Andrea, yes, I think one of the things that I now see is that no one who says they are an atheist is actually an atheist, as many of the values which we hold to be entirely rationally and individually arrived at are actually the product of many generations of social conditioning and development which include many elements of Christian thinking. It is for this reason that Bloch says that only a good Christian can be an atheist and only an atheist can be a good Christian. The reason I am intersted in Bloch is precisely because he doesn’t say that this means that all ideas are essentially religious or metaphysical, but that on the contrary, previous social epochs were not developed enough to see ideas in anything other than metaphysical terms. In many ways, therefore, Christianity was simply rationalism waiting for the term to be invented. He covers this with the term Ungleichzeitigkeit, or non-contemporaneity, i.e. that ideas exist out of their time and for that reason cannot be fully developed until the social conditions for their fulfilment are fully developed. Therefore we carry utopian hopes and dreams within us but think of them differently in different epochs. Christianity became all powerful for so long because it carried the most concrete and widely applicable utopian impulse of the meek inheriting the earth (which is essentially socialism spelt differently) but that it could not be realised until the meek were strong enough to do so (which is communism spelt differently). Radical islam is probably just the most recent and most-backward looking and dangerous form of this utopianism, with its Caliphates and Jihads and martyrs and Virgins waiting in paradise etc. This too shall pass. The sooner the better.
Well, it depends whether you take the religious formulation of the views to be the starting point I suppose. If you see religious views as a response to the enormity and confusion of existence then their origin actually lies in the development of human consciousness about the reality which pre-existed us and will be there after us. As Nietzsche said, we are just clever animals who came about but then spent all their time thinking that the whole universe was just one big machine to bring them into being. “One day, the clever animals had to die out.” (Uber Wahrheit und Luege) Just as Christianity took over all sorts of traditions from pre-Christian and pagan traditions, and they in turn probably developed out of basic elemental and real fear of the earth and nature and our place in it all then all ideas are actually ultimately non-metaphysical in their origin. What rationalism and scientific ideas could do perhaps is return us to an earthly understanding of our place in existence, this time though, on the basis of understanding rather than fear. What we will have done though, I think is have absorbed the “religious” codes of the middle period into our rationalism. On the one hand this is a good thing I think because it will constantly remind us of the intangible nature of what it is to be a human being, our dignity as individuals – what the religious would call our souls. On the other hand this is a bad thing because we are simply clever animals whose exisence matters not a jot in the grand scheme of things and as long as we don’t recognise that then we are condemned to live provisional lives. The arguments for existentialism seem to me incontrovertible, the only question is how we choose to spend our existence, how we give it meaning if it has no meaning. Of course, this opens the door to all sorts of metaphysical systems because they help us to find patterns where there are none, but the search for them is good, even if they aren’t there. The current debate about embryonic stem cell research is very interesting in this respect. I am absolutely in favour of it as it creates a moral good in its own right by removing human diseases and illnesses. But at the same time, individual human rights have to be brought into the equation and the constant question has to be about whether this or that scientific technique improves human existence and whether the cost of that technique is worth the end result. I suppose that in a non-medical sense that is also what we do all the time with political ideas and actions. Do they improve the lot of human beings and is the cost of their implementation worth it? Religious belief has a role to play in determining the answer to that question but it does not and should not have a determining role. The Bishops do not hold some sort of top trump card of morality. So, to answer your question perhaps; religious in their development but not religious in their “creation”.