Secular Religion: New religions have newer stuff
by phil on Tuesday Jan 6, 2009 3:58 AM
I'm always interested in noticing the coming and going of my interest in faith. I remember in the 7th grade, when I was still somewhat attached to Christianity, learning more about Islam. I was stunned to know that Muslims believed in our prophets too, and even in our Holy books. Plus, Islam was founded later than Christianity, and had more, newer prophets. So to me, this meant Islam had everything in Christianity, plus more cool new stuff.
This is telling about the kind of person I'd develop into. In some ways, what makes me a liberal is a thrist for what's new. Somehow, in my mind, everything behind me is a work in progress toward a better future. Conservatives have an instinct for the opposite, where the burden of proof is on new ideas. Jonathan Haidt's political studies show that one of the strongest traits dividing liberals and conservatives is openness to experience. Conservatives have a natural tendency for nostalgia. "Everything was better in those golden days of yore," they seem to think.
A large part of the appeal of religion has got to be its timelessness. There is a natural human desire to be hitched to something that lasts longer than us. Even many atheists want to achieve some sort of immortality through fame or recognition. But being attached to a timeless future appeals to me more than connecting to a timeless past. My view of history is that life was "nasty, brutish, and short," and that my generation and everybody in front of me are proceeding to make the world a more happy, modern, and enlightened place
So of course, the idea that Islam (founded in the 7th Century AD) has more new stuff than Christianity (1st Century) appeals to me. By extension though, both Bahá'í and Mormonism (both 19th Century) have larger appeal to me. The logical conclusion is that I'll ultimately be excited by a religion formed today, or even one that has the promise of being formed tomorrow, which eliminates all current organized religions from my interest. To me, the following statement feels more right: "If it came about more recently, then it must be more relevant." While as an adherent to organized religion is likely to believe, "if it's been around for so many years, there must be something right about it."