April 12, 2015

Do Humans Need Religion?

English: A schematic showing the spreading of ...
A schematic showing the spreading of humans in history. The schematic is made based on an image in the magazine "Natuurwetenschap en techniek, oktober 2009". This image in the magazine was an image made using data from the (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Do humans need religion? Some are fond of claiming that the fact that religious belief is encountered in virtually all human cultures throughout history proves that humans need religion. And yet, there is a powerful counterexample that seems to suggest that religion is not a basic human need. In fact, there are several million of them.

Are you an atheist? If so, you are a living, breathing counterexample challenging the claim that humans need religion. You don't need religion, do you? You don't have a "god-sized hole in your heart" making you incomplete without god belief, do you? Of course not! Your very existence suggests that religion is not a basic human need, as least not a universal one.

Could it be true that some humans need religion? Sure it could. I am absolutely convinced that some humans think that they need religion; I'm far less certain that some actually need religion, but I am willing to consider the possibility. Maybe some humans do need religion. Do you? I didn't think so.

I'm not sure exactly how many atheists are alive today. One recent poll suggests that 13% of us identify as atheists. Given the stigma associated with atheism in some countries, I'd guess that there are far more of us than most people realize. I have no idea how to estimate how many atheists have lived throughout human history, but I'd guess the number would be a fairly big one. Lots and lots of counterexamples.

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