What is the social cost of losing our religion?


If we assume that the story-myth-religious ideas and rituals is a natural adaptation, one that enabled us to bond together as groups, making survival more likely; what, if any, is the cost of today’s more secular social-cultural systems? Our myths served many roles; as explanations of natural events, as justification of actions, as records of the past and projections of the future, as a means of healing, renewal, hope and inspiration, as a proto science – as a means of crafting the image of control – the notion that “if we do this, then this predictable outcome will take place”.

With the advent of science and civics (arguably secular religion) taking a more prominent role, the accuracy and historicity of the stories we once unquestioningly embraced as fact have been put to the test. This shift in our focus from “revealed” knowledge to verified, seems to have affected our social equilibrium in ways many of us do not fully understand.

Stories are still important factors in shaping our experience but their importance may have been crowded out of our direct awareness with scientific descriptions of process. Science is a reliable tool but we may have lost our story (or buried it) and that is not without consequence. Nietzsche made a profound point when he said; “I fear we are not getting rid of God because we still believe in grammar.” We still operate by story even if those stories are not in focus anymore. Having them underground can make leave us vulnerable in certain critical ways.

If I understand him correctly, Jordan Peterson attributes our shifted focus toward civic religions – the fight over forms of government, for instance, as part of the fallout of this loss of equilibrium. We still look for saviors, and we still praise and defend as well as crucify them. We also still develop puritanical movements that destroy the integrity of systems that nonetheless support us. We do not recognize our voice in shaping our shared experience through story. This may be a tragic mistake.

Have we mistakenly projected the role of savior onto science as a culture, losing sight of the importance that our experience is also defined by our shared story? Has the dramatic shift in our awareness over the past few hundred years put us in a place where we need to find a new equilibrium? What would a new shared story look like? What would we need to do to nourish its adoption to fruition as a means of articulating the shared values that could bind us together and help move us together into the future?

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