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I’ve learned, by hard experience, that religion can be useful because some people (and I include myself in this group) just don’t have a reliable internal moral compass that agrees with the rest of the world.
There’s this idea in modern Western (incl. American) culture that morality is somehow endogenous, as in “search your feelings, you know it to be true”. It is this sense of endogenous morality that the American Civil Right movement was founded upon, as well as untold numbers of social and political movements and groupings over the last 50 years or so.
But that isn’t the only way to look at these things. What if, because people are either products of their environments or just beacuase of some innate peciluarity, unable to endogenously determine what is right or wrong? Especially when “right” and “wrong” tend to be sitationally and social contingent? What if my innermost feelings just don’t agree with that everyone around me is saying? And what I really am the one that’s out of line? I think this is why some Abrahamic religions have so many rules and regulations regarding what is correct behavior — there’s an assumption behind the rules that morality is basically exogenous to the self. In this paradigm, actions and thoughts are right or wrong externally of what you think of that matter, and so people need to be told what is right and wrong, since they actually have no way of knowing this by examining their own inner voices, who frankly often give shitty advice.
So that’s why I find this quote depressing, rather than inspiring.
For the atheists out there: I said religion can be “useful” not “good”. Those aren’t always the same thing, sadly.