The idea is that there are two ways for humans to derive happiness:
This will be a stream of consciousness thought process that will likely lead to an essay later.
- By following tradition and ritual
- By being curious and evidence-based
Humans have long been sustained by number 1. It’s what family and religion are based around, and to follow such doctrines and drives tends to produce the most powerful types of pleasure and fulfillment in us.
It’s only been the last couple of thousand years that we’ve started to derive great pleasure from questioning things, learning things, and searching for truth using reason rather than dogma.
This break from tradition has brought us great gifts, such as large societies, science, a greatly improved lifespan, less war, etc., but it’s also injected something non-ideal into the human psyche.
When you know God loves you, that your kids just need to be Christians or Jews or Muslims who marry others of the same kind, go to the same churches, act the same, eat the same foods, etc.—and all will be well, that’s comforting.
Following that template while having kids and growing your family gives a feeling of safety, and security, and bedrock.
It also produces the worst types of hatred and war because different groups of people inevitably have different sets of dogma, and since they’re all convinced theirs is correct they’re destined to go to war about it.
And then there are the groups who have discarded supernatural belief and dogma. They are atheists and agnostics who realized that the old ways were factually incorrect and the cause of extraordinary hatred, suffering, and bloodshed.
Their problem is that it’s quite hard to replace religion and dogma and tradition.
Yes, you can receive great joy from discovery, and from knowing you live a truth and equality based life. But it’s also more empty. It’s less fulfilling in some fundamental way.
Humans love ritual. They seem to need it. Tradition, ritual, patterns, absolute beliefs—these all produce profound happiness in us, and discarding them can be detrimental to both individuals and societies.
For me the obvious answer is that we have to move away from the first and towards the second, but because of what I’ve written above I think it’s crucial that we understand that we lose something when we do. We must find a way to maintain some part of the ritual/tradition system in the new curiosity and exploration one.
We have to find a way to give structure, and confidence, and ritual to the fundamental values of truth and equality and reason.
To ignore this requirement is to repeat the same mistake over and over again—pulling people from the pit of old-style religion only to offer little in return. This produces dissatisfaction and resentment in some, and a feeling of resigned emptiness in others.
We can and must do better.
We have to merge the systems into something superior to both.