It seems that one reason religious people get upset when their religion is questioned is that it is a profound source of cultural identity. To question the validity of their religion is not too different than questioning the validity of their nationality, their family, or their favorite football team (eg, America/France/Germany not valid, the Jones/Smith/Anderson family is not valid, The Dallas Cowboys/NY Giants suck, etc...). It is not about any kind of scientific truth or social issue that is open to new ideas, pragmatic debate, and compromise; it is just offensive to what they profoundly identify themselves with.
So once you have cultural identity, religion and its clergy/leaders give sanction to the most current social mores and socially acceptable behavior of that culture ("we good Christians do/do not treat our women that way", "We good Muslims are tolerant are/are not the religion of peace...", etc... If it is acceptable in your society to dress a certain way, to treat your women or children a certain way, or treat members of other religions a certain way, etc... then these ideas, the best and most acceptable ways that that particular culture and society knows how to do things, is attributed to its god/gods and their scriptures. If slavery is acceptable in that society, the religious will read their scripture to be sanctioning it. If it is not, then they will find all sorts of very clever and creative ways to "interpret" it away ("Oh, those passages are just historical description of ancient tribes, not a guide to how we should really live today", etc...). And, as the culture changes, and possibly learns newer and better ways of doing things, what their God says changes and evolves right along with them (eg, The Catholic Church gives up fighting over whether the earth is the center of the universe, or how women should be treated, how we should behave towards members of other religious faiths, etc....).
So given that religion has served, and is still serving, these important purposes, it is not surprising that it remains such a powerful force in our world today. It also helps explain why it sometimes seems that logic and reason do not seem to be a big player in the rhetoric of many of our religious people. It is not about logic. It is about social and cultural identity.
But our religious worry that without the divine commands, we will become morally lost. But they are confusing the chicken with the egg. They forget that the ideas come first, the "God said..."s get tacked on later to give them social sanction and currency. It does not, and never has, in any society of period of history, worked the other way.
"Intellectually, religious emotions are not creative but conservative. They attach theselves readily to the current view of the world and consecreate it. They steep and dye intellectual fabrics in the seething vat of emotions; they do not form their warp and woof. There is not, as far as I know, any instance of a large idea about the world being independently generated by religion."
Can these important functions be replaced by other social forces and institutions in the future? Hard to say. Maybe the religious are right, and we will always need to have the "God said..." in front of our latest opinions and social/cultural biases to have a sense of cohesion and identity.
I guess only time will tell. I don't believe there has been ANY period in human history, anywhere in the world, where atheism was a prevalent idea. It is indeed a strange social experiment...
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