Implications of the disappearance of religion

Danish asked:

What if religion disappears today? What be the implication


1. Social point of view Is it not the religion that plays a major role in holding back 99 against 1 amongst other things? Will not it create anarchy as a very first reaction as the religion is the fundamental identity and bedrock of human principles (de facto legal too)?

2. Ethics/ Morality-Will then every legitimate/ legal action then have an inbuilt moral and ethical qualifier holding near to negligible intrinsic value? Will not anything intrinsic then be seen with a prism of hedonism? Will then incest be acceptable if agreed upon barring/ controlling biological complication resulting from it. In sum, any desire agreed upon and legitimized by state will then be deemed acceptable and moral.

Answer by Stuart Burns

It is clearly not the case that religion plays a major part in holding in check the majority and protecting the minority. History clearly shows that religion plays a major part in rationalizing the majority’s suppression of and discrimination against the minority. The minority, after all are heretics and non-believers. And as such, as is clearly stated in, for example the Koran, are subject to severe penalties. Religion is indeed a bedrock of group identity — hence the prevalence of discrimination against those not part of the group. But religion is not the bedrock of moral or legal principles.

Plato’s Euthyphro Dialogue documents what is called the Euthyphro Dilemma. In modern parlance, it can be stated as the question — ‘Is what God commands good because he commands it, or does God command what is good?’ The first option makes God’s command arbitrary and capricious. The second option accepts that there is a standard of moral goodness independent of God’s commands. The first option makes a sham of moral principles. The second option renders religious morality irrelevant.

If religion disappears today, it would obviously be because it is replaced with a non-religious moral system. It could not disappear without such a replacement. Firstly, because it would not disappear on its own. It would have to disappear because it is replaced with something that serves its function more successfully. And secondly, even if it did disappear on its own for some odd reason, it would have to be quickly replaced with a moral system that provides legitimating authority to legal rules and social etiquette. Fortunately, there are plenty of candidates waiting in the wings offering something better than religion, and promising more rational and scientific basis for the authority of laws and social rules.

I think the biggest problem, if religion were to disappear overnight, would be what to do with all the now unemployed religious workers. But that would be only a temporary problem. Religions, after all, are the least productive industry we have. Surely most of those ‘interpreters of God’s will’ will find more socially productive work in other vocations.


One thought on “Implications of the disappearance of religion

  1. Dear Stuart,

    Thanks for your reply. But let me just make my original question more explicit:


    1. People in everyday life make hundreds of ethical/moral judgements which means that there has to be an ethical framework to do all the calculus.
    2. Part of reason why underprivileged remain content with whatever they have and snatch it from other on their very first chance to do it, small or large, has a lot to do with their ethical/moral framework.
    3. Moral thinking is for social doing.Haidt.
    4. Social intuitionist model pioneered by Haidt which is widely gaining authority and recognition in intellectual circle does confirm the religion being a part of our everyday moral decision making.
    5. Secular legal system is an improvement on religious legal system (Something can not come into existence out of nothing).
    6. Positive morality thus can trace back it’s root to religion.
    7. Secularism has different connotations for different secular countries & they do take into account their culture and religion in framing secular Homosexuality, adultery etc.
    8 Western philosophy & legal system is called western not universal. Hence, it is impossible to have universal moral/ethical principle at all levels. eg. Eating dog & cat, going topless on beach, capital punishment for rape etc.

    If points 1 to 8 have any truth embedded in it then religion has to be bedrock of moral or legal principles other than being the origin of the same.

    Clarification: Judaism and Christianity (i.e. their scriptures) too consider minorities heretics and non-believers subject to severe penalties.It’s typical of Abrahamic religion.


    1.Countries have constitution & constitutional amendment is a norm of fast changing world ( We just have to weight couple of decades to check out how Genetics & Neuroscience revolutionize the entire judicial system along with moral/ethical philosophy)
    2. Government is of the people, by the people, for the people.
    3. Constitutional amendment sometimes carried out by referendum open to mass.
    4. Positive morality is refined by whims & wishes (function of so many variables) of mass & is liable to change with time. And this is why we differentiate our morality from past e.g. Polygamy, beheading, slavery etc.

    If points 1 to 4 have any truth embedded in it then:

    I.Desires agreed upon and legitimized by state will then be the evolutionary process to refine positive morality.In other words, every legitimate/ legal action then have an inbuilt moral and ethical qualifier.
    II. If I is true then difference between intrinsic & hedonistic value will be blurred to an extent becoming unidentifiable after reaching a certain point.e.g. love for mother & wife.

    I am sorry for taking so much space to make my point.
    Waiting for your reply.


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