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How To Achieve a Concept of Self Which Will Not Encourage You to Walk Off a Tall Building.
God and religion, unless they are manifested in one of the particularly pernicious cults, provide a great deal of comfort for their believers; in a world which is more Freudian than most of us would like to acknowledge.
("Freudian" is not a synonym for "sexual". Freud was simply a pessimist. He thought his unconscious "ID" was really in control and humanity had a Sisyphean task trying to circumvent it. There is a lot of evidence on his side...BUT...accepting his pessimism is like obsessing over the likelihood that the sun will expand and burn us all up in about 5 billion years. It doesn't do anything for us.)
Without buying wholesale into the Great Viennese Doctor's ID, EGO and SUPEREGO philosophy, one can acknowledge that the darker elements of individual and collective human personality are quite dark indeed.
This is without factoring in the random assaults the physical Universe itself makes upon our lives with no discernable purpose whatever.
Without some palliative fantasy to counteract these realizations, many of our lives would be unlivable.
What, then, does the Rational Religionist substitute for God to achieve the same sort of comfort in the face of unpleasant reality?.
Well, if we understand that the Universe is predictable, at least on the scale of our own lifetimes, all we have to do is understand the kinds of hands it is likely to deal us.
Doom comets are rare; big earthquakes are less so, but we can prepare our dwellings and our psyches to deal with them.
What we call “diseases” are either our relatives, in competition with us and occasionally winning; or glitches and code mis-readings in our own DNA. In any case, they are “natural” or statistically likely and are simply a part of our environment. We must take them into account; outwit them if we can; accept them if we cannot.
The assaults of our fellow humans - putting aside the occasional act of insanity or blind striking out at the pressures of society - are usually traceable to our casual disregard for their welfare; or their own zealotry; or both.
But, there are no supernatural bogeymen; only the physical furniture of the Universe, going about its own business; other organisms, obeying the Darwinian imperatives; or misled or patently evil other human beings (who tend to see themselves as righteous and justified in whatever they do to us). And if they occasionally prevail, it's not because god is mad at us; or on their side. It is because their paths and purposes collide with ours.
Our only recourse is to avoid these influences, by any means available, if we can.
Remember the cardinal principles.
“Change is inevitable! Protect the gene pool at all costs!”
Most religions; those that hang around for more than a generation or so; fulfill deep needs of their celebrants.
Never mind that most religions also create deep needs - strawmen of the spirit - that in turn only they can fulfill.
Outsiders - unbelievers - are often amused, occasionally amazed by the artificial texture of superstitions and manufactured fears and comforts that seems to be the fabric of these people's lives.
We can easily make fun of them, even as we maintain our own whole cloth which to us is sacred and nothing like the garish jerry-built structures which prop up those other people.
A Rational Religionist must take great care not to be contemptuous of all these folks.
In the first place, as we have established, a belief system which answers people's thorniest questions and smoothes the ill-fitting interface between them and an impersonal, uncaring universe is obviously of objective value.
Then, there is a high probability that even made-up shibboleths and terrors have an adaptive purpose.
The concept of sin, and retribution, does manage to scare a lot of people into behaving themselves. These probably tend to be exactly those same folks who would casually do themselves and their neighbors a lot of damage, through sheer carelessness and inattention, if their lives were not focused upon some easily grasped notions of good and evil.
And do not overlook the benefits of practice.
People who live their lives in blithe denial of the possibility of accident or natural disaster are often so discombobulated when such disasters inevitably occur that they unnecessarily perish in the event; or are unable to recover any kind of satisfactory life thereafter.
People who are used to walking the tightrope between heaven and hell may be more emotionally equipped to deal with the world's nastier vicissitudes. And they have a built-in recovery system for dealing with the effects. Usually they can even - without too hugely stretching the faith - figure out why it happened.
If a Rational Religion can't do at least that much for its believers, it is not long for this world.