Danish asked:

What if religion disappears today? What be the implication


1. Social point of view Is it not the religion that plays a major role in holding back 99 against 1 amongst other things? Will not it create anarchy as a very first reaction as the religion is the fundamental identity and bedrock of human principles (de facto legal too)?

2. Ethics/ Morality-Will then every legitimate/ legal action then have an inbuilt moral and ethical qualifier holding near to negligible intrinsic value? Will not anything intrinsic then be seen with a prism of hedonism? Will then incest be acceptable if agreed upon barring/ controlling biological complication resulting from it. In sum, any desire agreed upon and legitimized by state will then be deemed acceptable and moral.

Answer by Stuart Burns

It is clearly not the case that religion plays a major part in holding in check the majority and protecting the minority. History clearly shows that religion plays a major part in rationalizing the majority’s suppression of and discrimination against the minority. The minority, after all are heretics and non-believers. And as such, as is clearly stated in, for example the Koran, are subject to severe penalties. Religion is indeed a bedrock of group identity — hence the prevalence of discrimination against those not part of the group. But religion is not the bedrock of moral or legal principles.

Plato’s Euthyphro Dialogue documents what is called the Euthyphro Dilemma. In modern parlance, it can be stated as the question — ‘Is what God commands good because he commands it, or does God command what is good?’ The first option makes God’s command arbitrary and capricious. The second option accepts that there is a standard of moral goodness independent of God’s commands. The first option makes a sham of moral principles. The second option renders religious morality irrelevant.

If religion disappears today, it would obviously be because it is replaced with a non-religious moral system. It could not disappear without such a replacement. Firstly, because it would not disappear on its own. It would have to disappear because it is replaced with something that serves its function more successfully. And secondly, even if it did disappear on its own for some odd reason, it would have to be quickly replaced with a moral system that provides legitimating authority to legal rules and social etiquette. Fortunately, there are plenty of candidates waiting in the wings offering something better than religion, and promising more rational and scientific basis for the authority of laws and social rules.

I think the biggest problem, if religion were to disappear overnight, would be what to do with all the now unemployed religious workers. But that would be only a temporary problem. Religions, after all, are the least productive industry we have. Surely most of those ‘interpreters of God’s will’ will find more socially productive work in other vocations.