Living in society creates a constant preoccupation over the way that others act, whether those actions directly affect our own lives or not. ‘Others’ can be annoying or kind; friendly towards us or antagonistic; threatening or helpful; dangerous or loving. Our attitudes towards them will run between an apathy and an absolute concern, but it seems unlikely that any individual in society would be able to regard the rest of the members with complete indifference. Even the fully-fledged narcissist measures his or herself by how they differ from the behaviour of others.
The same is true regarding how we organise our environment: the houses we live in and the rooms in those homes; the clothes we wear; and even the accents we speak with are designed and refined according to our relationship with the others. They are organised according to the way others organise their spaces. This is how cultural sameness comes about. We compare, we initiate, we learn, we improve on, we invent from … and – at the higher level of progress – we enhance it again.
On the other hand, change can be feared. We compare, we imitate, we learn, we are comfortable and happy – why change?
RELIGION AND THE ANTI-HUMAN
Despite our fears and our desire for comfort, accumulation of learning mixed with the inevitable decadence caused by stagnation, makes change necessary. Human beings want to live in reality, and that means we want to live according to our own concept of truth. This is why Christ was said to have said “I am the truth”.
For religion to work it has to be accepted by the faithful as true – as real. Scientific truth has always been a thorn in the side of religious reality, as has free-thinking. Religious-truth’s claim is to make us comfortable and happy because we have found the absolute truth and, consequently, there is no reason to change, no need for progress. If accumulation of learning makes change necessary, then that is a dangerous element for religions. And this also means that religions are dangerous elements in progressive societies.
Discovery is a fundamental feature of the human, and discovery always implies change. Any absolute truth must deny the possibility of change, unless that Absolute Truth is that everything must change. Although this idea of transformation is not anathema to all religions and we see it embedded in Buddhist philosophy, nevertheless, it is abhorrent to most monotheistic dogmas. Where change is an abomination, however, we always approach anti-humanism, because, by denying the virtues of progressive transformation we also negate a fundamental human trait and, by doing so, deny humanity itself.
So, to return to our earlier interrogative: why change?
By changing we affirm our own humanity; and by progressing we make humanity purposeful. Our sameness with the others can only make sense if that sameness is always evolving and open to progressive transformation. Humanity only makes sense if we live in creative orientated societies and cultures.