, Salem, MA


July 4, 2013

Watson: It's time to rethink our religions

Last week’s column presented the hypothesis that formal religions today are doing more harm than good. That is a startling thought to consider and one that is extremely difficult to discuss.

Because our faiths are often very private, personal matters, and because the very nature of “faith” gives it a certain privileged immunity from questions — from either ourselves or others — we aren’t as practiced or comfortable discussing our closest religious beliefs as we may be in discussing other subjects.

Furthermore, I think that good people of any faith — or of no formal religious faith — who can see the immense good that religion does at both the individual and larger scales, are reluctant to upset or introduce doubt to people and actions and results that are positive and effective in the most practical and tangible ways.

After all, faith itself — in anything — is hard enough to come by, and who wants to be the one to tell another that his favorite faith — his motivating fuel, his comfort and his orienting perspective — may be flawed or unworthy of his allegiance?

It is probably true that most of us seek meaning in our lives, and it is also probably true that most of us rely partly on religious faith to assist in that search. So, if we were to decide that gods, religions, the heavens and the holy texts were essentially elaborate entities and stories just fabricated by man, it is quite likely that we would need something to replace them.

Is it possible that we invented religion because we couldn’t bear to be here without a reason? Is it simply too disorienting for us to just exist, an accident or product of 14 billion years of cosmic chemistry and physics?

I think that there is a large possibility that the answer to those questions is yes. I also think that — despite the absolutely enormous good that religions do — we have reached a point in history where we’d be wise to dramatically revise the narratives of religions and change the ways we think about faith, worship, existence and meaning.

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