One of the ways in which we can tell that a religion is not sincere about a true relationship between man and the universe, is the inherent bias that is built into its foundation.  I can’t speak for all the religions of the world past and present, but I can say that the most widely recognized ones all make one critical assumption – that humankind trumps everything else in existence in terms of importance.  True, we have evolved to be the most dominant species on earth, but how does that automatically correlate to being the most important and therefore most valued species by a supposed creator?

There are many religious doctrines and dogmas throughout the world that are currently in use, and the one thing that they all have in common is that they are all unsubstantiated by any and all means of evidence for a creator.  That doesn’t stop each and every one of them from being wholly accepted by their adherents as being the one true belief system.  Obviously, if one is correct, then the others are false, and since none has any more evidence than the others, it is reasonable (to rational thinking people anyways) to say that they all are false.  If we can accept that this as an axiom for a moment, and we were to start from scratch in creating a brand new religion, where would we as humans logically start?

I think that it is safe to say that those who have a need for a deity to attribute the universe to would start that same way that most or all previous organized religions do – with mankind being the middleman between god and the rest of what exists on our planet.  We are the dominant species, and we want to think that we are thus the most important aspect of creation in this god’s eyes.

But why would that have to be the case?  Why couldn’t it be that we have a purpose, but that we are not the most important aspect of this planet?  Maybe there is a god, and that god has an everlasting and unbreakable bond with the vegetation that covers this earth.  Maybe this god created humans only to protect the prized vegetation on this planet from suffocating itself out of existence.  What we breathe out, they breathe in, and vice versa.  Maybe our purpose was also to evolve to the point where we understand how to keep nature’s vegetation healthy and free from disease.  What if there is a god, and it couldn’t care less about how we humans destroy ourselves, or about a concept of human morality, or about any of the things that we inherently want it to care about – because it only cares that the innocent vegetation of this world is kept healthy and eternally growing and reproducing.  What if plant life knows a bliss and universal harmony that we humans will never know?  What if plants communicate with god?  What if this god wouldn’t even blink at the thought of a human raping and murdering one of its own kind, but would be enraged at the human deforestation of a hillside?

It’s a silly exercise to think about, but the purpose is to shed light on the fact that when humans create religions, they always begin with a bias towards humans.  The gods of these religions are obviously non-communicative with the humans, so the humans are free to make up whatever they want.  Personally, I’d rather have people believe that there is a god that only cares about us in the sense that we are care takers for its prized vegetation. That way we could take full responsibility for how we govern ourselves, and leave the mysticism between god and plant life, and have some incentive for keeping our environment clean.  Then when we die, we can literally push up daisies and become one with our maker … the maker that didn’t really give a crap about us until we became daisies.

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This was a random thought I had the other day.  I expanded on it and put it in words, and it's so silly I that I almost didn't post it.  Feel free to poke fun, or to propose a plan to start a new religion.  8^]

Powerfully stated. 

IMHO No gods exist, no higher power, no spirit, nothing. Homo sapiens evolved from one-celled organisms and all life on Earth comes from such humble beginnings. Humans developed over 200,000 years ago and spent most of that time being humans as we know them until the Age of Enlightenment. For 198,300 years air, fire, water, hunting and gathering determined their fate. They prayed for deliverance, salvation and then redemption. 
Because some observed nature, paid attention to patterns, noticed the orden in things, i.e. day and night, seasons, growth patterns of flora and fauna and watched patterns of constellations, they began to question and then challenge the authority of religion. Homo sapiens sapiens invented, explored, questioned, experimented, and, my goodness, they learned a lot. They developed the capacity to destroy life as we know it on Earth. 
Humans are at a crossroads now, we have to realize that Earth is not created for man, humans are part of creation and beliefs and actions matter. We cannot count on a savior to save us from our sins of hubris and greed. 
This new age, I don't know what to call it, but this age where humans know there are no gods, there is no redeemer, or savior, Earth was not created for humans, there is no plan for our lives, and there is no purpose to our lives. Each individual is responsible for his or her own thoughts and actions and we are part of a splendid whole, part of what ancient Hindus illustrated with Indra's Net

Images of Indra's Net


Indra’s Net project progress

IMHO No gods exist, no higher power, no spirit, nothing. Homo sapiens evolved from one-celled organisms and all life on Earth comes from such humble beginnings. Humans developed over 200,000 years ago and spent most of that time being humans as we know them until the Age of Enlightenment. For 198,300 years air, fire, water, hunting and gathering determined their fate. They prayed for deliverance, salvation and then redemption. 

Because some observed nature, paid attention to patterns, noticed the orden in things, i.e. day and night, seasons, growth patterns of flora and fauna and watched patterns of constellations, they began to question and then challenge the authority of religion. Homo sapiens sapiens invented, explored, questioned, experimented, and, my goodness, they learned a lot. They developed the capacity to destroy life as we know it on Earth. 
Humans are at a crossroads now, we have to realize that Earth is not created for man, humans are part of creation and beliefs and actions matter. We cannot count on a savior to save us from our sins of hubris and greed. 
This new age, I don't know what to call it, but this age where humans know there are no gods, there is no redeemer, or savior, Earth was not created for humans, there is no plan for our lives, and there is no purpose to our lives. Each individual is responsible for his or her own thoughts and actions and we are part of a splendid whole, part of what ancient Hindus illustrated with Indra's Net

Images of Indra's Net

Indra’s Net project progress

I agree with you about our beginnings, but more importantly I don't really care about them.  Yes - it is an amazing journey, we are fortunate to be here, blah blah blah - but we are not here because we desired or chose to be here, we're here because that's just the way it ended up happening.  It is of infinitely more importance to keep advancing ourselves than it is to quibble about our beginnings.  It is a sad state of affairs that in this day and age humans are still considering bronze age metaphorical musings to be important doctrines, rather than the severely outdated and irrelevant boat anchors that they really are.   

Future, of course you correctly state " It is a sad state of affairs that in this day and age humans are still considering bronze age metaphorical musings to be important doctrines,"

However, if one looks back at human's historical past, those time in which science flourished it was crushed by religious dogma. Rather than "perceived reality", there were those who believed their "received" instructions about life had high value; indeed they took active measures to kill out such outrageous "thinking".
Egypt had a period of scientific development when they used
 body preservation, mummification and learned anatomy. They developed highly advanced medical practices, and achievement of great contributions in this field, including knowledge about a large variety of herbal remedies, medicinal drugs and some contraceptive devices. Religion won over science. Egyptian Sciences. The slaughter of Hypatia, occurred when Christians waylaid her and dragged her from her carriage, took her to the church called Caesareum, they completely stripped her, tore her body in pieces, then took her mangled limbs to a place called Cinaron, and burnt them. This affair brought not the least criticism from Cyril, the  Bishop of Alexandria. Hypatia, ornament of learning, stainless star of wise teaching.

Or think of the many martyred by the church for their turn to the stars and astronomy while questioning the teachings of the church.  The Martyrs of Science, or, The lives of Galileo, Tycho Brahe, and ...

Even today, the Radical Right uses threats and fear to gain a following and challenge those who disagree with them. Hate WatchOld Bronze Age philosophies and practices continue to bring chaos to our communities, inciting hate crimes and intrusions into civil society. This year, a new group of "antigovernment “Patriots” appears pitching a plan to build a walled city in North Idaho to manufacture handguns and assault rifles". Convicted Extortionist a Key Figure in Idaho Citadel ‘Patriot’ Project

I agree with your statement, "It is a sad state of affairs that in this day and age humans are still considering bronze age metaphorical musings to be important doctrines, rather than the severely outdated and irrelevant boat anchors that they really are."   

Sadly, I thing for the vast majority of theists, religion is a coping mechanism for not just for their inevitable mortality but even moreso for living in general.  I've heard more that one Christian make the claim that if it wasn't for their belief in god, they would be our cheating on their wives, gambling their savings away, knocking off liquor stores, etc.  They're probably fooling themselves by thinking that, but it's scary to think that these people might exist for real, with only the thin veil of religion holding them at bay from being dangerous criminals.  Then again, there's the BTK serial killer - who was only caught because authorities were able to trace a floppy disc to a particular computer in the church where he worked and worshipped.

Mathew, I agree with you 100% that "mankind is worshipping himself without even knowing it." All the evidence we need is there. Oh! it is time humanity grows up and faced the reality of the real world.

I think that

humankind trumps everything else in existence in terms of importance

kind of by definition. We are the ones who decide what's important, just by our shared language community. It's no more arrogant than the observer effect in a physics experiment. We are the meaning-makers. No mysticism needed. We decide what counts as crap. All values are relative to what works to meet our needs. There is no need to equate humanity with other animals or physical objects, that's a false humility. We've moved past the mechanical interpretation of nature, to appreciate emergence and complexity. We are the first animals to evolve the mental capacity to have meanings. (See Daniel Dennet lecture)

I can easilly agree that to ourselves, we are the most important aspect of this planet.  We effect change, we work together to better our knowledge of nature and make our lives more livable, we maintain our surroundings, etc. - but it is all in a secular sense.  We are also teeming with micro-organisms, without which we would quickly perish.  Our guts and bowels contain biological life that keep us alive, and in general we don't even have to think about them, much less go out of our way to maintain them.  It's a symbiosis that some people manage to live their entire lives without even knowing it exists.  To an outsider looking in, I should think that they would find our preoccupation with ourselves to be incredibly naive when it comes to importance. 

... but it is all in a secular sense.

I don't understand what you mean. Are you saying that a sacred sensibility is greater or more meaningful than a secular sensibility?

To an outsider looking in, I should think that they would find our preoccupation with ourselves to be incredibly naive when it comes to importance.

Granted alien intelligences are likely to exist somewhere. Why would they consider "our preoccupation with ourselves" naive? Are you saying it's naive to ignore or be ignorant of the life forms with whom we're symbiotic? I never suggested that. I said that the basis of value, which is embedded in language itself, is human-centric.

Are you saying that a sacred sensibility is greater or more meaningful than a secular sensibility?

Based on the traditional, religiously affiliated definition of the word "sacred",  I think that is exactly what the ardent theist thinks, not what the atheist thinks.  The atheist can agree that secular sensibility recognizes the importance of mans' ability to communicate and interact with themselves, but is not held to a standard that rigidly defines us as the critical link to existence of our planet, much less the universe.

If humans were blinked out of existence in one fell swoop, much would obviously change.  Many domesticated animals would probably become swiftly extinct, but a huge number of life forms would go on without much of a hickup, new ecosystems would develop, and ironically - overall, the planet would become a more stable environment than it was with us polluting the crap out of it, claiming ownership of it and waring with one another over the things only humans care about.  Most religions have their blinders on to this reality, and they are created from the starting point that we are the most important thing when it comes to existence, and that there is a god or gods that more concerned with us than anything else in our realm.

A more sensible approach to creating a religion that is sincere about understanding our existence and questioning our purpose, would be to recognize ourselves as a participant in the marvel of existence, rather than the privileged master of our domain.  Religion is not about sensibility and true understanding, it is about creating influence to push purely human agendas. 

Are you saying it's naive to ignore or be ignorant of the life forms with whom we're symbiotic? I never suggested that.

I'm saying that it's naive for a religion to do so.  Regardless of the fact that we are the first animals to evolve the mental capacity to have meanings, when religions begin with the premise that existence in general was created for us humans, those religions show a bias that is hard to ignore.

"To an outsider looking in, I should think that they would find our preoccupation with ourselves to be incredibly naive when it comes to importance. "

Of course it is naive.  Because the outsiders would know that they were the most important aspect of this part of the galaxy.  If they didn't believe it they wouldn't be here. 

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