This letter appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Religions face an inevitable decline
The never-ending debate around religion and its influence has been well aired in these columns. Recently, F O Hipwell (July 3) and Peter Anderson (July 16) represented different ends of the spectrum of opinion.
In one sense it is pointless to suggest to believers that they are misguided or delusional.
As Mr Anderson made clear, he is not really interested in asking, or being asked, questions as he already has the answers.
He repeats the latest of the rebuttals of science by suggesting that it is a narrow approach, which is true, and neither does it ask the question why?
This is mistaken as this question, based on mankind's innate curiosity, is at the root of science.
He also claims that science does not disprove God's existence.
It has never claimed to have done so, but increased knowledge has dealt body blows to much of what was once regarded as beyond explanation.
Neither is it the task of non-believers to disprove it.
On the other hand, it is easy for atheists to mock the various tenets of religious belief.
One prominent author has written a series of popular books doing just that. His conclusions are valid but mocking believers as simpletons is poor reasoning because it avoids the need for real analysis. To really undermine religious belief it is necessary to examine how it came about and why it still exerts power on parts of humankind.
At root, the question to be asked is does human consciousness determine life or does material life determine consciousness?
The only logical answer must be that consciousness is determined by life's material factors.
The first and foremost needs to eat, be clothed and find warmth and shelter had to be met before such social elements as politics, art, science, morality and, yes, religion could be developed.
So religion, like art and morality has to be regarded as a human construct which was felt to provide some answers to life's fundamental questions.
The consciousness which developed has given us the ability, unique to humans, to analyse the past and has revealed that religions derived from the widely diffuse material circumstances in different parts of the populated world, as discovered by the missionary movement.
It is both a reaction to, and a development of, human experience and, as we learn, develop and benefit from this experience, religion will gradually become less an influence on real material life.
Already the most developed parts of the world have seen a reduction of its influence as social answers have been developed to meet the challenges of life.
Real living experience and an ever-increasing knowledge base has shown that we as a race are capable of prioritising and affecting our areas of concern.
As a result, what remains of religious belief will appear increasingly less necessary to human development.
There will be fundamentalist groups which refuse to recognise this and adopt increasingly bizarre positions by clinging to outdated dogma, whether in the middle east, Rome or America's south.
Their backward-looking views will only delay their inevitable demise.
Chris Lymn, Oadby