Religion is to mortality what homoeopathy is to cancer.

Religion is to mortality what homoeopathy is to cancer.

Sometimes, now and then – very infrequently – you come across some real wisdom in a YouTube comment. ‘Wisdom’ and ‘YouTube comment’ are not words you often see together in a sentence or even on a page. Anybody who’s ever taken a minute to wade through the stinking quagmire manifested by anonymous ignorance and bigotry that usually occupies the space below video’s on YouTube will appreciate how rare a find an enlightening comment is.

It’s only the second one I’ve ever seen that’s inspired me enough to write something about it. Obviously the comment concerns religion but more specifically, the purpose of religion.

What IS the purpose of religion?

Libraries are filled with books about this subject, from many perspectives, both religious and non-religious – far too much for me to discuss in detail but some basic thoughts commonly held are:

  • “to teach morals and guidelines”, which is not acceptable since you don’t need religion to teach or learn morals
  • “teaching God’s message”, which can be discarded since it’s not based in reality: you need to prove a God exists before he (she, it?) can have a message at all
  • “help feed the poor”, which is something that secular organisations do as well, if not better

The real purpose of religion then must be those things which religion can accomplish that secular organisations can not and to be blunt, there isn’t much left when you’ve removed everything covered by secular organisations and ruled out everything not real or in accordance with reality.

Which brings me to the YouTube comment (on The Thinking Atheist video titled ‘Afterlife’):

Religion serves but one non-selfish purpose… To comfort those that can’t come to grips with their own mortality. The rest of Religion is a business… They are in it to make money. That’s it.

Religion has only one non-selfish purpose: to comfort those who cannot come to grips with their own mortality. Everything else is either done by secular organisations, mirrors business and commercial enterprise or is just plain bullshit.

Many (if not most) of the people who I know personally that cling to some form of religion – a convenient form usually – do so purely because they refuse to accept that when you die it’s over. They cling to the fantasy that they will be reunited with friends and family after they die because the thought that death is final is too terrible for them to bear. As I think back to conversations I realise that I’ve always known and my wife has always pointed this out to me  but I’ve never really articulated the thoughts like this.

The only one non-selfish purpose of religion is to comfort those who cannot come to grips with their own mortality. If you cannot come to grips with your own mortality, secularism offers scant comfort and conversely, the fantastic promise that religion offers is often too much to resist.

Atheism can only occur when the truth is more important than comfort. Some people need less comfort which makes it easier to see the truth, others need a lot of comfort which means they might never see the truth.

The massive irony though is that very many de-converts from religion feel that coming to grips with your own mortality, accepting that this life is the only life you will ever have is liberating to the extreme.

To quote a brilliant YouTube video maker, Phil Hellenes:

“Sometimes we’re at our most alive when facing the prospect of our own mortality. Maybe that means that if we convince ourselves that we live forever we never really feel alive at all…”

Always! Be totally awesome!