Kamyar asked:

I have two questions if it’s all right.

First of all, I want to know do humans really need god and in a bigger sense absolute faith in something other than the physical world (let’s call it religious beliefs).

And if we indeed need it, will there ever be a time that we can truly be free of every form of religion and religious beliefs?

Answer by Gideon Smith-Jones

Kamyar, first of all I want to say that it is brave of you to give your location as Teheran, Iran. You must know that Iran is one of the countries where ‘apostasy’, i.e. atheism, is punishable by death according to the Iranian state’s enforcement of religious law.

You must also know (unless you are very naive) that right now in Iran there are persons who spend their working days in darkened rooms in front of computer monitors, whose only job is to scour the internet for evidence of any Iranian national who expresses his or her belief in atheism. Iranian bloggers have been arrested, beaten up, subject to kangaroo ‘religious’ courts.

From my own experience, I know that there are many Iranians, both those of faith and those without faith, who are devoted to the pursuit of truth. In Iran, they keep a low profile. Whatever passes as study of ‘philosophy’ in Iranian universities is something that has no place in any genuine philosophical tradition.

Would we be better off getting rid of religion?

Karl Marx, looking forward to a time when religion would no longer be needed described religion as the ‘heart in a heartless world.’ Things are still so bad for so many people that I would not take away the comforts of religion from them, even though it is a false comfort.

The sad fact is that human beings are weak. Those of us who reject religion are tempted make a god out of something else. Even materialism, or science, have an innate tendency to be deified, so I would not even consider ‘faith in a physical world’ as free of the taint of religion.

That said, I believe that the time will come when gods are no longer needed, when human beings accept their finitude and the inevitability of death without recourse to fantastical fairy tales about punishment and reward, ‘holy’ texts whether of science or religion, obsessive-compulsive ritual — and judicial murder.