I usually describe myself as incapable of religious faith (that part of my brain/mind/soul/whatever is just plain missing). But I do have an attraction to a lot of religious imagery and/or practice.
I also respect religion and religious belief and it’s clear that human societies function best when some religion is present for the majority. It’s easy for the religious authorities or dogma to become too powerful which is awful but in the other direction there’s no record of any successful society of athiests or mostly areligious people.
I see no record of any set of cultural templates succeeding indefinitely. As far as any successful society of atheists or mostly areligious people, such a society (if it even exists) is something fairly new under the sun. Atheist literature, for all practical purposes, only goes back a couple of centuries or so. I’ve always wondered what explains this. I don’t think it’s a matter of atheism being a recent invention. I used to think it was simply a reflection of how persecuted, and therefore deeply closeted, atheists were prior to the Enlightenment, combined with the destruction of whatever writings might have existed in spite of that. This doesn’t quite fit, as we know a fair amount about other heresies such as albigensians, etc. I suspect that it may be that people living in a pre-scientific time and place are as incapable of contemplating non-divine explanations of phenomena as Cliff Arroyo is of religious faith. If that is the case (or if the recent arrival of atheism in the marketplace of ideas is due more to persecution) then atheism as a cultural norm is very young compared to rival systems, and it would be premature to dismiss it as patently non-viable. At any rate, secularity’s place in the present-day marketplace of ideas, including ideas about how to “run a society,” is one in which the other side has had a millenia-long head start.
I have done a little informal public opinion research on the whole question of whether civic religiosity is a prerequisite for civilization. One of the items in my questionnaire was:
Of course the pattern of responses to this survey item demonstrates a heavy bias indicating the sorts of people with whom I tend to be in contact. The correlation between answers to this item and answers to others raises some questions. If some kind of Fear of God is one of the major strategies for dissuading some types of conduct that are not conducive to civilization, what sorts of baggage might that bring with it? Is there truly no way out of this trap, which has deeply authoritarian implications?