Religion as Wart on Community

It is seen as a strength of religion that it keeps communities together. It is assumed, then, that the decline in community cohesion across many cities and suburbs is due to the decline in religion. This is not an argument in defence of the truth of religion, but of the usefulness of religion. I think the argument is unfounded.

I think the decline in community is due to the decline in true difficulty. Difficult times mean looking for help, and looking for help means creating and developing a tribe. A strong sense of in-tribalism is basically identical to the sense of community. The declining need to ask for help has done away with that.

Another part of this is our lack of time. Approximately 8 hours of our day is taken up with work, which doesn’t realistically leave us with enough time to rally together a small tribe and build an extension to our house, so we outsource it with the commodification of people (“human resources”). I’m not saying this is a bad thing; this underpins economics and our current model of resource allocation. However, it does dissipate the need to a tribe. Strife and difficulty are faced at work. This is a transient tribe, but it is where people would claim most of their friends are. People club together as friends at work, and that tribe evaporates at 5pm and only part-reforms when they are invited and can find the time to travel. They are an inconvenient tribe after hours.

I speculate that the removal of difficulty from our lives has encouraged our independence and evaporated our need for community in a full-time way. Having distanced ourselves from community, we are now able to see that religion was never an intrinsic part of that. Religion hijacked the idea of community in times of real difficulty. SPECULATION.

This is my plausible speculation, and I’d love some feedback on the idea.

NB: there is a habit quite a few people have to announce “FACT” at the end of utterances as if to make their utterance more believable. My friends (and I hope yours too) have started to satirise that by announcing “FACT” at the end of clearly nonsense statements. However, in the name of transparency (and comedy) I have begun announcing “FACT”, “OPINION”, “FACTOID” and “SPECULATION” sincerely after some utterances. FACT.

Categories: Religion

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7 replies

  1. How would those who still go to church argue that the declining numbers of church goers have killed community. As you speculate, there are possible better reasons as to the supposed weak communities we are experiencing

    • I’ve never actually asked a religious commentator that question: how do you know, assuming you are from a community of Churchgoers, that non-Church attendance is the problem.

      I also haven’t seen much evidence that community was immensely strong during, say, the Industrial revolution, where people lived in terraced housing basically wallowing in their own illness and filth.

      • I have heard it said that in the old days, our sense of community was stronger. And the elderly keep talking of the good old days when neighbor cared for neighbor. You could ask a religious commentator the first question and we see what answer they would give

  2. Lack of community … where? In Medieval England, many people were born, lived, and died without having traveled five miles from the spot they were born. Sure, they had a community. People needed help to survive in a primitive agricultural society. Those were communities of necessity. Fast forward to today and people are connected in ways unimaginable to those Medieval English people. I have friends in Washington state. I have people I work with via email, scattered all over the world. Just how would going to church help me, then? I live in a tall building with hundreds of other people. If I need assistance, some one of those people steps up and offers to help (every time). Where is this lack of community? We haven’t distanced ourselves from community, we have added distance to our communities.

    If you look at the flip side and look at strongly religious communities, they needed to band together because of religious persecution that would not have happened in the absence of the differences between them and their neighbors highlighted by their own religions.

    • I’ve always had a sense that conservative christianity – in America – is tightly bound to nostalgia for small towns and for ethnic neighborhoods. In such small, local communities, church was where one spent almost half of sunday – the services were a couple hours, then there was a church lunch, then getting together for games, singing, etc. And of course churches sponsored community events through-out the week, as well as schooling, either institutionally or through bible-study in members’ homes, etc. Even as I write this, I confess feeling some of that nostalgic pull, which is weird, since I don’t come from either a small town or an ethnic neighborhood. But the phenomenon is repeatedly idealized in film and on television, so I suppose that’s where I got.

      It does seem like asking theists quite a lot to give up that nostalgia. But you’re quite right, social development with its new technologies of communication not only allow but to some extent necessitate a broader, more extensive sense of community, and given the tensions that frequently arose between the old communities, this is a good thing.

      Perhaps recognizing this is a necessary step in the process of deconversion. The tendency towards agnosticism and atheism has always been strongest among those with cosmopolitan frames of references. Acknowledging – and allowing – differences, opens the door to admitting that there is no right ‘god’ or right religion, which itself opens the door to the probability that neither god nor religion have any necessary place in our lives.

  3. All community is transient. You can never go home should you leave it. Tomorrow never comes till you leave today behind and when you do you can never go home. Community, if you insist on calling it that, exists only so long as there is contact. In absence of contact it morphs, grows, shrinks, conforms to the folds of time in our lives. Community is a thing like fog is a thing, both evaporate in bright light.

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