However, I have long had the idea that there must be religion, first, in order for representative democracy to work. You can call it religion, or coherent public philosophy, or a codex which compels the otherwise devious people from letting their animal or evil drives to possess them - or, simply, a shared spirit of hopeful, deferential social cooperation. I came to the conclusion that "religion" precedes and underlies democracy even before I went to college to study better the writings of the men below. In my own life, I have not seen the need for the trappings of Catholic religion, when one is self-motivated to act kindly, sincerely, civilly, inquisitively, boldly - pretty much as the statues would have you do. I don't need statues, nor deities, nor other people thinking for me, or assuming the right to harm me according to their own version of scripture. Crazy cults have referred to scripture.
The point is, live right, live fair, and spend less money on nunneries or pedophile priests. I am long past considering whether it may be possible for barbarians to go to Heaven, how many angels can dance on the head of a peon, or the vast contradictions in Biblical fable. I recognise the Pope as a social influencer, not a demigod. I posed my view of the nature of God somewhere around the fourth grade, (which had me branded as an evil atheist), that since God is in everything and everyone, he is everywhere in the present. Therefore, study nature, study people, not gossip, guesses, or lies serving the more powerful. Along with my personal attitude of social justice, I have a philosophy that is not atheism, or deism, or any such label.
Words have been our salvation and also our damnation. In the evolutionary and sociological senses. Words are boxes for ignorance or assumptions of what's inside. Call a cow a cow, and henceforth all cows are soulless beasts, by definition. In most religions, certain words are brandished as meaning things, when in fact they are treaties of denial by communities moulded by compliance with the carrot ans stick of structures of authority, which is a characteristic of human nature or psychology. It's not that all religion is a lie for the sheeple, it is that people are born with a proclivity to conform to religions, despite their faults and fallacies.
But, a large group investing in one nomenclature inevitably alienates itself from groups investing themselves in others, the mistake being that the name is the thing. And since there is usually no actual concrete thing behind the name, but rather faith and feelings, this makes agreement even more difficult - between groups, while it oppositely encourages moralisation within groups. One religion may look up to Allah as the all-being, yet, and consequently, deny the right of Buddha to be the all-being, while the Buddhists see things oppositely, then the two, unnecessarily conflicting, words, or all the fervour behind them, ironically clash and produce a world of warfare, hate and suffering. This is most true during stressed economic or sociopolitical times, whereas in easier times, when groups share a common hope and expectation of a positive future, then the ideals of diversity can trump the degeneration into animal antagonisms, rationalised by words. Sounds and letters can lead to the rise and fall of civilisations.
In the secular sphere, the USA is in a comparable situation. Words like "racist," "progressive," "lies," "white nationalist," "fascist" - and even "Democrat" or "Republican" - are being thrown about like spears, with vague but self-serving definitions. It's not the definitions that matter, it is the use of labels as weapons, and means to justify personal drives - animal drives painted over in words - including violence. Simultaneously, many groups in the country are fractured and fighting, because hopes towards a shared future have diverged into demands for competing futures. I have written how the acceleration of expectations, and so egos, beyond rational norms, can result in a fractive society. Think of it as everyone driving happilly towards the future, when their cars hit bumps and barriers, (like an economic recession, or a viral pandemic), which quickly slow the cars down, to a relative stop. The people in the cars, though, just keep lurching forward, which is an unnatural and untenable state. Egos, like words without substance, crash dumbly into egos, and the values of society, become more and more subservient to group and personal demands, distend and separate from each other, like colours on a TV where the colour saturation is turned up and up.
Now relatively spoilt people redefine former wants as now NEEDS, and these so-called needs become demands. This is comparable to people demanding more and more rights, when, in fact, their rights have been secure enough so far - but the conflict ends up taking rights away from everyone, which is also comparable to violent revolutionary Marxism, (as well as to corrupt capitalism). "Value distention," is an important concept of mine which shows how this amplification of wants into demands leads to a tragedy of the commons, where everyone's demands end up harming every one else. In this rising social cognitive and behavioural dissonance, (which is expensive), there is a division of the private self against the public self, of society versus individual, of group versus group, just as there is rising dissonance between word and word, or god and god. We see this in the private/public hypocrisy of the crazy man downstairs, and A-hole guy, both who are consummately liars, which is an inevitable outcome of the feeling of losing control in a formerly 'predictable', but now contradictory, world. Value amplification and distention is equivalent to the demoralisation of a society. yes, we have been talking about morality, here.
Whether it be a street code; a cultish club; a participatory mythology; regulated hero worship or nationalism; a contagious ideology, or even so-called atheistic communism, all of these variations of religions do fulfill something inherent in humans, and can have so many positive goods. At the same time, religions can have their ugly sides, and usually do. Often concurrently. The rising value and psychological dissonance described above can also occur within religions or religious groups. There is a shaking up of expectations, there is conflict, there is a vying for new authority, and so on. There can even be pogroms and who knows what. And, it should be noted that many religions act symbolically as a substitute for race.
Nevertheless, I strongly believe that regions, the great and often selfish moralisers, are not only part of being human, but are necessary for the functioning of a free society. I have written often about how, when a society comes out of a strict moral era, the economy booms, because people become more liberal, more wanting, more active. This does not mean that the former level or form of morality was bad. Rather, it was essential to a flurry of freedom. And when there is too much freedom, and people are freely biting at each other's necks, morality comes in again to sort things out and settle people down. This time around, we might see another wave of Religious Awakening. Who knows - from the left, from the right? But, people go through generations trying to figure out what a society means, in relation to themselves, and these ebbs and flows of moralisation are fundamental to the social dynamic, for better or for worse.
In more stable, interim times - although in all times, to some degree - morality, which we are regarding as the social influence of "religion," preserves spaces, rituals, values, and generally accepted assumed definitions of certain WORDS, for the public will or moralisation. Without the concept of an individually claimed "soul," what should stop others from people from acting like animals and killing people for meat? Without the concept of human life, what would there be to stop power-hungry Euthanasians from requiring abortions and cullings of the surplus population? Without the concept of "rights" made inalienable by a politically transcendent God, what would stop the state from taking over your living room, your personal information, your self-defense, your socialising, and your superstitious mumbo-jumbo? What is to stop society from eating itself alive without examples of saintly and heroic people, or even ghosts, who exemplified suffering for the better of others, or kindness to others, or love of enemies?
Remember that my definition of religion is broad. It includes the natural spirit of morality which is inherent in most human beings, and necessary to the functioning of an ongoing tribe or civilisation though, yes, group will sometimes conflict with group. The ideas of Natural Law are enough to put forth and defend the idea that we are each of us born with rights, inalienable, which no government may usurp. And yet, do you look at a baby and see any of these rights showing, connected like an umbilical cord? No. Do you see justice? Do you see God? Do you see into the self of another entirely, that you may discard the idea that that person lives, and deserves to live on, and should be free, for the advantage of all, including yourself? These words, called, "rights", they are boxes we have made to help describe what we cannot always see, but hope to see in others, as we hope to carry for ourselves.
Morality, given by religion, or natural law, (or even the innate motivation of a person who uses the word, "atheist"), from the communal and independent self, is a base for the construction of laws and legal definitions in reality, where it may appear that there really exist no such self-evident 'things'. In these definitions, of boxes of clutter, there may seem to be little that is real, but they indeed follow from movements of the heart, or of the species to prevail. Morality, or religions, are constructions of words and pictures and pledges and prayers, that have just enough natural sense in them that they induce millions to adhere, by some kind of will. In other words, they channel or conduct moralisation, and motivation. Like mnemonic devices, religious symbolism can be a kind of prod to one's own plans for progress. And, it is the spirit or will of the congregation that legitimises the religion, or morality's authority. It is a continuing play between individual and society, mainly in the interest of conservative peace, but sometimes of war.
Religion is about keeping things stable at home. Capitalistic economy is about people competing for selfish needs or wants, for tools, or weapons, or food, or a nice warm bed, control over everyone, whatever. These two kingdoms are often in conflict with each other, (except when churchs ally themselves with war machines). Capitalism, unrestrained, has an inclination to ultimately destroy things. It does not exist mainly for the betterment of others, although the theory is that constant competition would work to everyone's benefit. Corporations must be chartered and regulated for the public good, (in theory). To keep these two conflicting kingdoms from destroying each other, there must be a civil government, preferably deriving its authority from the values and morality of the people, who derive all that from their churches, (or gardens, or bowling teams). If the state becomes, as it is wont to do, corrupted and controlled by moneyed interests, religion, or public morality, would be endangered. To lose public moralisation, or individual rights and WILL, is to ultimately blow up capitalism. And the ensuing system is almost Statism, where the state controls the economy, social groups, and individual freedom - which is something we have seen in NAZI Germany, as well as in China and the USSR. Because the ultimate corruption is Statism, which is beyond left versus right, it is foolish to fight battles of left versus right, intending to defeat some enemy. Another example of the definitions of words not adjusting to the new real use of those words.
An older problem exists, of the possibility of the state being taken over by, or merging with, religious institutions, resulting in a theocracy, or theocratic statism. In this case, as in the case where the state is dominated by moneyed interests, the system basically becomes a massive, modern kind of feudalism, where the poor, or the less powerful, or the heretical, lose big time. because what any of this means is that greedy people or groups have vied for power, money and control, and extended their grip over the entire society, as a virtual oligarchy. Top-down ruled states are easilly bought or exploited by foreign money, or powers, like dictatorships in the third world. Today, our country is being exploited by China, George Soros, Venezuela, and other foreigners. And the fractious turmoil, partly caused by this interference, growing from a paucity of public philosophy, or religion, has been convenient to present and future divide-and-conquer agents. Because of the vast, distending value and cognitive dissonance - and the confusion of what lies behind words, are they lies? - many, many people are blind to what is unfolding - in what they lending themselves to.
It is best when government can work at resolving issues between social values and economic forces. For a while, we have tried to have a government held somewhat separately from businesses, as the merging of the two is corporatism, which is one step closer to state fascism. For most of our history, we have more studiously kept a distance between Church and State, under a little acknowledgement that state, to some degree, does always serve corporate, or temporal, interests, as in the days of the British East India Company. This contrasts with our early religious morality, which, in general was, though dogmatic, very libertarian, (at least where church interests were concerned). Most people of the religions just wanted to be free of the proto-corporatist King, to practice alone, and live their lives. Keeping government, once and for all, out of this moralising sphere, was of great importance to them. We have strong separation of church and state precisely because the state, fed by temporal interests, has a tendency to control and harm the less powerful. That is especially true if the state also considers itself the main religion on the block.
But, ironically, the separation of church and state makes sure that capitalism thrives, by preserving the moralised free WILL of the people, who proceed to buy and sell, and be marketted to, which quicly pays for the government itself. Just ask yourself, how could an economy exist where all the consumers were robots, without any freedom to choose? What would motivated unwillful robots to produce anything, other than a computer programme serving the interests of the handful of humans that control it? (Notice this article: Robots on the rise as Americans experience record job losses amid pandemic). What, also, would motivate people to work against their will, for some alien, theoretical state, which names itself, "The good of the people"? In the latter case, the state always ends up stepping in to force people to work, or to shut up, or to die.
People are born part wild, naturally free. If a state tries to control this, people become like trapped raccoons, and fight back, using the best of their animal arsenal. When you are minding your own business, and some stranger starts messing with you, calling you this or that, judging you, etc., you will have a strong urge to answer or fight back. That is one reason why people have religions, to hold values which defend their right to mind their own business, and grow their own crops, they way they chose to. There isn't any profit for society in people buggering other people - there may only be profit for the buggers. When the constitution keeps separate church and state, people produce as they choose, and the economy grows, as does common wealth. Likewise, domineering religions are held back from forcefully soliciting new members, or damning to hell those who resist - or those who bare their arms, or those who like rock&roll, or those who read profane books, etc. Escaping from the too-tight clutches of religion, or other people's morals, is itself another boon to the economy, as I wrote earlier in this post.
Keeping a balance between the spiritual and the temporal, the heart versus demands of economics, between what seems eternal and what seems entropic - between Church and State - is essential to human and social sanity, and useful to the safety and wealth of most everyone.
I understand that there are arguments which can be waged here, concerning the flawed nature of capitalism, and so on, which can contradict the bucolic outcome of traditional Liberal philosophy, some of which is presented above. I appreciate that trust can and has been lost in some classical ideas. However, the argument above remains essentially valid. I can discuss capitalism elsewhere, as I have in the past. To the left, religion is the big enemy, to the right, it is communism. The left-right paradigm itself is counterproductive, and should be avoided. People are basically the same, but not when they are throwing about divisive words.
I wanted to note: My values partly derive from my growing up in an Irish Catholic family, plus a Catholic education. I have studied and questioned Catholic values, as well, which makes me a little different. My beliefs are my own - I have certainly taken things a long, long way from home. I also have been an outsider, and observer, and a lover of nature, so these also deeply informed me. I do have a deep interest in social justice, which takes me beyond what some people would like, as I denounce BLM and Antifa. And Biden! Much of my social justice orientation has its roots in Catholic values, although I may have uprooted or cut down some of these, and grown new branches. Despite how much I differ from those in my family who remain devout Catholics, and one or two others who claim to be atheists or whatnot, I like to believe that we all carry on this interest in social justice, which has included political involvement or activism.
During the election vote counting, there was one Democratic county in Nevada who defied the corrupt norm, of hiding everything, etc. Instead, that county opened every ballot, allowing them to be viewed live on the internet. That was the county where my politically active sister lives, and my guess is that she probably had something to do with the choice to do things that way, decently, above board and ethically. I think, in the sense of existential social justice work, Catholicism has been a very good thing, for my family, and for society. Whether it means helping the poor, or opposing bigotry, or opposing violence or war. Just like in my family, though, along with the good comes the bad, and wrong things happen. There is always a dark shadow with every push of any good will. You cannot exist on earth without Ahimsa - harming others in some way. This is not an excuse, it is a call for the wisest of action. And, so choosing, not being pulled back by guilt, which I consider, in this respect, a very unoriginal sin.
Without the independent will to act in human, moral, conscientious way, life and liberty are lost in self, and in society.
"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." - Benjamin Franklin