What Can Replace Religion?

There are religious people who say atheists want to make to human experience nothing but a series of scientific findings and formulas.

I’m not absolutely sure there are atheists who believe such a thing.  We skeptics of religion certainly use science to explain a lot of the history of human beings. But, I agree people cannot find meaning to their lives through science.  The important human experiences and the meaning people take from their lives are not found in science.

The older I get the more experience I have observing humans.  What I see more and more is the importance of art to people.  I think it is equally important to men and women.

The link’s author seems to say art had a different effect on people before post modernism.  Religious art, for example, with angels and Mary was powerful.  Were there to be no more belief in those gods and angels, what art will be created which its place?

I don’t know anything about today’s religious painting and imagery.  There must be lots of it in all religions.  I’m wondering if angels are still painted but in some abstract way.

I noticed on my car radio that takes broadcasting off a satellite there are about 10 channels of Christian music.  Post modernism has hit Christian music as well.

The link author hopes if there is little or no religion ultimately new art will take its place and provide people with understanding and meaning of their lives.


13 Responses

  1. Michael Ross

    “What I see more and more is the importance of art to people.”

    What can replace religion?

    So you have given up on science and now look to art. Time will tell. My brother-in-law is an artist and an atheist. Maybe you are onto something.

    “I don’t know anything about today’s religious painting and imagery.”

    Here is a religous/political painting that says a lot to me:


    It depicts warriors throughout history and the futility of war and that Christ, the “Prince of Peace”, is the ultimate and only answer.

  2. Adam Heckathorn

    I’ve thought a bit about meaning and purpose in life. I have felt comfort and security in religious belief until I had to face some very difficult times and found it a false friend and a burden to carry. I strive to avoid living in a shallow meaningless way. I believe taking care of Your responsibilities brings contentment. I believe in treating others the way I’d like to be treated for instance if I was Gay I’d like to be treated with dignity. I believe there is more happiness in giving than receiving but I’m disgusted when I see religious support for the poor that is done with an attitude of condescension. I believe a life lived with honesty and integrity has value and often takes a great deal of thought. It seems to Me that People often live Their Lives like a Dog chasing a car, spending Their Lives pursuing things that have limited value to Them. At one time for a few years I was taking care of My Wife and three young Children and came to see the things I thought just absolutely had to be done couldn’t be done as there were not enough hours in the day yet came to realize the Sun came up in the morning anyway and in fact there aren’t really that many things that have to be done.

    1. Adam 7:32 “I strive to avoid living in a shallow meaningless way.”

      That would include, I assume, those who say whoever dies with the most toys wins. There is plenty of that around.

      1. Adam Heckathorn

        I believe that would fall neatly into the Dogs chasing Cars comparison. Many years ago I read One straw revolution after My Dad read it. I can’t say I remember all of it but I remember it advocated for a simpler life and it that made a lot of sense to Me.

  3. Fr. James

    We have seen atheist art. Socialist realism for example. Or some of the horrid stuff that passes for modern “art.” It won’t replace religion.

    Catholic art, music, poetry, and literature is sublime. Not the more modernist stuff that mimics secular art, but the classical Catholic art. It reflects what is good, beautiful, and true. It is inspired and inspires. Catholic art reflects the Catholic faith. It adapts to a wide variety of cultures and styles.

    No matter what idol is chosen it won’t replace God. It’s been tried and has failed every time. But consider that if atheism doesn’t fill the void then why is there a void in the first place?

    1. Fr. James 8:27 “Not the more modernist stuff that mimics secular art, but the classical Catholic art.”

      Old is good, new is bad. No wonder you love books by Pope Benedict. The world of conservative Catholics does not want to move on.

      1. Fr. James

        Benedict’s books are new. His ideas are new too. But you would not know that since you refuse to read them. Isn’t it you who told me that anything more then 20 years old was invalid? How can you move on when your ideas are just retreads of old ones?

  4. Nate

    In my opinion, the question at hand is a matter of causation. What, in our human condition, causes us to have an aesthetic desire? What causes an object to posses beauty? Why those traits? And then on top of that understanding, why the insatiable aspiration to, in some form, be a part of that understood beauty? There are all sorts of answers to unlock this mystery. Is there a master key for the reason for “why”?

    1. Wolfy32

      Yes, I think the simplest answer is quite simply “because”.

      Because we can, because we do, because we are capable of sensing the emotion, the beauty of art.

      What in our human condition causes us to have this desire? I think it’s not what, but simply put we are capable of it so we have the desire for it?

      Why do we have tall buildings when there’s so much unoccupied space? Because we can…. We know how, so why not, we know something is challenging, yet we seek to prove we’re capable of it. Many reasons within the capability to reason. It boils down to because…

  5. Nate

    An answer of “because” still offers no fulfillment, or little reason behind the “why” or purpose of a thing. Capacity, as well, offers little insight into the purpose of our desire. Why are we capable of a desire for beauty?… the answer “because we can” is simple, yet found wanting. I guess what I am trying to delve into is why does our human condition yearn for something beyond ourselves? We have the capacity and desire for intangible principles, of which there is little utility in our physiological needs. If art, music, dance, poetry, writing, the sciences, … any discipline of human expression is the end (our capacity to express), which hypothetically (from Jon’s post) provides understanding and meaning to our lives, then our abilities are the answer to “what can replace religion?” An object’s ability or capacity seems to offer an insight to the question, “why is it able to ___”, but still lacks complete meaning and purpose. If art can replace religion, what is it replacing? If religion needs replacing, what role is religion fulfilling, and why? What void is religion bridging, and is there another more stable bridge to fill the gap? Is there a void or a gap to begin with? And how do we know? Is our own experience the answer to self-fulfillment, purpose, and meaning? How can it be? In the end, how is the best way to live? These questions are meant as ponderings, and I do not expect tangible answers for each.

    1. Fr. James

      I asked something similar and they did not touch it. Very dangerous questions for atheists.

    2. Wolfy32

      I agree Nate, though, I thought a post or two of yours was similar to the almighty Father J’s whom we must bow to or face condemnation by him alone. I like you’re way of thinking. Many or all of these questions I have saught answers to. No athiest, nor agnostic, nor Christian can answer these questions. I am as clueless as anyone else on these questions. Which, leads me another question, why do we seek answers to these questions? Animals are not found wanting? They are satisfied with a days meal and some sun to lay in. We have to perpetually build buildings streets. Why wasn’t the horse and buggy good enough for us? Why are we driven to advance ourselves to discover things, and make things?

      A’las, i get ahead of myself. I suspect I have the brink of an answer, though the question is complex and I wouldn’t trust anyone that says they have an answer, including myself,at the same time, maybe it’s a touch of truth. Religion, early on in humanity sought to provide a bridging between what we didn’t know and our world in which we live. Why we first asked that question, I don’t know. I don’t have an answer to that anymore than you.

      Genesis provides the conundrum for us. We were told not to eat from the tree of knowledge. Of all things, a good old classic PC game helped me understand this concept. Within Sid Meyers “Civilization” is a concept called the knowledge tree, in which he classified which knowledge was needed in order to have significant advances in civilization. Things such as animal husbandry and the wheel were needed before one could have horse drawn agriculture. Things like that.

      My understanding of Genesis was that our sin was the seeking of knowledge. That’s what set us apart from animals. We would never be satisfied with what we know. Now, if we remove taint of christianity from that and understand what the writer was saying. It may be as simple that it is in born in every generation of every human across the planet to seek knowledge, and eternally we’ll never achieve enough of what we seek so we will always be let down.

      Despite this fact that we’ll never be content with our knowledge we seek it anyways. How many billions are spent annually on research at a global level? Most likely trillions at this point.

      I think the roll of religion was to give people some contentment. Some peace at knowing the answers to their questions may never be answered. Explanations were attempted, yet, we have the good ol answer of “God works in mysterious ways.” And “I am the great I am, the alpha and the omega”. Basically a statement of “Stop asking who I am, I’m not going to tell you.”

      Where does that leave religion and religion’s replacement. Can art, and music, and science fill those voids? of what we don’t know? I defined earlier that we’ll never be satisfied with what we do know, so, that means that void will never be filled… In some ways, I think community, friends, family, life, is our replacement. Instead of dwelling on death and the afterlife. What if we filled our voids with the living. Those that are sick, volunteering to help out with the other sick, those with time helping out a neighbor, etc.

      I think humans finding a way to be involved in their communities and the advancement of their society, would be a better use of time and resources than paying a pastor to have a music band to sing and make us feel good each week. Feed the soul through action vs. sitting in a pew. Contributions could be artistry of music, paintings, buildings, road design, construction, contributing to the growth of business, and countless other things. Help a young person start a business, or give some attention to and listen to elderly. So many needs that the church is incapable of fulfilling.

      1. Fr. James

        No, the original sin was pride. By eating the fruit it means that we decided we arrogated to ourselves the right to choose what was right or wrong. I suggest you read Pope Benedict’s book on Genesis.

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