This essay was published in French on Huffington Post Québec. Click to read
A huge paradox about religion is that those who believe the most firmly in the theory of evolution are exactly those who are slowly being eliminated by natural selection. Indeed, atheists people have lower birth rates than believers of most major religions. This suggests that, after all, believing in the theory of evolution is not adaptive.
Although the process of natural selection is most often applied to individuals, “the survival of the fittest” also applies to politics. Every idea, every form of organization is subject to the forces of evolution, in the sense that less functional models are eliminated. The ugly truth: religion has survived for so long because it works.
Many religious traditions hurt our modern sensibilities. However, these traditions become meaningful when looked at from the perspective of continuity. The sacred writings of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have emerged in an era in which children were dying in large numbers during childhood. These religions have adopted values of procreation and survival. While it has contributed to its decline in the West, the ultimate purpose of religion was never explain scientific phenomena. The ultimate goal of religion is to strengthen and perpetuate a group, regardless of the justification used.
The biggest religions condemn abortion and contraception. No need to explain why this is reflected in birth rates. The biggest religions condemn homosexuality. From the point of view of continuity, homosexuality is actually a “waste”, because homosexuals won’t have descendants to perpetuate the group. The biggest religions encourage women to stay at home to raise children. These rules were created at a time when “going to work” meant any use his physical strength and risk his life to put food on the table. It is therefore logical that the father, expendable and stronger, is the one that goes to work. These religions have for the most discriminatory practices, or conversion practices. The integration of people that are not intrinsically motivated to benefit the group can be seen as a threat to the status quo, or simply a waste of energy.
Even the religious traditions that have no apparent purpose, such as dietary restrictions, have the effect of strengthening social cohesion and allegiance to the group. Religious groups who still hold on to the “useless” traditions without making arbitrary choices, are less likely to reject the fundamental laws of their religion.
In short, religious traditions are intended to lead to social cohesion and continuity of their community. Even the many actions from religious people that seem senseless, such as flogging, are a demonstration of allegiance to the group.
In contrast, countries with a predominantly atheist population have adopted an individualistic model. A model that prioritizes individual rights above everything else, often at the expense of benefits at the group level. A model that gives us rights which no one has ever had, and that gives us new challenges. For example, we face a rapid decline in population due to contraceptive methods (and other reasons), and have no spiritual and moral guide help us deal with these struggles. With no obligation to our group, our hedonistic view of sexuality sees procreation as an individual option.
In short, by the rise of atheism, social cohesion is in free fall, and that makes us indifferent to crises that threaten our entire group. While religion united our people as a whole, no entity has taken the role of the unifier. So, by adopting an atheist individualist model, we orchestrate our own extinction.