it's the stories, isn't it? the sense of community, the belief in something greater than us, the weird rituals that evoke memories of a younger time, they can all be replaced.
but without religion, the stuff you really wouldn't have is the culture. it is religion that gives us myth. mythology has always interested me. whether of cultures of dead civilisations, like the norse and the greek, or of cultures that exist both now and then, like christianity and hinduism, or those of imaginary worlds, like batman and spiderman. it is that that would be a true loss. no more mahabharata, or sigurd and fafnir. not thinking about whether zeus is a dick for banishing hades to the underworld. no more sermonising about lucifer being a victim, not a criminal.
the stories of yesterday are what inspire the stories of tomorrow. without the stories of yesterday, there would be no stories of tomorrow.
they say the world would be a better place without religion. surely, there would be less conflict. there would certainly be less resources wasted on seemingly meaningless rituals. but there's a good chance they'll just find different excuses. and rituals only mean something if you want them to.
without religion, i couldn't climb tirupati. without religion, i couldn't look at the sistine chapel. without religion, gandhi might never have been inspired.
it's the music, really. never mind the intricate parables. it's the music. it's in the beauty of kabir. it's about asking him whether he really has any equals. it's about telling people gods are only what we think they are. it's about telling people the only thing you learned from love was how to shoot someone who outdrew you.
music and myth are the only reasons i can see for justifying religion. religion inspires people. and lest we forget, much beauty is inspired from other things we agree are not good. buddhism was the result of a man who today would be judged as clinically depressed. without madness, van gogh would never have painted the view outside his sanatorium window.
i wish i had a clever quote to end with. but i don't.