and uncertain flawless futures beyond our world.
To live in fear and awe of creator-beings whose presence simply cannot be felt or experienced in any measurable, material, common sense way isn’t just unthinking mysticism, but a conscious denial of humanity’s vast potential for reasoning – and its awe-inspiring hunger for the real truth of things.
Religion only came into existence because humanity was unafraid to question the way of things, generate explanations and foster knowledge that allowed us to thrive. The moment we deny ourselves the instinct to question and challenge the way of things is the moment we embrace dogma and throw ourselves back into the Dark Ages.
And science isn’t perfect; humans aren’t perfect. But we only perceive perfection because we’ve always held ourselves up against the fictional ideal of a sinless creator. What if there was no perfect, sinless creator? Suddenly humanity’s talents for kindness, compassion, beauty and creation shine out all the clearer. Of everything on our planet, we’re the most loving and curious and ingenious species of them all. And yeah, we still need to strive and push and work at being better to one another and to the planet. But if we take religion out of the equation, then suddenly we’re striving to be better beings for one another and for the planet – and not just to score points to buy our own seat in paradise.
The science of agriculture, for example, freed us from the cycle of hunter-gatherer servitude. The science of clothing and herbalism and fire-making made us thrive. And look how far we’ve come. Life-threatening conditions can be overcome, and we’re closer to overcoming more of them every day. More and more we’re pouring our wealth and attention into righting injustices in the world. More and more we’re becoming concerned with the welfare and survival of other species; even the ones that would kill us in our primitive state.
We’re printing spare organs on demand. We’re turning ashes into diamonds. We’re connecting our minds across the world to pool resources, invent new tools and share knowledge to make life better for us and the generations to come. A creator didn’t do all this for us; we are the creators. And it’s only by being brave enough to challenge the dogmas and turn our backs on centuries of fear and mysticism that we’re going to make this a better world for everyone who’ll come after us.
It’s like the old scriptures say: we’re the caretakers of our garden world. But now we’ve come to realise that we don’t have a boss, and we’re not caretaking our socks off just for a promotion through the pearly gates. We’re doing it because we just want a better, more vital, more peaceful garden to live in.
Temples are beautiful. Cathedrals are magnificent. But they’re not testament to the glory of gods. They’re testament to the creative force and intelligence of a young, ambitious species unlike anything that’s ever come before it. Isn’t it time we turned our temples into hubs of learning and oases for the mind, free from mythical overlords? Because when you strip back the scripture and the stories and the political-agenda fiction of religion, you come to the clean unfiltered truth: we don’t need salvation. We’ve been saving ourselves all along.