What is a Religion?

From Scott’s Blog: IS EVERYTHING A RELIGION?

Awhile ago I realized that I could still be a conservative and not believe in a benevolent God, or a God at all. I saw that this actually strengthened my views.

If religion is loosely defined to means a set of beliefs and rituals, then even brushing your teeth can be viewed a some sort of religion unto itself. The distinction though is that a religion, unlike an ideology or a cult, typically has a some sort of creation myth and eschatology, neither of which can typically be falsified, nor does it offer a framework within the rules of science and math to do so. It’s up to its members to take these suppositions on face value, to believe unconditionally. String theory cannot be verified yet, but it does have an underlying scientific and mathematical basis that has some logical consistency, whereas religious creation myths don’t. Also, religions have a group or collective aspects to them, possibly as a form of de-individualization, in that your value as a person is not in your own intrinsic abilities, wealth, talent, and genes, but in how you serve ‘god’ and the collective. Consequently, for most organized religions the barrier to entry for redemption or salvation is not very high, a topic I discuss further here. Organized religions want members, and people will probably be turned off by a religion that condemns it members to ‘hell’ unless they are either super smart and or talented, versus merely being a ‘decent human being’ that believes in the required deity.

In summary, a religion has the following characteristics:

1. subservience, de-individualization (individuals serve not themselves, but either a higher power and or the collective/community)
2. unfalsifiable, offers no logically consistent basis within the rules of math and science to verify its beliefs
3. ritualistic, repetitive
4. low barrier to entry for salvation/redemption (especially in contemporary religions)
5. blank slate view of humanity, no one is intrinsically better than anyone else

An ideology, on the other hand:

1. aims for intellectual rigour and falsification
2. no creation myth or eschatology

Political parties are a mixture of the two in that there is an ideology, but it also requires some sort of group participation and loyalty to the candidate and the cause.

But don’t forget that transhumanism is also Christianity!. It’s got weird beliefs, a promise of eternal life through anti-aging drugs (or resurrection through cryonics), and an eschatology in the Singularity. Objectivism is a religion.

Perhaps transhumanism could be considered a type of religion, but its mores differ from most conventional denominations in that transuhmanism and rationalism tends to be individualistic. I would argue tranhumanism falls under an ideology, with some elements of religion.

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