Yesterday I was linked to a blog post entitled “Stories are Like Religion” that spoke to much of the issues at the core of my beliefs about our species while still possessing a cadence with which I disagree just enough to justify a response.
I love the impetus for the post. The blog itself is called “Overcoming Bias,” and the guy running it strikes me as something of a genius. He’s a big fan of reality, and wants us to transcend our perception of everything in search of the objective truth. I know the type.
Since stories are a not-entirely-true thing that people care about, he wonders about the consequences they pose to our existence, noticing the parallels between story and religion.
He gets it a bit backwards, though. Stories are not “like” religion, they are the forerunner of all belief. All religious views, customs, and practices evolve out of one central mythology or another. These myths are nothing more or less than stories that people take extremely seriously.
The only thing inherently wrong about all religions is that they purport to be the literal, divine truth, which they simply aren’t. That would be enough reason to oppose them, but then inevitably, possession of this truth translates into a claim of absolute authority, superior to that of any other belief systems.
Beyond that, all the good and bad about religion is shared with all other stories. The ability to teach, the feeling of meaning, the presence of community, the possibility for exclusion, and the sheer passion they create all come from the same place within our psyche.
The author of the blog laments that people cling to stories even if they give up religion, but in actuality they’re not trading one thing for another, merely choosing separate aspects of the same whole. Humanity needs stories; we’re incapable of learning or finding meaning or perceiving the world without them. They are a part of us, and whether it be Islam or Lord of the Rings, Scientology or Twilight, everyone has stories that they care about more than any others.
For our success as a people, we must never shun stories, but instead do our best to create and share the right ones.
And that’s basically what I’m doing here.