Around 2015 I escaped the toxic high control fundamentalist religion that I was born into. I immediately began hating religion and traditional ideas. Its not really surprising because even the fundamentalist religion taught me to hate other religions and their teachings. They tought me to hate other religious holidays. They tought me to hate traditional cultural celebrations.
So for a while thats how I felt. If it was religious, conservative, or traditional it was the devil. But as time has passed my hurtful wounds have closed and I have spent a lot of time studying evolution, psychology, and science. The product of this has left me with a shift in opinion.
After leaving my toxic religion the scientist in me felt compelled to analyze every bit of it. Why do they say and do the things they did? How could people be so toxic? so blind? One thing that I observed is that there is typically a hidden utility in the various teachings and practices. Sometimes the hidden utility was nefarious but sometimes it wasn’t.
So for example they teach member to shun anyone who leaves and critizes the religion. The explicit explanation for shunning is that shunning is required to keep the congregation pure and spiritually clean. The practicle reason for this is that someone who is critical may cause other memeber to become critical as well. There for as a matter of practice criticism must not be allowed.
Now there are many other practices in religion that are similar. Were there is a hidden reason for the practice. Take for example the teaching that drunkenness’ is a sin. The religion would say that god hates drunks or that sin weakens our relationship with god. But the reality is that the avoidence of alcoholism has other benefits.
My beliefs are that religion, beliefs, and morals are not that different then government and law. In our society we view them a separate things. But for most of human history they were one the same or perhaps deeply intertwined. My belief is that some of these ideas evolved to fill a certain purpose. All that mattered from a evolutionary standpoint is that the teachings effect your behavior. Evolution doesn’t care if you understand the rule. It doesn’t care if the rule makes sense. All that matters is the change in behavior.
Now I say evolution and I could be talking about biological evolution or I could be talking about the evolution of ideas. I’d say in the case of religion and moral beliefs I am talking about both. Moral ideas are just ideas about social behavior. We have biologically evolved to be a very social species. We have also evolved to be a species that relies heavily on learning to produce our behaviors. It makes sense that there would be a symbiotic relationship between teaching our selves moral/social behavior and our biological predisposition for moral/social behavior.
Basically the idea is that religious practices, teachings, even “laws” have evolved to teach us something. They have evolved over time to shape culture and shape our behavior in certain ways.. Some times the end behavioral result of the religious rule might not be immediately evident. This is because often times these ideas evolved organically over time and evolved in a world were people had little understanding of the natural world.
After leaving religion I wanted to toss all of these things in the trash. However now I think there is great danger in throwing out some of these rules. That being said I don’t believe that every traditional idea or religious teaching is worth keeping. I just think that the these things need to be carefully examined. I think there needs to be a hesitance to get rid of them. I think indiscriminately discarding these religious or traditional ideas could have severe consequences for society.
Because we are a species that has biological predisposition for social behaviors and we are species that relies heavily on learning then it is imperative that we have a system to teach us morality. If intelligent morality isn’t taught we will still learn. But who knows what it is that we will learn. Without moral guidance from our parents and ancestors I suspect what we learn will be undesirable for our species and society.