Religion Fails Pt 5 - Philosophical Religions

I know a lot of people have been chomping at the bit to see what I have to say about this bunch, so let's attack the 'philosophical' religions next. Ones like Buddhism and Confucianism and Taoism. And yes, Atheism, too. And all of those other 'religions-that-aren't-really-religions-because-they-have-no-god.' I mean what is up with that? How can a religion without gods even call itself a religion? The main argument against philosophical religions is that there is 'no god' so there can be no morality, but is that true?

Well, it's like this: Just about all philosophical religions have one thing in common. They all basically say that since you cannot prove that any given god exists (or for that matter does not exist) then why go through the trouble of devoting so much to that entity? Why not focus on the more important aspect of religion...the aspect that actually benefits the living...the philosophy? Even Shinto Taoism, that does acknowledge the resistance of gods, demons, and spirits, attempts to address them in a scientific method.

So let's examine what a religion does and see if there can be held to the same accounts or if they have to be an apples-and-oranges comparison.  Every religion seems to have three specific purposes. The first is to substantiate it's mythology. If there is no faith behind the important figures then a religion fails to perform it's task. The second purpose is to propagate. After all, if a given religion does not spread then why even bother with it? It will just be a group of people who have similar beliefs, but the religion will die when they do.  Finally, the final purpose is to establish a code of moral behavior that is rooted in a base philosophy of the religion.

Siddhartha Gotama is a figure of both historical and mythological importance. As is Kung Fu Tzu, and Lauzi, and Friedrich Nietzsche for that matter. True, it is harder to 'disbelieve' someone like Renee Descartes than someone like Odin, simply because there are fewer recorded instances of  people interracting with Odin. Still, without those sorts of figures the philosophical religions would not be able to rate, and so therefore the first category is a check.

The second point is propagation. This isn't really worth arguing because of it's obviousness. These philosophies have not always remained unaltered through the course of history. Case in point being individual differences between those such as Kung Fu Tzu (aka, Confucius) and Mencius. Or the way that French Nihilism isn't that popular anymore (except maybe among emos who don't know they're doing it.)

Finally, there is the aspect of the 'moral code'. Each philosopher took steps to further their cause and present a series of moral codes that could benefit people as they thought was correct. Even if those may seem 'evil' to some, it could be noted that the only true 'evil' is working against the greater good. In that, let us establish that there is no lack of morality. The Analects, the Tao Te Ching, even works like The Prince are complex moral arguments that may take some effort to fully understand and even more to implement. I have heard, in the past, those claiming that Atheists, as they have no god and do not follow a 'religious' text, are immoral. These are people who have never read Wissenschaft der Logik, Regulae ad directionem ingenii, The Origin of the Family, or any of the other myriad of volumes by whose standards the Bible is actually a small and repetitive work. Each of those books is a detailed and provocative description of what it means to be 'good', and what it means to be 'human'.

So these 'philosophies' are indeed 'religions.'

If there is one shortcoming to the 'Philosophical Religions' it's that they are devoid of any real 'hocus pocus'. No pillars of salt or flaming wheels. No virgins waiting for you in heaven or conflagrations of shrubbery. But maybe that's what people really dislike about them. Maybe people are looking for a miracle and a person who can fling lightning bolts before they can call it a religion. The generalized argument is that any 'religion' without the 'highest authority' of a god has no one to condemn those who do not uphold moral code.

There are billions who would beg to differ. Naturalist philosophers would claim that to go against the 'morality of working together with nature', one risks incurring 'nature's wrath'. Building houses without pylons or raised foundations in flood zones is a perfect example. Another would be to note that unified China held to Confucian morals, which used the concept of 'shame' to enforce moral behavior. Even the Machiavellian philosophies state that those who do not work towards hard-core political goals will suffer the indignity of their state falling into collapse, therefore failing future generations.

So there are moral codes. The REAL failure is that there are WAY too many of them. The Bible is composed of many 'books', but even if you include the Apocrypha and the Gnostic texts you still only have something that's a little over a thousand pages in length. And while the Q'ran and Torah are notably shorter, other traditional works can be significantly long. An example being the Vedas, Upanishads, Puranas, and Bhagavad Gita of hinduism, all of which can easilly amass more than ten thousand pages of material. However, all of those pale in comparrison to the compillation of phillosophies, which could fill entire libraries. There are people that can devote themselves only to one form, say for example Hegelian philosophy, and spend significant portions of their life just mastering that. So keeping up with the 'moral codes' of these religions is a daunting task at best.

But in addition to that, without the 'hocus pocus' to the mythology much of these philosophies is rather a dry topic. There are not any epic and colorful occurances to truly distract from the importance of the work itself. So in summary, these 'religions' do have everything any other religion has, but they can be a very hard road to tread.

But on the plus side, as these are ideas that were designed to be debated they can (and should) evolve. People are free to try them out before declaring: 'No...that didn't work...better try something else.' With a god you are in it for the long haul. Cancel payment on your membership before you expire and you fail to get the coupon to enter heaven when the end comes.However, there is one more benefit to the Philosophical religions. Very few of them actually claim that you can't worship a god if you really want to. Technically, you can still study Hegel and Marx as an atheist and also worship Krishna. While there are some atheists that would call you 'weak' for doing so, there's really no 'law' that forbids it.

As long as Krishna is cool with it, that is, and word is he's a fairly tolerant dude.

Uploaded 12/21/2008
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