You may ask, “What is the difference between Real World Religion and, say, Pastafarianism?” The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster originated in 2005, with an open letter by Bobby Henderson to protest the Kansas State Board of Education decision to permit public schools to teach “intelligent design” alongside evolution. It has quickly evolved into a quasi-legitimate religion. We do share an appreciation of using an unconventional, humorous approach to illustrate deep truths. We have mythological differences, however. Unlike RWR, Pastafarianism is a faith-based religion. The nature of their god and the structure of their morality are a matter of believing, or pretending to believe, the teachings of the Church. In that, they are similar to most other religions.
“Real” is right in the name
In contrast, the mythology of Real World Religion, still under development, is based on the structure of the cosmos, as we understand it through scientific inquiry. Having faith that our mythology is completely correct is discouraged. Far better to keep an open mind, to use mythology as a comforting collection of stories that help us understand our place in the universe. Should any aspect of our understanding be contradicted by new evidence, we must adjust our mythology to reflect that. The goal is understanding the truth and finding ways to live well with that knowledge. We have no need of apologetics; of rationalizing a belief that has been discredited or justifying past behavior that we have come to see as wrong.
Many religions appear to have been started to gain wealth, power, and wives for their respective founders. For instance, examine the lives of L. Ron Hubbard (Scientology), Joseph Smith (Mormons), or Muhammad (Islam). I’m sure the followers of those religions would disagree, but it is obvious to those outside the faiths, the nonbelievers, that those religious structures were invented to enhance the lives of their founders.
Christianity was essentially begun by Saint Paul, Saul of Tarsus. We can’t be sure of his motives, but he may have been a true believer. The myriad of sects that proceeded from that beginning have followed a pattern of true believers being manipulated by power-hungry leaders.
But it isn’t fair to hold a religion responsible for all the actions of its founders, is it? There are religious groups that attempt to reinterpret their doctrine, that try to emphasize the more positive aspects of their religion, and ignore or explain away the badness. It is a step in the right direction, but it is inadequate. Better to start from a position of ignorance and look for the truth, than to start from certain knowledge and look for ways to justify what you already believe.
We are attempting to practice religion based on the real world—no preconceived notions of where we came from or why we are here, just relying on what we find to be true. If that is not real religion, then there is no real religion.
For all our failings,
despite our limitations and fallibilities,
are capable of greatness.
~ Carl Sagan