What Would They Believe?
If you dropped someone from a different environment who was never exposed to religion or philosophic thoughts. Exposing them to fair debate, don't you think they would all land on the secular side?
For all of you intellectual purists out there, I will point out that it is impossible to actually run this experiment in a satisfactory way. After all, there is no such thing as a person who has no prior experience with belief. Some people are raised towards a specific faith, some are raised as atheists, and some are raised in homes where belief is not considered at all. However, in each of these cases, by the time that person has reached an age of thinking, they have much invested in the outlook from which they have been raised. Even if their environment is completely areligous, that in itself is the norm to which they are accustomed, and they will have to overcome the inertia of that practice in order to change.
But, understanding that we cannot answer this question scientifically, it is still a fascinating question. I would say that most non-believers would side with Baal Habos and conclude that very few rational people without a strong prior background in religion would end up in the believers’ camp. And, conversely, I would say that the Orthodox community would argue that, given a full and informed education into the richness and sophistication of the Torah, and if they could be ‘objective’ (i.e. rise above their material and physical desires), that most would see the truth of Torah.
In fact, it seems logical that it is a fundamental requirement of any religion to believe that if anyone truly seeks the truth, without any bias or weakness, the path will lead them to that religion. After all, if that is not the case, why should anyone be rewarded for finding that faith, and why should anyone be punished for not having found it?
My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that they may both have it wrong. I do believe, as I wrote to Baal Habos, that, these people would reject all of the incongruous claims by all of the major organized religions. But, on the other hand, I don’t think that the majority of them would end up in the strong atheist camp.
Many people can’t believe in the complex mythology and arcane moralism of organized religion. But, at the same time, they still seek to find satisfying answers to the great questions which those systems address so neatly. Where did we come from, what are we doing here, how should I live my life? Many people are not bothered by these questions, or can find satisfying answers in the secular domain. But many people are willing and motivated to seek answers in the spiritual realm.
So, at least in this country, there has emerged a new type of religion. This is the force behind the massive success of books and dvds such as “The Secret”, or “A New Earth”. There is no sacred text, so people are very individualistic about how they shape these beliefs, and the range of how they interpret spirituality borrows from everyone from The Buddha to Obe Wan Kenobe.
I think that it is a good trend. It may be the best of all worlds – spirituality and humanism rolled into one. And, though I'm biased to my own team, there will also be room for a few of us agnostics thrown into the mix.