All of us have experienced and seen the security and comfort a child derives while being in the company of its parents. We know the discomfort a child finds in not seeing its parents around. I believe this longing for security and warmth is something we continue to carry with us as we grow into adults and it seems this is one of the founding stones of religion and love for God or Creator. Adults relive their childhood by taking to their new parents: Gods and Goddesses and holy men. The urge to feel comforted and safe in the company of parents is transposed onto religion.
And we have to acknowledge that religion does the job for most of us, irrespective of the facts or science.
This is where I see the commonality between the process of parenting and ‘religioning’. Both are meant to help seek psychological comfort and peace of mind and may have nothing to do with facts or reality. That is why I believe that whatever we expect from good parenting can be expected out of a ‘good’ religion too.
We live in a relative world, one that is conditioned by our genetic programming and social conditioning. The fact remains that evolution is blind and the only purpose if any rests with the genes wanting to propagate into the future, wanting to survive, multiply and thrive. We are hardwired as children to seek ‘parenting’ and as adults to seek religion. Please note that in both cases we are not simply seeking an individual but all the things the individual stands for and does. What we expect from a great parent is also what we expect from a great God.
In this sense, atheists too seek a God in the form of principles, values, laws, institutions, leaders and so on without the need for a personal God. It is like asking for the benefits of parenting without having to engage with parent/s. It is like growing up in an all-paid boarding school where you don’t get to see parents but many aspects of parenting are delivered via an institutional channel (minus the warmth of course).
If religion is like re-living childhood, atheism is like re-living teenage years- years when the flesh rebels against the will of society and authority. It rebels so that it seeks to mate with someone other than from its own genetic pool so that it could give rise to new genetic combinations that think, feel and behave differently, even though only slightly, to find a mate at the end of the day.
Have you noticed how similar the lives of religious people are to those of atheists- they feed, they breed, they grow, thrive and protect and promote their own kind. A difference in the belief system is no real difference at all.
I believe one becomes a real grown-up, a real adult when one starts seeing the child in us and its needs. We become adults when we start seeing how nature works. We become adults when we acknowledge the ‘nature’ in us and at the same time see ourselves as separate from it. When we are able to see how our minds work, individually and collectively and when we can channel our energies for individual and common good, we truly grow up.
Parenting is the mother of all religions including atheism. I think if we can get parenting right, we will have already set the foundation of a great religion for the generation to come. Parenting, religion or atheism have their culmination in intellectual maturity, financial independence, individual freedom, fulfilment and happiness. They are all means to similar ends.