The myth of secular impoverishment

A common stereotype in the media, as recently demonstrated by Will Smith’s character in I am Legend, is that secularists reject consoling supernatural beliefs because of personal negative experiences. It is a stereotype the religious audiences are comfortable with because it implicitly sanctions their beliefs, but it is one that entirely misrepresents a massive number of secularists.

Not once have I witnessed, or heard of, a secular fictional character in the media who has reached her conclusions using legitimate science, logical coherency, and reason. Yet people like this can be found anywhere. However, to portray such a character might stir fears, among the religious, that life can be liberating, meaningful, moral, “spiritual,” and bursting with joy without belief in a deity — that perhaps belief in some deity is just a socially acceptable, but entirely unnecessary placebo to psychologically cope with one’s troubles. Perhaps, one can be moral and happy without having to eat a circular wafer every Sunday. I suspect this is why I never see any fulfilled, moral secular people in the modern media.

Another widely unrecognized fact is that everything positive that religion has to offer can be had more honestly without believing that it was handed down by a supernatural agent. Moral progress and human happiness, actually, have been made by not living in more accord with the Bible or Koran. In fact, societies improve the further they get from the obsolete moral prescriptions found in these books. One merely has to look at the abundance of data, and compare the health of the most secular societies to the most religious ones. It turns out that the healthiest societies are the least religious, while the opposite is true of the most religious ones. Putting aside issues of causality and correlation, these data clearly show that religion does not guarantee societal health.

A rarer species of secularist in the media is a spiritual one. Of course, by spiritual, I mean activity that is usually soothing, meditative, contemplative, or awe-inspiring (loose of all metaphysical baggage). Many secularists regularly seek, and have these experiences. What they do not do when they have these experiences, is use them to authenticate unjustifiable claims about reality.

Secularists believe that life is meaningful — that life’s meaning does not have to come from the promise of eternal happiness after death. Our love of other human beings is meaningful, as are the things we devote our lives to. The best in us does not require the worst in us. Life is precious. We give meaning to our own lives.

~ by jsacc001 on March 13, 2008.

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