From a psychological perspective, we can look at how religion evolves over time and how the accepted norms of society and attitudes influence the way in which religious ideals and constructs manifest their objectives into the reality of that time. Take for example The Crusades – this movement grew out of a combination of the fact that Christianity teaches that it must be preached and all people should convert and believe in Jesus Christ; and of the barbaric enforcement of law at the time, and superstitions that stemmed from a lack of empirical knowledge about the world.
Now if we look at how Christianity has evolved, its principles are generally aligned to the standards of the society that it lives within i.e. fairness, equality and justice, albeit slower to adapt to changing norms towards certain subjects for example homosexuality and sex before marriage. The observation that both religion and society develop in correlation with each other, with society somewhat dictating the progression of that relationship, demonstrates in my opinion, that religion is a human construct, in the same way that society is, because they behave in the same way.
Religion is another type of government of people which takes on the role of providing standards in which to live by, but without the need for its teachers or subjects, to be held accountable for its effectiveness. This feature of religion; the idea that standards are not derived from humans, but from a higher source, is really just a divergence from man-made politics which has occurred to strengthen its appeal and success as a doctrine to live by. This divergence from man-made rule to religious rule has created a very effective defence mechanism in that religion is, on the whole immune to revolution, up-rising and critique by its followers because it just exists and cannot be changed. The only choice we have as individuals is to make a personal decision as to whether you wish to follow it or not.
It is clear therefore to see how the instrument of religion can be used to convince people to believe in anything, because the evidence to support its existence and its laws are not created by humans. People are always sceptical of laws and systems created by humans because we are much too aware of our own flaws when it comes to acting altruistically. A model which its principles have not been designed by humans automatically eliminates any untrusting sentiment in its purpose and effectiveness, which in a human construct would provide the trigger for change and revolution.
In some ways the ‘God’ part of religion is just a bi-product of this transition from man-made to not man-made. Scientific exploration to prove God’s existence is a parallel pursuit taking place in isolation from practicing the principles that govern a system of religious belief. The principles have no scientific bearing; just in the same way humans design laws and systems to govern society. So what have I deduced from this, from a chronological perspective and presuming God’s existence is disproved, is the following:
- Religious principles are God-given;
- God’s existence is disproved;
- Those principles have evolved on the premise that no human or class of people are ultimately benefiting by interfering with how they function;
- They can still exist in an abstract way, as a set of guidelines that have not been subject to human manipulation in the same way that a secular system may have been.
You might say that they represent a fairer structure because since their creation there is little anyone could do to deviate from the overarching principles and objectives. Of course the purpose for following these principles becomes obsolete upon the realisation that there is no God, or at least the God in which it was designed to be based upon, but I think it may be possible to extract information about how society would develop if it were not influenced by an infinite number of human factors such as wealth, poverty, energy resources, medicine and technology to name a few. To recall my earlier observation about the correlation between the development of religion and society, it is clear that although they are correlated, religion lags behind society. Therein lays the clue to understand the triggers that have changed society and its laws and systems, and to what degree the religious counterpart aligns itself to this. Interpreting this data would be very complex because it cannot be taken as truth that the religious principles and standards are not also being manipulated by human intervention, but I think it is worth acknowledging that the foundations of that religion are unable to be modified to such an extent to enable them to be compatible with changing norms in society. This restrictive nature is the functioning of what religion was designed for in the first place…immunity from revolution. So by looking at the degree of separation between social/secular attitudes to a subject and that of its religious counterpart, the following can be determined:
- The foundations of a religion are unlikely to be diverged from by the faithful followers.
- Where a subject such as gay marriage takes on a new status within the secular system, we can look at the degree of correlation of the religious system over a period of time.
- If the religious attitude shifts towards this new status to any degree, then we can deduce that its followers are willing to accept that this attitude is right, and can even reassure themselves that the underlying principles of their religion are not opposed to this development.
- If the religious attitude does not change to any degree to accommodate this evolution, then it can be deduced that while the change may not be bad, it is simply not compatible with what they have been told to be true from a higher source, i.e. this is the degree to which they will not be manipulated by human intervention of a system of belief and living.
- If the religious attitude diverges from the original degree on the same subject due to a change in the secular attitude then I think this demonstrates that the secular system has entered into the realm of exploitation and undemocratic change which does not actually reflect or benefit the majority of the people.
- To conclude with the example of gay marriage, I think it is fair to say that in the UK at least, the shift in secular acceptance and enshrining the right into law, has seen its counterpart religion Christianity also (although very limited) shift in correlation with this. This demonstrates that its followers are willing to conclude that the underlying principles of Christianity may be compatible with this change to the standards of living.
- In converse to this example we could consider the idea that the law of the land evolved to persecute individuals of a particular colour of skin or mandated that all suspected drug dealers be killed without trial. I’m sure the respective religious attitudes would diverge from their previous degree of correlation with the secular position on that subject.
Religion can provide insight as to what true human morality is. This insight does not need to be in any way driven by the religious principles themselves, but just dictated by the behaviour of religious development in relation to the constant (god-given) principle to which it fluctuates or modifies in reaction to a parallel secular development. True human morality can therefore be identified using this model as it can be accepted that a secular change in society is deemed to be a step in the right direction, if religious attitudes also correlate towards this new attitude, but not only this – it is particularly insightful of true human morality where the religious attitude is able to closely correlate with this change, even if this means altering their idea and understanding of the God-given underlying principle which is being affected. And as a more extreme interpretation, true human morality could also be recognised if the followers of a religion were willing to alter the purpose of a principle in order to dilute its literal interpretation by the society in which it finds itself. Many examples can be found of this type of dilution where literal interpretation of scripture has been softened in its application to be more palatable and justifiable within the present society.
I believe therefore that the nature of religion provides an important role in maintaining the accountability of man-made models of governance – not religion, but the nature of it. As discussed earlier, religion is a hybrid model of governance which works to limit revolution by its followers/subjects. If revolution or even small change is detected of its governing principles, in reaction to a change of attitude or law of its secular counterpart, the direction of this change is the pulse of true human morality.