Basic Orientation
Book1: R-E Living & "Homo Rationalis"
Acknowledgements
Introduction: Most Important Book
Basic Methods In This Book
The Three Exponential Changes
Basics: Determinants Of Behavior
Basics: Ethics
Rational-Ethical Anger Prevention
Rational-Ethical Child Rearing
Rational-Ethical Belief Management
Rational-Ethical Government
Rational-Ethical Religion
What The Reader Should Do
Book2: Humanianity
Book3: Mind-Body Problem
Book4: (Future Possible Development)
Child Rearing Issues
Philosophico-Religious Issues
Psycho-Socio-Cultural Issues
The Twelve Articles
Relevant Autobiography
 
"HOMO RATIONALIS" AND HUMANIANITY
 
HELPING TO PROMOTE OUR THIRD EXPONENTIAL CHANGE
 

RATIONAL-ETHICAL RELIGION


In this chapter, I will attempt to predict what religion will be like in the time of "Homo rationalis," clarify how it will be different from religion as it currently exists, explain why the differences will presumably be better, and speculate as to how the transition may occur from religion as it currently is to religion as it will be then. (Adequate understanding of this chapter will, of course, depend upon the reader having read the earlier parts of this book.)


First, we must have some agreement as to what we shall mean by "religion," by which we will also mean that set of phenomena that we designate as "religions."


There are many definitions of "religion." In our effort to predict what life will be like in the time of "Homo rationalis," we can assume that they will probably use words in a somewhat different manner than we do. Even currently, however, all religions have in common the goal of helping individuals to achieve the belief that they know the best way to live (how to live optimally). In other words, using the terminology of this book, all religions consist in part of attempts to optimize ethical belief, that set of beliefs about what we should do, how we should live our lives, or "what is important in life." There are, of course, other characteristics and components, but these other characteristics and components vary so much among the various religions that they do not seem quite as fundamental a part of "religion" as does the optimization of ethical belief. So, for our purposes, "religion" will be defined as those individual and group psychosocial activities the most important function of which is optimization of ethical belief (recognizing that there are indeed several other functions of those activities also).


The reader should note that this definition does, therefore, include some sets of beliefs that have been labeled "philosophies." In fact, any distinction between "philosophy" and "religion" is going to be an act of definition, most likely different for different discussions. For the purposes of this book, as the reader will see, the above definition of "religion" will allow us to discuss with greatest clarity the most important concepts to which the reader's attention is being called. The reader should also note that, according to this use of language, this book is a religious book.


We should note, however, that the third exponential change, ultimately leading to the emergence of "Homo rationalis," is consisting of a change in ethics, from primarily authoritarian ethics, which comes naturally as a part of our basic animal nature, to rational ethics, with its rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle that we should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species, but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future. They will thus see optimal religion as rational-ethical religion, the effort to have a religion or religions consistent with rational ethics, that is, consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle.


I will speculate later on how they will attempt to optimize ethical belief, that is, the set of procedures they will use. First, however, I will address the several other components that have been associated with, or are currently a part of, religion.


One of the most prominent components of most religions so far has been some sort of explanatory worldview. By explanatory worldview, I mean only a set of existential beliefs (beliefs about the way the world is, was, or will be) at least regarding certain major parts of the world.


This explanatory worldview has served several functions, one being the legitimization of the above-mentioned set of beliefs about what it is that we should do. For instance, the reason that we should sacrifice a virgin is that there is a certain kind of deity in the volcano who may punish us if we don't, or the reason that we should engage in certain kinds of behavior and avoid other kinds of behavior is that there is a judgmental deity that provides rewards and punishments according to how well we obey, or the reason that we should live certain ways is that we all keep repeating painful lives until we have become maximally obedient to ethical standards (principles and rules of conduct) thought to be inherent in the nature of existence, or the reason that we should not engage in abortion is that when a human egg and sperm unite, a new entity, yet to be identified by scientific study, is created that will exist forever and is entitled to a body and the opportunity to experience life.


Historically, however, I believe we can see a general process taking place that is beginning to transform the explanatory worldview component of religions.


There have always been many, many religions, often primarily associated with some geographical area or some relatively large group of humans, and the explanatory worldviews of those religions have probably varied as much as, if not more than, their sets of ethical beliefs. To use a metaphor, we can imagine a large village of many single-story houses, some a little larger than others, each one representing a religious explanatory worldview. As time has gone on, new houses have appeared and old houses have tended to disappear. And that was the way it was for many thousands of years. However, over the past several hundred years, an enormously tall skyscraper, representing one particular explanatory worldview, has grown in the center of the village.


This explanatory worldview has been different from all the other explanatory worldviews in two main ways.


First, this new explanatory worldview consists of beliefs that are extremely accurate, in that, for the first time, those beliefs lead to predictions that turn out to be what actually happens, and reliably so. Therefore, we have become able to do amazing, wonderful things (though of course terrible things also). We have been able confidently to engage in behavior that, if our explanatory worldview were not correct, would be very foolish, such as flying, submitting to surgical procedures, exploring the bottoms of the oceans and even the moon, etc.


Second, this new explanatory worldview is frequently changing in the direction of increasing accuracy of belief. Thus, each "generation" of individuals builds upon what the previous generations have built, often with modifications and replacements of ideas that went before, with beliefs that allow for ever more accurate predictions. The reader can see why the religious explanatory worldviews have been depicted as single story houses, because there has been a tendency for those explanatory worldviews to remain the same over time, often with the understanding that to propose changes, even improvements, is perhaps to be disobedient and foolish.


The skyscraper is, of course, the set of beliefs acquired through the scientific methods, or "science."


The presence of the skyscraper in the midst of all the houses has caused some phenomena to occur in the houses. Adherents to each religion have become aware of differences between their own beliefs (with regard to explanatory worldview) and the beliefs arrived at by science. But there has been a tendency, explained later, for adherents of each religion to assume that their religion's explanatory worldview is necessary for its survival. Therefore, the logical inconsistencies between their own religious beliefs and those of science have had to be responded to, and there have been several characteristic responses.


One response has been for the adherents of the religion to take the stand that science is wrong and is evil (should be avoided). Most religious adherents that take this approach do so only with respect to certain beliefs arrived at through science, that are contradictory to beliefs within the religion. This view, with its derogation of the validity of science, tends to lead to avoidance of education in science, even though the fruits of scientific research usually are readily made use of. This particular response has perhaps not been very popular, and has tended to disappear as the value of the fruits of scientific research has increasingly become apparent.


Another response has been to say that the beliefs dealt with by science and religion are in different domains, and therefore cannot contradict each other. In this case, what is maintained is that the religious beliefs cannot be legitimated by the scientific method of legitimization (appeal to evidence, essentially the ability to predict accurately). First, some will point out there is no evidence one way or the other in the religious domain, allowing freedom to believe without concern about contradiction by science. The problem here is that if there are X religious explanatory worldviews, the probability that any one of them is correct, in the absence of any evidence, is 1/X, or very low. Second, others will say that the evidence is plentiful, but "personal," and not subject to verification by others. An example would be an individual claiming that he or she knew the explanatory worldview was correct, because he or she had heard a deity say so, or had at least heard, seen, or experienced something that made the individual feel a strong sense of certainty about what he or she was believing. And the problem here is that science would have an alternative way of explaining such an experience, including the ability of humans to hallucinate and be delusional.


Another response has been for the adherents to adopt the terminology of science, but using such terms in ways such as to produce the belief that science actually is confirming the explanatory worldview of the religion. There is widespread use, for instance, of the word "energy" to refer to entities or phenomena the existence of which are unknown within science. And most recently, terminology from quantum physics has been appropriated into the religious vocabulary. This development has often been referred to as "pseudoscience."


And finally, a frequent response has been to continue to use the same (religious) terms within the religion, but to revise their definitions such as to make statements involving them non-contradictory to scientifically derived or legitimated beliefs. Revising the definition of a word like "God" might result in meanings such as "all there is," "the great mystery," "love," "the ultimate reason for everything," etc. Such approaches, however, seem less compelling of belief, and they often do not provide much legitimization of the ethical beliefs of the religion.


So at the time of the writing of this book, there is an uneasy relationship between science and most religions, because of the tendency of most religions to have an explanatory worldview different from that produced by the scientific methods, and also for them to have a requirement that their adherents maintain, often unquestioningly, belief in their religion's explanatory worldview.


If we recall that "Homo rationalis" will maintain as one of their most important ethical principles that one should try to make one's beliefs as accurate as possible, we can ask how they will address this problem.


My prediction is that they will have decided that it is not religion's function to provide an explanatory worldview. They will be satisfied with the explanatory worldview being arrived at by science. They will say that the primary, defining function of religion is to promote the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, that we should do that which will promote not only the survival of our species but also the good life for everyone, now and in the future, and that science, by increasing the accuracy of belief, is giving us greater ability to optimize our decision-making and therefore the quality of our lives.


The reader should note that in this way of thinking, religion and science are not enemies, but instead partners. Good decision-making requires both. Science tells us what is most likely to happen if we do certain things, and religion helps us to decide whether we should do them or not.


From earlier in the book, the reader may recall the interaction between existential beliefs (about the way the world is, was, or will be) and ethical beliefs (about what we should do). This interaction produces our ability to legitimate our specific ethical beliefs by showing that they are deducible from more general ethical beliefs and therefore ultimately from the ultimate ethical principle. The interaction may be conceptualized as follows:


I should do X (try to bring about outcome A).

Ethical proposition.

If I do Y, A is likely to result.

Existential proposition.

Therefore, I should do Y.

Ethical proposition.


I should learn about this subject.

Ethical proposition.

If I study this book, I will learn about this subject.

Existential proposition.

Therefore, I should study this book.

Ethical proposition.


I should not cause needless suffering.

Ethical proposition.

If I steal, I will cause needless suffering.

Existential proposition.

Therefore, I should not steal.

Ethical proposition.


Since science provides us with the most accurate existential propositions, it follows from this nature of ethical reasoning that religion should honor science, promoting awareness of it and emphasizing the importance of it. The reader should note how different this attitude of religion toward science will be from how religion has dealt with science so far. This is another example of those ways in which "Homo rationalis" will be so different from the way we are that they will be, metaphorically, almost like a different species.


But now there is one very great problem associated with this solution. The function of the various religious explanatory worldviews is not limited just to the legitimization of the ethical beliefs of those religions. These explanatory worldviews are themselves legitimated by the criterion of "comfort," as clarified in the chapter on Rational-Ethical Belief Management, and thus also serve that function. In other words, there are certain religious explanatory worldview beliefs that make us feel good, or help us to feel better, and are maintained precisely because of that.


So I would imagine that the reader would be asking how feasible it would be for "Homo rationalis" simply to dispense with this important function and capability, and whether doing so would or would not be fostering the good life for everyone, etc., since many individuals currently attest to how important such beliefs have been to them. And indeed I believe that there is no bigger problem standing in the way of our species ultimately living a more rational-ethical life, with far, far less pain, suffering, disability, and early death. There clearly is much comfort, at times even joy, that is provided by many of the religious beliefs for which science so far has not obtained evidence, and indeed by some religious beliefs for which science has even acquired some evidence to the contrary.


Let us look closer at this particular aspect of many of the religions, to try to understand more basically why this problem exists.


We humans have always had a desire for and a belief in magic. Magic is the ability to make things happen just by wishing them to happen, the wish perhaps being accompanied by a procedure that is supposed to allow the wish to become effective. The belief of an individual that he or she can bring about a desired result will obviously allow the individual to feel good or at least feel better. Things happening by magic is in contradistinction to things happening according to understood regularities in the universe that make prediction (with probability above chance) possible. The religions, so far, have tended to provide the comforting belief that good things are likely to happen, especially if one carries out the procedures of that religion, including thinking a certain way, having a certain set of beliefs, behaving in certain ways, and perhaps even following certain rituals. The theologies are in part explanatory worldviews that explain why the magic is supposed to work, and they serve to increase the belief that the magic does indeed work. Examples would be the belief in the power of prayer, in the ability to cast spells, or in the effectiveness of sacrificing virgins, all these beliefs being strengthened by their consistency with the theologies of the respective religions.


I believe one day (as the third exponential change occurs) religion will finally be unshackled from this need to maintain belief in the effectiveness of magic, and will no longer be threatened by science and thus will no longer be trying to justify itself by the various responses listed above to contradictions by science.


If indeed religion will be the psychosocial individual and group activity that specifically helps us to develop our basic ethical philosophies, and if indeed "Homo rationalis" will regard the seeking of accuracy of belief as one of the highest level ethical principles, and therefore an important component of anyone's basic ethical philosophy, then how will "Homo rationalis" approach the problem that religion has always had inaccurate explanatory worldviews (inaccurate in comparison to those of science), maintained because of the second criterion of legitimization of belief, namely, comfort?


My prediction is that they will have already given up the requirement that the explanatory world views of their various religions have any accuracy, and as such they will not regard them as beliefs, but rather as pseudobeliefs. If we recall from the chapter on Rational-Ethical Belief Management, pseudobelief is "belief" (a model of something about the world) that is regarded by a "higher level," "supervisory" belief as not being accurate and therefore as not being appropriate for use for decision-making, but that nevertheless may be activated for the effect that doing so has on the motivational states, and therefore feeling states, and therefore possibly even quality of life, of that individual.


My prediction as to what will happen is that the following attitude toward religious explanatory worldviews will develop and be maintained.


First, they ("Homo rationalis") will recognize that such inaccurate explanatory worldviews are a normal and natural part of the development, not only of our species in general, but also of each of us as individuals.


It is a part of our basic animal nature that we develop beliefs, models of things about the world that guide our decision-making, and that those beliefs vary with regard to accuracy. Both accuracy (producing thereby successful behavior) and comfort (producing thereby a better feeling state) reinforce, or strengthen, those beliefs. As life experience continues, new, more accurate beliefs are acquired. This process occurs for any animal, and enables the animal to get better and better at doing things. What is true of us humans is that we have drastically improved on this process by the use of our rules of logic and rules of evidence ("rationality," as used in this book), made possible by our ability to model our beliefs with symbols, especially language.


In other words, not only has our species, only with great difficulty, gradually become more rational (developing beliefs consistent with the rules of logic and the rules of evidence), but also all of us as individuals have only gradually, and with much effort, overcome the nonrationally derived beliefs of our infancy and early childhood, many of which have been reinforced by the comfort that they have produced. Thus, nonrationality is a normal and natural part of ourselves, and actually is much, much more a part of our nature than is rationality. Nonrationality is what we all have begun with, as a part of our basic animal nature. No other species, and no human infant, has as a natural part of itself any knowledge of or any tendency to use the rules of logic and the rules of evidence. These rules have only been arrived at by our species relatively recently, such recognition of them, and the increasing ability to use them, being the second exponential change, making us drastically different from all other species and from the way we were before this change accelerated (the acceleration occurring over the last two or three thousand years, and especially over the last few hundred years).


Furthermore, the inaccurate beliefs that we have acquired in infancy and early childhood continue, as we have noted, to be present in our brains, though to a great extent atrophied from disuse as more accurate beliefs have been acquired and reinforced by success in decision-making. Since these earlier beliefs, often associated with various (positive and negative) motivational states (and therefore "feelings"), still exist within our brains, it is possible for them to be reactivated, either by a kind of situation, or by a specific effort to do so from a more supervisory part of the brain.


And it is because of the existence of these beliefs, and of our ability to reactivate them, that there exists much of the richness of our emotional lives and of our ability to communicate with each other emotionally (reliably produce motivational states in each other).


Our various moods and emotional responses, often quite difficult to explain, are being produced in part by the mild activation of those primitive beliefs (both accurate and inaccurate). The emotional connotations of our language, allowing for "moving" prose and poetry, and the emotional appeal of art in general, arise in part due to the "background" activation of such beliefs, as do the eerie, nostalgic, sad, and anxious feelings we get in certain settings.


It is by virtue of our ability to use symbols that we have the ability to achieve greater empathy with each other (and even members of other species), especially by sharing our internal experience (thoughts and feelings) with each other through prose, poetry, and other forms of art. And it is by virtue of such empathy that we have the greatest capacity to understand each other and to bond positively with each other and resist some of the other tendencies that are also a part of our basic animal nature, that cause so much pain, suffering, disability, and early death, such as judgmentalism, anger, hostile behavior, revenge, punishment, killing, etc. So our ability to activate within ourselves our more primitive and inaccurate beliefs, long ago discarded perhaps through education and successful life experience, foster our ability to understand and bond with each other such as to cause us to treat each other well.


The ability to make primarily good decisions based upon a high level of rationality should in no way rule out the ability to experience the reactivation (as pseudobeliefs) of some of our earlier, nonrationally acquired, beliefs, even though they may not be as accurate as those that have taken their place in decision-making.


This same attitude ought to be appropriate with regard to the differences between cultures and with regard to the nonrational aspects of cultures. It would be unrealistic and even unfortunate to have the expectation that ultimately all cultures would become the same, by virtue of their containing only those components and characteristics that were found to be completely consistent with accurate belief. In fact, it is the interaction of differences between people that tends most to produce spontaneous creative products. Individuals often feel quite enhanced and deepened by virtue of a visit to another culture. And the sharing and comparing of ideas is most productive when the ideas differ.


To turn against and feel bad about that which is a normal and natural part of ourselves would be to reduce the quality of our lives. Instead, I believe that "Homo rationalis" will look at religious explanatory worldviews as a normal part of our cultures, and will look at them as our best efforts at the time of their origins to help ourselves live better lives. Since they have had this function, they will be looked at as aspects of ourselves that, if studied, will help us to understand ourselves and each other better, and thus help us to live more empathetically and harmoniously with each other. Such an attitude would be exactly the same as the one in which we look with positive regard at the first efforts of children to attempt to master the very complex and confusing world into which they have come. An example might be the comfort a small child feels when close to his or her stuffed animal, this certainly being a phenomenon that would not produce negative judgmental behavior on the part of the adult toward the child.


What "Homo rationalis" will not do is regard these religious explanatory worldviews as being subject to evaluation as to whether they are "true" or "false," or "accurate" or "inaccurate."


But they will also realize that there is no guarantee that all of the pseudobeliefs within those explanatory worldviews will necessarily have a beneficial effect. In fact, we witness today that religions, in addition to all the good they do, also sometimes cause some individuals to feel bad about themselves because of the negative, and even punitive, attitude that those religions promote toward aspects of ourselves that are normal and natural. (This has happened because the religions have also served the function of social control, and have operated according to the naturally occurring belief, prominent in the standard model of child rearing, that control can be provided optimally by the threat of, and actual administration of, punishment.) There is much self-hatred that is derived from certain religious explanatory worldviews. In other words, these religious explanatory worldviews can have both good and bad effects.


Because, in the time of "Homo rationalis," belief will no longer be required as an act of obedience, and the explanatory worldviews will no longer be required to be thought of as accurate, there will be much more of an emphasis upon understanding the "evolution" of the explanatory worldviews, reflecting our acknowledgement of the efforts of those who have gone before to make the world a better place, however imperfect such efforts may have been.


So as our species continues to make this transition toward becoming "Homo rationalis," we will have much more capability of changing our religious explanatory worldviews, since they will be regarded as pseudobeliefs. Within each religion, it is likely that certain aspects of its explanatory worldview will be found less and less useful and will therefore be less and less utilized, in favor of those aspects that indeed foster the ultimate ethical principle. Certain religions may be more amenable to such improvement or "evolution" than others, of course, but with the passage of time and the cross-fertilization of religious thinking brought about by an increasing ability to engage in discussion and friendly debate, probably all religions will become able to engage in this process of growth. The idea that there is a deity who is imperfect, but is in collaboration with us to become better, found in some "process theology," would be such an example of a religious explanatory worldview becoming more flexible and perhaps more useful.


We might ask how such a transition could occur, since so many of us take our religious explanatory worldviews literally and feel such a strong need to maintain them. I believe that as we continue to move toward recognizing the importance of accuracy of belief in our decision-making, we will simply cease to accept decision-making based upon belief for which there is no evidence or for which the preponderance of evidence seems to be contradictory. On the other hand, we will have no need to try to convince someone that his or her beliefs are erroneous unless it seems that the person is using those beliefs in decision-making (especially if detrimental to others).


Thus, whether a person is a member of a specific religion will be unimportant to others. It might be that certain religions will focus more on certain specific problems faced by our species, or faced by certain geographic groups or groups with certain demographic characteristics. But all of them would be attempting to promote the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle. Taking this approach, the explanatory world view of a particular religion would be regarded more as art, but art with a purpose, namely, the fostering of deeper understanding about our species, as individuals, as groups, and as a whole.


So we have looked at three major differences between the religion of Homo rationalis and that of ourselves.


First, belief as an act of obedience would no longer be expected.


Second, becoming acquainted with many different religions would be seen as valuable, because doing so would produce greater understanding of ourselves as a species.


Third, each religion would be able to look at various aspects of its explanatory world view with the question as to whether there could be any improvements that would enable it to help more in deepening the understanding of our species, while at the same time not needing to believe that the explanatory worldview in question is accurate.


And I believe that the reader will agree that these three changes are already occurring to some extent among certain groups of us on this planet, this being another example of the early acceleration of the third exponential change.


It is interesting to consider the phenomenon of postmodernism in this regard. The main thesis of postmodernism is that agreement is not important, since there presumably is no such thing as truth other than opinion that works for the individual. This certainly could be said to be true for pseudobelief, and if confined to pseudobelief, then there would be no problem. With regard to belief, however, as we have seen so far throughout this book, accuracy of belief is crucial for good decision-making. And agreement regarding accurate belief is what allows us to accomplish things. Postmodernism, then, would seem to be only a step along the way toward getting away from belief as an act of obedience, but certainly not what should be our final resting place. One should always assume, till proven otherwise, that there is a more accurate belief that could be attained, even though it may not be possible at a given point in time to determine what that more accurate belief is. It is the philosophical assumption that there is indeed a most accurate belief that can be attained that allows for and promotes the search for it, and that therefore promotes increasing accuracy of belief. Postmodernism is an understandable development, but certainly not an ultimate answer.


So for Homo rationalis, religion will not only promote accuracy of belief (and awareness of the importance of science) and optimal decision-making (through accurate ethical belief), but will also provide a milieu in which pseudobelief is explored for the purpose of optimizing subjective feeling and enhancing mental hygiene, and for the purpose of promoting empathy, mutual understanding of all individuals and cultures, and good quality of life for everyone, and it will be in this context that all religious explanatory worldviews will have potential value, when used wisely, in promoting the good life for everyone.


We have looked at two major functions that have so far been performed by religion, namely, the optimization of ethical belief and the acquisition and provision of an explanatory worldview. And we have discussed how "Homo rationalis" will cease to expect religion to perform this second function. But religious organizations have always had even other functions, and I predict the same will be true during the time of "Homo rationalis."


Another function already provided by religious organizations is the extension of community. Family or household groups and neighborhood groups consist of a relatively small number of individuals that any one individual might have from which to form significant-other relationships. And in some parts of our world currently, there is very little left of geographic communities of individuals who get to know each other well. My prediction is that the religious organizations will increasingly serve this purpose of providing an extended community for the individual. I believe that the religious organizations will be a primary (but not the only) resource for the individual's need for a community of acquaintances. I would predict that the religious organizations will be a major source of recreation, entertainment, artistic fulfillment, and social interaction (including social support during distressing times and crises), these being functions indeed already carried out to some extent by religious organizations.


Another function of religion, consistent with the ultimate ethical principle, will be the identification of individuals and groups that somehow are at a disadvantage with respect to the majority of others, and will be the development of ideas as to how to bring about improvement for them. Making the world a better place for everyone would be the goal, consistent with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical proposition. And it would be by virtue of accuracy of belief about the way the world really is that optimal decisions would be arrived at as to how to achieve this goal. So religion, again, would make use of belief consistent with that obtained through science in its efforts to be of help to the disadvantaged. Probably the development of discussion groups within each religious organization would be the most basic method, with then communication between those groups and other such groups in other religious organizations for stimulation of ideas and for coordination and enhancement of effort. Also, efforts to understand better the disadvantaged would be promoted by specific interaction with them. The ideas developed through such efforts would be fostered and implemented through appeal to volunteerism (within and outside of the religious organization), private enterprise, and government. And again, we already see this function being present in current religious organizations, at least to some extent.


Another function of religion would be the optimization of culture, or the reduction and eventual elimination of cultural victimization.


Cultures are built around and maintain ethical beliefs about how to live life. Such beliefs can be expected to vary from culture to culture, and to vary within a culture over time. It is not surprising, or inconsistent with our observations, that cultures can indeed cause pain, suffering, disability, and early death. In fact, the extent to which this is true currently is enormous. I use the term, "cultural victimization," to refer to the processes whereby individuals do indeed undergo pain, suffering, disability, and early death because the culture contains beliefs that foster decision-making that produces such outcomes, while also causing those individuals to fail to recognize that they are victims, because the culture defines the behaviors that produce these bad outcomes as appropriate and even at times heroic.


Not only do our current cultures tend to reduce our ability to empathize with members of other cultures, but each culture therefore tends to promote the belief in its members that other cultures represent a threat to the survival and well-being of the individuals within the culture, promoting thereby a tendency toward "culture wars," or war in general. Thus, the individuals who undergo pain, suffering, disability, and early death because of these "wars" are therefore victims of those cultures.


But victimization also occurs within a given culture.


Note that, in looking for examples of cultural victimization, usually one has to look inside other cultures than one's own. It is relatively easy to see cultural victimization in other cultures, but one's own culture has made such behavior an accepted and even valued way of life. In my own culture, it is relatively easy for someone watching wide-eyed children being indoctrinated with the heroism involved in their one day becoming a suicide bomber, or for someone hearing about young girls' demands for sometimes even fatal genital mutilation, to regard with sorrow what is happening to those individuals. But within my culture, it is very difficult for anyone to take seriously the enormous pain, suffering, disability, and early death brought about by the adding of pure fat to almost everything we eat.


It seems that some religions have an unusually strong tendency to victimize their adherents (though the individuals would never regard themselves as victimized). Many religions are very judgmental, having strong beliefs about how bad certain natural behaviors, and even characteristics, are, causing the individuals adhering to the religion to experience terrible guilt and self-loathing, as well as to experience extreme fear about how a deity, or the cultural representatives of that deity, or other adherents to the religion's explanatory world view, will treat the individual. There are many individuals who suffer tremendously because of their religiously incurred guilt and shame in response to their own naturally-occurring, harmless thoughts. Many individuals avoid serious relationships with others who have different religious beliefs, and relationships that could otherwise be fulfilling and health-promoting are at times eroded or simply destroyed by such differences. And our religions pressure individuals into situations that almost predictably will be problematic, as for instance the expectation that two individuals getting married will promise to feel the same way toward each other for the rest of their lives and to remain married to each other till death, no matter how unsatisfying the relationship has become.


And this is true despite the fact that many religions also do much to promote harmony and benevolence toward others. (The same religion, though, that can be immensely supportive to its own adherents can be quite distancing and hostile to outsiders.)


Such problems are the legacy of our nonrational past. However, we are slowly but surely beginning to gain control over such nonrationality. We are beginning to get beyond our own cultures and are beginning to see ourselves as a unified species, unified against those things that come naturally but are not good for us, such as certain kinds of nonrationality and certain other aspects of our basic animal nature that have been focused on in this book.


Of interest currently is the great debate that takes place regarding whether religion should be a part of government or not. I believe the reader can see that "Homo rationalis" would see religion as just as necessary a component as science in the decision-making that government performs. Religion would help determine what we should do, and science would show us how we can do it. But this is because "Homo rationalis" will no longer have nonrational religious beliefs that divide our species and turn us against rationality and against each other.


"Homo rationalis" will look at religion as the societal institution that most raises us above our basic chimpanzee nature, such that we are able to promote not just our own survival but also, at long last, the good life for everyone.


I wish now to predict how "Homo rationalis" will respond to two highly valued concepts, or sets of beliefs, that exist in many of our religions today, namely, spirituality and faith.


Within my culture, there is a fairly strong preoccupation with the concept of "spirituality." The word itself is one that is believed by almost everyone to pertain to a good thing, even though there is not agreement as to what it actually means. Many regard themselves to have it, and they see themselves as better off than others who don't have it. It appears primarily to refer to an outlook, or set of beliefs, that produce some highly valued feelings, the outlook having to do with the way the world happens to be, at least according to the beliefs of the individual using the term.


Frequently, what the word refers to is the belief in the existence of a set of phenomena not yet identified by science, but presumably having quite an effect on the quality of life of the individual.


The most important component of what is called "spirituality," I believe, is some set of beliefs that cause the individual to feel less existentially alone. There may be the belief that people that one has cared about but have died, or are no longer present, are indeed still present and even thinking about the individual. Another belief is that the individual is being paid attention to by a deity, usually that is benevolently concerned about the individual. Some spirituality involves a feeling of merging with either all other individuals or with all that is, such that feelings of separateness and loneliness are avoided and a feeling of euphoria is usually attained.


Another aspect of "spirituality" may be appreciation, used here to mean the recognition that one's welfare, good feeling, or quality of life has been or is contributed to by that which is appreciated, producing gratitude or its equivalent positive feeling. This feeling of appreciation may extend to the gratitude that there is something rather than nothing at all, and that one has had a chance to be a part of that something, that is, a chance to "be alive."


I believe that "Homo rationalis" may use the term primarily to refer to our potential for concern and caring about each other and about doing the right thing, as well as our feeling of appreciation that we are indeed participating in this wonderful existence. Thus, the meaning of the word would have more to do with what we mean by "spirit" in "the human spirit," or "a spirited discussion." Spirituality may come to mean attention to the optimization of one's attitude toward life, perhaps not distinguishable from "mental hygiene."


The reader should note that, as was clarified in the chapter on "Basic Methods in This Book," there is a tendency to assume that if there is a word, then there must be an entity in the world to correspond to it. Indeed, there is a very strong tendency to believe that there is an entity, "spirituality," that actually exists, at least in some people, and a tendency to be judgmental with regard to whether individuals have it, rather than it simply being a word that has been long used to refer to many different, somewhat difficult to describe phenomena. There is thus indeed a tendency for the word to be a part of a kind of cultural victimization, as individuals feel coerced and judged according to whether they can have the word applied to themselves or not. I believe "Homo rationalis" will have learned how not to engage in such victimization, while retaining the obvious good that is inherent in many of the meanings of the word.


Faith seems almost universally to be regarded as a good thing. It appears to be a particular subset of belief that people are urged to engage in. If one looks very carefully, however, at what is being referred to, it seems to be the very opposite of what "Homo rationalis" would believe was the right thing to do. Faith appears to be belief in the face of evidence to the contrary, sometimes as an act of obedience, maintained by closure of the mind. And we have a history of requiring that individuals give evidence of their compliance with the mandate to have faith, reinforced by the severest of punishments, even death. Let us take a look at each of the parts of the proposed definition of faith above.


That faith is belief in the face of evidence to the contrary is indicated by the fact that effort seems to be required to engage in it. The more that there is evidence for a particular belief, namely, examples of predictions produced by the belief turning out to be correct, the more likely are we to have that belief. When predictions produced by a belief turn out to be different than what happens, this being "evidence to the contrary," confidence in (the strength of) the belief tends to diminish. However, as we have already considered, there is another major determinant of what we believe, namely, how the belief makes us feel to have it. We tend to believe that which makes us feel good, or less bad. As we covered in the chapter on belief management, our species has always had the two major criteria for legitimization of belief, accuracy and comfort. And it is the second criterion that is not only the obvious source of much good, but also, unfortunately, the most prominent source of most of the bad that our species creates by virtue of decisions that turn out to be mistakes. So, as the reader knows, I am making the assumption that "Homo rationalis" will make use only of the first criterion for the legitimization of belief. (They will, I predict, make use of the second criterion for the choice of pseudobelief, but they will avoid making decisions on the basis of pseudobelief, this avoidance being a very poorly developed skill so far for our species.)


Now, as I mentioned earlier, many would currently say that the domain of the beliefs that are maintained through faith are ones for which there is no evidence one way or the other, and for this reason we should feel free to have such beliefs. However, we can ask whether there really is no evidence to the contrary. If no prediction at all can be made on the basis of the belief, then according to the definition of belief used in this book, the belief would seem to be without meaning. However, if predictions can be made on the basis of the belief, even if there has not yet been found a way of testing those predictions, then the belief would have some degree of meaning. A simple example would be to look at the belief, "The first time I flip a coin tomorrow, it will turn up heads." Until tomorrow, there would be no way of testing the belief (other than looking at whether it is logically consistent with other beliefs for which there is indeed evidence). But what we say in such a case is that the odds of the belief being correct are one divided by the number of possibilities, in this case two. Thus, the odds of the belief in question being correct are only 0.5. Now what about the odds when there are more than two possibilities? If the odds are less than 0.5, surely we would say that the belief was more likely to be incorrect than correct. And of the beliefs that we are talking about when we refer to faith, there are generally many different possibilities to choose from (perhaps essentially an almost infinite number). So in such a case the odds of just one of these many alternative beliefs being accurate are very low, and thus this "lack of evidence one way or the other" is really "evidence to the contrary."


Faith sometimes being belief as an act of obedience is I believe evident if we take a look at what actually happens. Faith, being considered good by those advocating it, is often proposed as an ethical responsibility. In other words, not having faith is sometimes disapproved of by those advocating it. We are all to some extent sensitive to disapproval, an unpleasant experience. (The belief that others disapprove of oneself usually produces an unpleasant motivational state.) Thus, there is some motivation to "engage in having faith" (activate a particular belief) simply because of the wish to conform to the wishes of others (what others want one to do). Beliefs of the nature we are talking about, that involve "faith," are generally ones proposed to the individual that he or she "try to believe," and are ones important to that particular culture or subculture. But if an individual does not believe what is being proposed, this is to some extent evidence (certainly of low quality, of course) to others that the belief may not be accurate. This evidence to the contrary tends to reduce the confidence that the others have in the belief. Since the belief is being maintained and advocated by these others usually for comfort, then the reduction of confidence in the belief tends to produce discomfort. The individual providing such evidence is then seen as causing others discomfort, and this discomfort often results in the others in turn causing discomfort in the non-believer. In some cases, we know that the individuals in a given culture can engage in markedly punitive behavior toward the non-believer, sometimes even murder or execution, so that there is indeed sometimes strong motivation to activate certain beliefs as an act of obedience.


That faith is maintained by closure of the mind is evident when we look at what the effort is that is involved in the maintenance of faith. As we have noted, evidence against the belief, either the failure of predictions to turn out to be what actually happens or the logical inconsistency of the belief with other beliefs considered to be accurate, must be avoided, that is, not experienced. So the individual often must actively inhibit the activation of beliefs to the contrary, and therefore must avoid the experiencing of situations that activate such beliefs to the contrary. It is not at all unusual for the advocates of acceptance of a belief "on faith" to recommend to the individual that he or she avoid interaction with those that do not have the same belief, or at least avoid discussion of the belief with such persons. Such non-believing persons are sometimes shunned, and even have been considered enemies that need to be fought, driven away, or killed. And sometimes the individual is encouraged to avoid even thinking about the issue (contemplating or activating alternative beliefs for the sake of comparison). The phrase "leap of faith" is generally referring to belief without thought (without consideration of the alternatives). The phrase, "closure of the mind," usually refers to any such inhibitory and/or avoidant activity.


There is a widespread belief among us currently that the giving up of faith is not only a bad thing, but an impossible thing for most people, and certainly an inappropriate expectation of the population in general. The primary reason for this is the prediction of the amount of suffering that this would produce. All of the comfort produced by faith would be lost, and for many the discomfort would presumably be intolerable, perhaps even leading to suicide. And whether this is so or not is certainly not immediately evident.


As I write this, I even consider the question as to whether it is ethical to raise such questions. Certainly, if what I am proposing as a good thing will actually ultimately cause more suffering than not doing so, then proposing it would be unethical. However, I look at certain things that are reassuring to me.


For instance, when I look at the amount of bad (pain, suffering, disability, and early death) that is produced by decisions based upon beliefs maintained by closure of the mind, simply by reading the newspapers or viewing the news, and making observations of those around me, I cannot believe that the amount of benefit of such closure of the mind at all compensates for the enormous amount of bad that the same phenomenon produces.


If only there were ways in which to identify those examples of faith that produced only good, and to identify and avoid closure of the mind that resulted in bad, a very great problem would be solved. However, as far as I can tell, there is no way to make such a distinction. We have seen that even religious organizations themselves have at times promoted faith that ultimately has had terrible effects. There is no authoritative source for knowledge as to which faith is good and which faith is bad. An individual might look at the beliefs of another person, and compare them to his or her own, and say that it is obvious that the other person's beliefs (faith) are bad, because of the consequences of having that faith. However, as we all know, the other person would be maintaining that the apparent bad consequences of his or her own faith are not actually bad, but simply necessary accompaniments of the ultimate good produced by his or her own faith. So here are two different opinions, or beliefs, which, unless subjected to the criterion of accuracy, can both be equally legitimized. This is why "Homo rationalis" will decide, I predict, that only the criterion of accuracy should be utilized to legitimize belief (remembering, of course, that the criterion of comfort can still be utilized for pseudobelief).


But the question remains as to whether giving up of faith is even possible. Is it perhaps true that the problem is insoluble? Are we perhaps always going to have much pain, suffering, disability, and early death due to inaccurate beliefs that people are simply unable to give up?


Again however, I look with some reassurance at the evidence that there are some of us who apparently do not require faith in order to feel okay, at least according to what they report. (There is indeed a problem with this evidence, however, in that just because an individual states that he or she does not have a faith, as usually defined, does not mean that the individual is not, in order to maintain comfort, maintaining at least some beliefs in the face of evidence to the contrary.)


But as far as I can tell, the most difficult of all beliefs to contemplate having is the belief that when one dies one ceases to exist. An enormous amount of comfort is derived from the belief that one will continue to be consciously aware after death, and, secondarily, that others that one has known and cared about will still maintain some sort of awareness of oneself, and vice versa.


And yet again my observation is that many individuals indeed have lived much of their lives without such a belief. I know personally that I have felt bad by virtue of my belief that there is no "afterlife," but I do believe that I have accepted this as most likely, and doing so has not interfered with my being extremely grateful for my experience of living, nor has it interfered with my joy, appreciation, and contentment, or my productivity. If anything, I believe that I appreciate this opportunity of existing even more because of my recognition as to how temporary, conditional, and arbitrary it probably is. And I believe it has made me feel even more the importance of doing it right.


And one has to wonder to what extent the extreme importance to an individual of belief in an afterlife is dependent upon having been so confidently taught this belief in childhood, by adults to whom the belief was so important also. Is it possible that, in a culture that did not contain a belief in an afterlife, children could get through childhood satisfactorily without such a belief, and could become adults who felt quite comfortable not so believing?


The question certainly could be asked as to whether the belief in an afterlife really does make things better. I believe that it is possible that if we did not have such a belief, we would have more tendency to make life as good as possible for one another. For instance, perhaps we would feel a greater obligation to let a person who was dying know that he or she was valued by us and that we were not going to forget about him or her, either before or after his or her death. There might indeed be a greater closeness accomplished between the dying individual and those who are important in that individual's life, prior to the person's death, if the current life were not somewhat devalued by the comparison of it to some even better afterlife. One wonders, also, whether at times the belief in an afterlife helps those who are remaining to feel less guilty about an insufficient effort to treat the person well during his or her life.


But I certainly do not believe that there is a reason for me to try to convince others, who derive much comfort from their belief in an afterlife, etc., that they are incorrect. It would only be if I were to come to believe that there was a direct connection between their belief in an afterlife and some result that was detrimental to the good life for them and/or for others that I would feel any obligation to discuss the issue with them. If they were to try to convince me, I would be grateful for the effort, and would listen for the evidence in favor of the belief.


My best bet is that as time goes on, and as the valuing of accuracy of belief grows stronger, fewer and fewer individuals will feel the necessity to have beliefs maintained by closure of the mind.


I have at this point given my best guesses about how "spirituality" and "faith," two key concepts or words that are associated with religion today, will be viewed by "Homo rationalis." These are guesses logically derived from my prediction as to the main, defining characteristics of "Homo rationalis," especially their extreme valuing of (ethical belief in) the seeking of accuracy of belief. Language, of course, changes over time, and words acquire different meanings. I have mentioned that "spirituality" may persist as a word, having a somewhat different meaning, consistent with the values and ways of thinking of "Homo rationalis." It may be that "faith" will persist, also, and rather than continuing to refer to a phenomenon that may become regarded as non-optimal, perhaps it will increasingly be used to refer to pseudobelief. The word certainly sounds a little better. So it might come to pass that everyone would acknowledge and accept that most individuals would have some sort of faith, but there would also be the understanding that faith would not enter into any decision-making.


At the beginning of this chapter, I said that I would be looking at how "Homo rationalis" would, within their religion, work toward optimization of ethical belief. In other words, what would be the set of activities or procedures within their religious institutions that would specifically be designed to achieve this goal?


It is very difficult for the brain to change itself from within. In other words, what is so important in the development of more and more optimal and accurate beliefs is the provision to the brain of experience that opens up new pathways or stimulates new thinking. And what therefore most promotes the development of more and more accurate belief is the effective sharing and comparing of beliefs that two or more individuals have who have different beliefs. We are, of course, referring in part to "friendly debate," described earlier in this book. It therefore seems obvious that an important part of any religious institution would be the provision of discussion groups, dialogue among and between individuals, involving individuals both within the organization and from other organizations, designed to involve friendly debate. Of course, this is a very poorly developed skill on the part of our species currently. To a great extent, we specifically avoid sharing and comparing of ideas, except for very specific times and places designated for doing so, and then those discussions usually are rather disorganized and disappointing, often with the impression being that nothing useful was accomplished, especially since no one changed his or her mind. And indeed, one seldom sees individuals changing their minds in such discussions.


However, as our species continues to undergo the third exponential change, to rational ethics, the experience of children within their families will increasingly involve sharing and comparing of ideas in a friendly manner, as opposed to the naturally occurring tendency toward simple promotion of obedience, reinforced by punishment and reward, and they will therefore grow up with the skills necessary to be involved productively in such discussions. My prediction, therefore, is that the religious organizations of "Homo rationalis" will have many ongoing discussion groups involving friendly debate.


Of course, this process will be aided by the increasing availability of information, and the increasing ease with which individuals can find others with whom to have a meaningful discussion. Our information and communication technology will play a very important role in religious optimization, just as it will in optimization of government.


And of course the religious professionals will, as they provide "services" for the members in their organizations, promote through teaching and modeling for identification the extreme value of openness of the mind and the valuing of accurate understanding of the nature of the world as a necessity for good decision-making in the effort to make the world a better place.


But more than any other factor, promoting this optimization of ethical belief, will be the strong ethical sense associated with the belief that we should do the right thing in behalf of everyone, of our species. According to my vision of (set of predictions about) the time of "Homo rationalis," everyone will be familiar with the rational-ethical ultimate ethical principle, and although there will be an openness to acquiring one that is even better, my prediction is that none other will ever be found. I myself can imagine no better one, though I wait to hear of one.


I would now like to discuss some issues regarding the transition to rational-ethical religion.


We tend to think that favorable change is brought about by conflict, battle, and winning. It would be tempting to imagine a new religion starting up in competition with all of those that are currently present, with this new religion gradually demonstrating its superiority to all the rest, and putting all the rest out of business. I do not believe that that is a viable or optimal process. Instead, I believe that all religious organizations will increasingly have members who are more prone to understand and value rational-ethical religion. I think that such individuals will gradually bring about the above-described changes within their own religious organizations. Of course, some may migrate to other religious organizations, but this would not be the normal process.


Furthermore, I believe that the primary locus of change will actually be within families of individuals who have become interested in and have come to value these concepts, not within the religious organizations. Especially, I would expect to see children growing up more and more prone to being dedicated to rational ethics. And so religious organizations will primarily be changed from within, by their adult and child members. Of course, however, the religious organizations in turn would be of help to those within the organization who were having greater difficulty with the transition, and so, in this way, the religions would be promoting the third exponential change. This reverberation between individuals and organizations is part of what will cause the exponential nature of such change, I believe.


I believe that this transition is already occurring. I note fairly frequently people commenting that many individuals in a fairly fundamentalist religious organization simply go along with the formalities and rituals of the organization, only privately giving evidence of not sharing some of the beliefs expected by the organization. Thus, perhaps any religious organization ultimately will allow individuals to be members, even though such individuals are at varying points along the road to rational-ethical religion. There may be a gradually shifting emphasis upon "doing good works," rather than obediently believing. As this process occurs, I believe there will be less tendency for individuals within religious organizations to be critical of those that, privately, are found not to adhere rigidly to the "creed" of the organization. Increasing emphasis will be placed upon how the individuals live their lives, rather than what they believe with regard to their specific religious explanatory worldview.


At present, I believe the process representing the third exponential change will be occurring primarily among scattered individuals. It will yet be some time before any processes within religious organizations begin in any obvious manner to reflect this change in culture. It is possible that such changes will be more likely to occur in the more liberal religious organizations first. I believe that the first changes that will be observable in religious organizations will be an increased tendency to discuss and debate issues related to the traditional beliefs maintained and encouraged by such organizations, with increasing tolerance of such discussions within those organizations.


But I wish to call to the reader's attention what a drastic change in religion this transition will have involved. Nevertheless, the third exponential change has already been accelerating significantly, and although we still see people getting killed for their religious beliefs, and although we still see religious beliefs motivating individuals to kill each other, if we compare the world now to the world over the past few hundred years, we see the beginning growth of religious tolerance, benevolence, and desire for mutuality.


It will be by virtue of the reader, and others like him or her, increasingly advocating for the transition to rational-ethical religion that such a transition will occur. And it will be by virtue of the reader's advocacy, and that of others like him or her, that the change will occur earlier rather than later, and that, since the change is exponential, perhaps millions of people will be spared pain, suffering, disability, and early death by such advocacy. The reader is faced with the decision as to whether to be one of those who advocate for the transition and therefore potentially have that kind of impact, or to be one of those that will wait for someone else to do the work.


I, for one, am doing my part, out of tremendous gratitude for what my species has done for me.