Everything is a Religion
Every social scheme of justice and fairness is, in some way, a religion. There are many kinds of religions- the secular ones, the messianic and Auber-mystical ones, the group-identity ones- but they are all explanatory, mystical, and dogmatic– that is, they all seek to explain some of the unexplainable phenomena of the world like suffering and justice and creation, they do not purport to use inherently rational proofs to justify themselves, and they tend to view themselves as the most correct, if not the only correct, religion of all the various religions out there. And they typically claim themselves to be so obvious that if only the unbelievers would let the scales fall from their eyes and let themselves see the light, they would become believers.
Religions rise up within societies and within social movements as unifiers, schemes of social control, and bulbs of hope for the oppressed of the Earth. And as geopolitics and human nature dictate that there shall never be a cessation of movement within human society, so it would appear that there will never be an end to the disagreements between the various religions, nor will Mankind ever be up and consumed by a single universalist faith. In fact, every individual can subscribe to multiple religions at a time without contradicting themselves, for the variety of religions implies that there will be some covering some areas of life and others covering others.
The first of the two facts I described- the fact that there will always be varying religions competing for the souls of the unfaithful- leads us to an unfortunate Hobbesian state of nature in the field of religious and ideological relations. For no matter how much work of conversion any one religion does, there will always be a thousand more religions doing the same work and dealing with similar groups of people. And the principle of variety asserts that though there may be some general humanness to all of these religions, the mass of them will differ as far and widely as the differences of culture that have divided men as neighbors since the dawn of our species. They will therefore never coalesce into a grand coalition of intellectual unity, and will be at best squabbling in disagreement, and at worst drowning in each others’ blood.
It seems to me that for the broader interests of humanity, it is important that a balance of power be played out between the diverse religions of Mankind, stretching from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism to Buddhism to Atheism to Judaism to Communism to Republicanism to Liberalism to Feminism to the various Nationalisms to Anarchism to even the most barely trans-cultural conscious schemes of social morality which I now choose to deem ‘religions’- any systematic mode of thought upon which two devout believers may have arguments over first principles.
This balance of power is natural, but it need not be hostile; if the practitioners of every religion were to accept that though they hold faith in their principles, they do not know them to be entirely true, then perhaps we would see a greater toleration of difference, a greater religious pluralism, arising between the communities of faith. And a religion in which the huge majority of believers are so reasonable (or as some would say, lukewarm) in their faith as to not embark upon crusades and jihads and activist campaigns to change the minds and hearts of the heretical unbelievers, perhaps we could find happier and more orderly societies based less upon vitriol and more upon respect.
Of course, the principle that no single religion must dominate any single society, lest it fall into the grips of Nazism or Southern White Supremacy, implies that religions must actively wage war upon each other to check the mutant growth of some, and preclude the attempted dominance of those which wish to dominate all life, mowing down every unbeliever. And this, I believe, would be just.
But before we throw stones at others, let us first examine ourselves. Let us first examine the religions we hold to be true, and ask ourselves- are we attempting to force these religions upon the nonbelievers around us? Are we placing our minds above theirs, and their consciences below ours? Are we become crusaders in our own homes?
Were these questions asked by honest individuals, I fully believe we would have a more pluralistic and peaceful world of a thousand faiths.