Religion – Red, Amber, Orange (Pt. 1)

Posted: October 23, 2011 in Integral Studies, Religion

The analysis presented in this entry is based on Integral Theory and Spiral Dynamics.  A good reference to the colour codes and their meaning can be found HERE.

As I’ve said many times before, I spend a lot of time at P.Z. Meyers’ Blog site, Pharyngula.  It’s part of the “Frethought Blogs” network presents a forum for pro scientific and atheistic ideas, commonly criticizing fundamentalist Christianity and such things as creationism.  Recently Meyers has posted one entry each day called “Why I Am An Atheist”, submitted by his readers.

I’ve been reading them for about a week now and they all fall into the same pattern.  They are all testimonials from people who have made the transition from red or amber to orange, and have rejected their religion in the process.

Both Red and Amber religion belong to the “Mythic” world view.  Red is more egocentric (taking the power it feels it deserves), while Amber is more dogmatic (rule oriented and loyal conformists to a church organization). Pre-rational religion in North America tends to bounce back between these two orientations, using Amber to justify the church and Red to justify their own actions.

In all of the cases that are presented in the “Why I Am An Atheist” entries, the writers are the product of this mythic world view.  They are the children of fundamentalists, who went to Sunday School and who wither were disillusioned by their religions when they encountered a wider world, or who were victimized by it in some form and driven away by its hypocrisy or intolerance.  Notably, all of these budding atheists seem to come from the more fundamentalist religious backgrounds.  I don’t see any testimonials from moderate religious backgrounds, where the dogma wasn’t creationist and the message wasn’t one of extreme social conservatism.

Their flight to atheism seems to be unanimously one that was fleeing fundamentalism, going from one extreme to another.   The rise of reason seems to play an important role in almost all of the case studies, -which one would expect from the readers of this particular Blog.  It is completely understandable and a significant step forward in the personal development of these individuals.  Their rational reactions to and rejections of the extremity of their traditional religions has resulted in a very strong beliefs.  They have needed to reject religion, and in fact condemn it, in order to make sense of the world.  The dogmatic nature of their traditional religious experiences meant that there were no Orange religious possibilities.  It was all or nothing.  Totally understandable, but there is a conspicuous absence of people converting from Buddhist traditions or from the United Church (which has a more moderate doctrine).

This gives rise, though, to a number of questions.

1.  What does Orange (rationally based) religion look like?

2.  Is rationally based religion even a possibility?  Is there any justification for religion or theism in a reason-based world view?

3.  What does religion look like in the levels beyond Orange?

These are very important questions.  Meyers and his atheists, along with people like Dawkins, would say that all religion and forms of theism should be thrown out as indefensible.  If the rise to Orange is, in fact, the rise to reason, what justification is there to view it as more than just superstition?  The jump from hard-won reason to any form of spiritual belief, does require explanation and justification as it goes against the grain of reason and science requiring proof for any form of belief.

But let’s begin with the first question.  What does Orange religion look like?  First, it would have to be a belief that was not incompatible with reason (sic).  Evolution must replace creationism.  Dogmatic belief and a literal interpretation of a Bible which is the result of countless translations and editing is not justified.  Moral criteria cannot be blindly connected to scripture, but must be based on humanistic principles and contextually relative as well.  Interpretation of religious doctrine needs to be open to consideration of metaphor.  Perhaps, most importantly, the interpretations of religious doctrine that uphold or support injustices must be identified, attacked and rejected.

And yet, God can be seen as present in evolution, the Bible can be seen to have merit as a moral text (in spite of contradictory passages and some archaic assertions), and Biblical passages can provide guidance as metaphor.   As morality becomes more based on principles than on dogma and rules, Orange religion begins to see the merit in other forms of religious expression, paving the way to Green realizations.  The idea of a divine entity that is an old man with a beard in the sky begins to evolve into other interpretations of the divine, so that a patriarch that requires prayer begins to fade.

If this kind of tolerant, moderate religion is available to the Red and Amber believer, the transition to Orange goes more smoothly.  There are no strong feelings of betrayal, no need to abandon the whole ball of wax in order to break free of an oppressive belief system.  I feel that without the option for transition and transcendence into a more moderate, Orange form of religion, most believers will remain stuck in the Red/Amber stage, unwilling to forfeit all of their beliefs, or in some cases, as is seen in the Pharyingula blog entries, will react like an adolescent rebelling against seemingly oppressive parents, and fall into fundamentalist atheism.

The objection to this from the atheists will be, as I’ve said, to question the necessity for religion at all.  In a reasonable and scientific world view it really falls to the theist to provide proof that any form of spiritual belief is justified.  They claim that there is none, and so all forms of spiritual belief or theism must be rejected.

I’ll tackle that question in a future entry.  It is an important question to me as I consider myself a very rational person, who rejects traditional religious ideas, but still holds a spiritual view.  Much of  the writing in my “Philosophical Autobiography is meant to address this question.  Whether I can justify that view by my own rational standards is a critical issue.


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