the only reason anyone believes is because of a fear of going to hell? And it's all about fantastical fairy tales? That's just a reduction that I find too hard to take. Hell wasn't even a notion for the longest time. The origins of all religions would seem to be the attempt to face the unknown and unknowable. Certainly it is what they all have in common, along with basic principles that allow for civilized societies to take root, such as the golden rule. Much of what trane says regarding humans being no more special than trees or stones within the vastness of everything can be found within religious texts.
i choose to do things without need of reward. many may think this is an arrogant approach, but in my opinion, doing things for the good and not for the reward is precisely what doing good is about
to me this sounds like it could come right out of the new testament, or just about any other text. If we are going to get stuck in old testament readings and literal approaches to all religious texts while further reducing their importance to fairy tales and santa clause, then this just isn't a very meaningful discussion. Of course there is far too much influence with regards to those that wish to push literal translations and teachings that are all about reaping rewards with little sacrifice and feeling special. I could argue against that shit all day long. But it's not where religious thought likely began, nor what made it meaningful. Today it would seem to be a reaction to a modern world that leaves people alienated and searching for an identity. In the past that sort of aberration would have been used by the ruling class in order to promote themselves as being close to God and therefore legitimate.
To see religion merely as a device used to maintain power is to overlook far too much. The new testament was transformative. It's hard to say that it did not mark some form of progress in human history. Even more transformative, arguably, was the mass production of the new testament by the printing press, and further to that, the reformation that allowed for the idea of the individual to flourish, and from there a great deal of progress in all arenas. And frankly, I do not see any influence of modernity that can propose to be superior. Right now I see a nuclear meltdown that was made possible by generations of rational, secular people. I see the aftermath of a financial meltdown wholly created and supported by rational, intelligent beings. I see a massive increase in food prices that is mostly due to rational people betting on derivatives after rational people allowed for such derivatives to be created from the speculation of basic commodities. I see homogenization of cultures through consumerism (and Santa Claus), with some clear benefits, but also no sense whatsoever of our ability to sustain our current way of life. If we could simply say no to new ideas at all, or even consider doing so, then I might think that life without religion altogether would bring a good chance for progress. But from what I see, religion, or no religion, we are stuck coming up with new ideas and new technologies which we will inevitably rationalize as being infallible, or nearly so (because of course you just don't know when a tsunami is going to hit, but fuck it - it's worth discounting the idea of a tsunami, or the limited nature of resources, or the ability of life itself to withstand all the damage that we bring to the table). It seems to me that there might be a place for the non-literal truths evident in religious thought, and the meaning that can be derived from those truths (apart from simple dogma and all the political machinations involving such dogma), alongside the materialism of the last couple of centuries, in taking us to a place where limits are recognized for the benefit of us all, and providing some balance to us playing god with the usual, disastrous results.