Religion and political ideologies can be thought ofas an evolving system of beliefs that propagate themselves among people. As newbeliefs evolve they may cause the system of beliefs to propagate faster or slower. These systems of beliefs may originate among individuals for different reasons. One reason might be that the individual wants to start a cult for personal gain. In order to convince people to believe in him he might create beliefs that there isa great reward for those who believe and a terrible punishment for those who do not. If we examine mainstream religions such as Islam and
Since systems of belief that survive incorporate thebelief that the non-believer is bad that brings up the question of whether such a beliefis necessary for such a system of beliefs to survive. It may be that without such a belief people would be more open minded to rational arguments and let go of their systemsof beliefs. In politics beliefs generally aggregate into the right wing point ofview and the left wing point of view. Left wingers usually reject right wingarguments and vice versa and part of that may be because of the left wing belief tha tright wingers are bad and the right wing belief that left wingers are bad. Of coursein some cases that might be true. The point is though that without the belief thatthe other side is bad for not sharing one's system of beliefs, one's own systems of beliefs might change and not survive.
Ultimately the belief that the non-believer is bad maydestroy the system of beliefs that incorporates it because such a belief can lead to waragainst the non-believer. If the non-believer wins they may impose their system ofbeliefs. If Islamic radicals get their hands on nuclear weapons and set offsimultaneous attacks in Western cities the way they do now with conventional bombs, theycould start World War III and lead to the annihilation of all systems of ideas.
Systems of ideas are more likely to survive if theyencourage cooperation among those who share those beliefs since when members of a groupcooperate they strengthen the group as a whole an increase its chances of survival.
A good analogy to the evolution of systems of beliefs isthe evolution of organisms. If we examine primitive sponge cells we learn that when sponge cells that are genetically closely related come in contact with eachother they fuse and form a colony. Doing this is of mutual benefit to all the spongecells. If sponge cells that are distantly related come into contact they destroyeach other and a sponge free zone forms. Sponge cells have evolved to cooperate withsponge cells of the same group and to destroy sponge cells of a different group just asreligious systems of ideas have evolved to promote cooperation among members sharing thesame beliefs and hostility toward those who do not share those beliefs.
Are religious beliefs on the whole good for mankind? Does believing in religion make people better? In my opinion the closer weare to understanding the truth, whatever that truth is, the better off we are. Ithink that the way to the truth is to think and to be open minded rather than to believe. A favorite saying of a friend of mine is "once people start believing theystop thinking". On the other hand we all have beliefs, without them it would bevery difficult to function. In my opinion to the extent that a religious belief istrue, it is good for mankind to the extent that it is false, it is bad for mankind.
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