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.
"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.
If they are anything like us, then yes. Probably won't matter though, the first little green guy that shows up on our planet will probably find himself on the business end of an assault rifle held by a Jesus loving redneck, or worse, the government.
I would beg to differ on that. You give humans way too much credit. We most likely wouldn't be able to detect them in the first place. Look at the difference between a first world nation and a third world nation. That is nothing compared to the difference between us and a civilization that could cross the stars.
Or, perhaps another species is just genetically better equipped for space travel. Maybe they age far slower than we do, enabling them to withstand much longer space travel. Maybe they could make it here, only to find that our technology is actually slightly more advanced than theirs in some respects, and less in others. Might make a decent movie plot - except for that whole language barrier thing. Once you go the Star Trek route, or the Babel fish route, it's kind of hard to take a movie seriously.
I can easily go with the Babel fish route. Just think of a more advanced version of Google translate and 5 years of data gathering. Gestures might be a bear when you consider how much of our communication is non-verbal. So would common allusions be difficult to relate to. I think the latter would be the larger hurdle.
We know what a fuss some people had when someone suggested the Earth might be round, and Earth was not created for human beings, in fact the Earth revolves around the sun with several other planets, and the final insult, our universe is not the only one. Poor souls, knocked off the throne by some brash astronomers who opened up questions. The hierarchy in the church was demoted from "receiver" of information from and invisible, untouchable, unknowable god; man was the explorer with no firm answers but a lot of unstable questions. Thus, the development of "Chaos Theory"; god forbid!
Asking questions; observing events, patterns, correlations and occurrences; creating a hypothesis; testing the hypothesis by doing experiments; analyzing data and drawing conclusions; making public your findings; repeating until an answer appears or keep repeating.
In this process of seeking evidence, as opposed to seeking instruction, means an individual has the freedom to see what is, not limited by what is supposed to be. It is this inquiring mind that tried to fly like a bird, or swim like a fish, only to discover our equipment does not function as a bird or a fish.
Adaptability, flexibility and resilience matter.