Does Religion Give Us Humility?

Currently, there is a little flap among  atheist authors.   I don’t know anything about the “temple” they are arguing about,  but the general views of British author, Richard Dawkins, and Swiss author, Alain de Bottom, are both worth considering.

de Botton is generally critical of Dawkins because of Dawkins’ broadside attacks on religion.  Dawkins sees mostly negative results from the practice of religions across the world.  de Botton, on the other hand sees a benefit to human kind from them.

What strikes me as curious is the benefit de Botton assigns to religion.  He says religions place people in a vast universe where they find themselves insignificant.  This humbles people and benefits us all.

This is counter intuitive.  While I don’t think there is anything harmful about religion when kept out of politics and government, and many feel they are helped by religion,  I have to take a different view on the humility issue.

Real humility comes from people seeing themselves as not important.  The messages of all religions is that each of us is a big deal.

Religion tells people their god knows them.  Their god is talking to them, listening to  them and watching over them.

To worship a god is to feel self important, to be noticed by someone important.  To not have a god is to have more humility.

Unlike faith, building egos is not part of the atheist, agnostic or freethinking heritage.  This, even though some, like me, could benefit from a little more humility.


16 Responses

  1. Bob

    When I was religious a long time ago, I thought I was so humble being on the “right” side by giving myself to Jesus, by trying to do what it was taught to do in church and the bible.
    When I became a non-theist, I realized it was brazen of me to think I was in the right just because I’d been taught what only some people’s version of right is.
    Now I don’t know what right is. And yet I do know what right is, to differing degrees based on the cicumstances, or what’s going on at the time. And most of the time there are universal “rights” of things. Like you mostly don’t want to kill people.
    And most of the basic “right” things to do, are natural. Or human. Just the common decent things we know are right. At least in most situations.
    And the moment I cross that line, and don’t listen to what someone else thinks is right, because I think I know what is right, and try to force it on them, I’m more than likely in the wrong. Unless its one of the natural rights, like not killing someone else.
    These things really don’t have anything to do with religion, at least it seems that way to me.

    1. PK

      How do you know that the things we know are right weren’t instilled into our being by a creator? You may be right in saying that it has nothing to do with a religion, a man made institution that is, but it could come from God. I know you’ll take an evolutionary stance on this, that evolution gave us these morals for the survival of a society, which makes the species more likely to survive, but it’s something to think about.

      1. entech

        Back to incompatibility theories again, God and evolution is not an either or situation. Science and religion are not enemies. A mindless belief without evidence and sometimes without logic is the enemy for both, a scientist that tries to hold a wrong theory in spite of contrary evidence will be laughed off the stage as will a scientist who insists that his idea is correct and no proof is required be course he is just right. These false positions that get scientists laughed out are unfortunately commonly accepted by the faithful, no proof needed I know because I know (and the bible tells me so).

        Feynman says, “if your idea can’t be consistently proved by experimentation then you are wrong, start again”

        1. PK

          I know that God could have made evolution happen, i just don’t think it’s a very good theory. The only reason i brought it up is because Bob has said before that evolution disproves God’s existence. You can’t argue that there’s that mindset out there. Much of science is based on assumptions, just like religion. I can’t prove much, neither can you.

          1. entech

            Disproving Gods existence is beyond any biological theory, or even physical or astrophysical theory, the changing parameters especially the bit about being outside of space and time precludes the possibility of disproof. A lot of people do think that evolutionary theory reduces or eliminates the need for a creator god, a belief in Genesis as allegory, as a way of explaining the unexplainable does not eliminate the possibility of evolution as the way in which “his wonders he does perform”.

            If you take a literal view of the bible, if you view it as the inerrant word of and inspired by your creator, then, you are bound to reject evolution because your creationist God is incompatible with evolution and most science, because in that view evolution does disprove the existence of whatever.

          2. PK “Except the whole thing about evolution being an unproven theory…”

            Evolution is a theory that has been tested, many times. It’s been done in labs and in natural settings. The null hypothesis is stated, the variables introduced and results observed.

            The “theory that Adam and Eve were created by the Creator” has not, and, cannot be tested. One can believe in it, as you and millions do, but it is not on the same plain as evolution. No one observed it, there is no evidence it happened.

          3. entech

            There we go I find evolution convincing and an uncreated creator not at all convincing.
            We could both be right, or both wrong.
            I have heard of pietism I wonder if there is such a thing as humilitism, You know I am more humble than you etc.
            I bet I could win that one. I am just a small part of a huge universe, you are an essential part of a special creation.

          4. Henry

            Jon: “Evolution is a theory that has been tested, many times.”

            Here we go on this evolution/spontaneous generation kick again. Apparently essential beliefs for atheism.

          5. Henry 5:29 Somehow, you are unable to accept that random events can give rise to something unplanned. And, that is understandable because you are committed to the centralized (socialistic??) and planned Biblical version of all things.

            Nevertheless, the scorecard puts you behind. The scientic method is the gold standard version of reality in the world wide scientific community. The Christian Bible explanation reaches no such standard. Here, then, the score is: evolution 1, Bible 0.

            When it comes to the origin of the first life forms, Bible believers were not present. Supporters of evolution were not present either. evolution 0, Bible 0. So, you are behind right now, 0 to 1.

            Your problem is science is moving into the past and explaining some things. Recently, we learned humans came from multiple sources. Gone is the Adam or Noah theory.

            As science is on the move, religion is stuck on zero. Religion needs to score at least one point one of these days or it’s over.

          6. entech

            5:39 What on earth do you mean by “spontaneous generation“? Fallen into your sophisticated rhetorical traps before. Please explain with a little less potential for ambiguity.

            If you are tying abiogenesis and evolution, you are too intelligent not to know that they are two different things Abiogenesis is the highly speculative field of where life originated and evolution how it changed once it existed.
            Evolution is well established and accepted by most religious believers and most scientists.
            If you are deliberately conflating the two, I wonder at your motivation.

            Francis Collins is often raised as an example of a world class scientist you is also a Christian. what he says is”
            It’s also now been possible to compare our DNA with that of many other species. The evidence supporting the idea that all living things are descended from a common ancestor is truly overwhelming.
            I would not necessarily wish that to be so, as a Bible-believing Christian. But it is so. It does not serve faith well to try to deny that.

            Read more:

          7. Henry

            Jon: “So, you are behind right now”

            Ahh…Jon is keeping score. I’d hate to play whist at Jon’s house. I’d lose every time.

          8. Henry 9:35 “I’d hate to play whist at Jon’s house. I’d lose every time.”
            Actually, you would beat me at every card and board game know to man, Henry. I’ve taught many people to play chess over my lifetime, mostly children. They all beat me the second game. 🙂

  2. entech

    De Botton is in Melbourne, Australia at the moment and I have heard him talk a couple of times, he seems to be almost (not quite) talking of spirituality without belief in a superior entity. There is a movement along these lines, we are in a difficult situation from early childhood we are inculcated with religious ideas and beliefs, as we grow and develop these fairy stories lose their appeal and disbelief begins more in Europe (and countries mostly populated from European immigration, Australia and New Zealand for example) than the U.S.A. but evenas disbelief becomes established, the person declares as atheist, for some there is something missing from faded childhood dreams, so religious like things without God is attractive to some.

    He says that the people that arranged his tour must have a sense of humour because his hotel room overlooks a beautiful old fashioned Catholic Cathedral right in the heart of the City, he says that as jet lag was setting in he went to early morning mass, he does like the trappings and rituals, there were some very fine stained glass windows and he took a couple of pictures with his phone (what a laugh that idea would get a few years ago) an usher told him that was prohibited and he was ushered out, the Melbourne Archdiocese is justifiably wary.

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