Monday, July 30, 2012

Why Don't I Trash Religion Again?

One reason that I blog is to force myself to write every day. I've got a lot to do this morning and I can't decide on anything topical, so I guess I'll rant about religion.

If you read this blog with any frequency you'll know that I have a real bee in my bonnet about religion and the asinine defences of it that some people imagine aren't ridiculous. I agree with the efforts of Richard Dawkins and other atheists that religion should be criticized and exposed so that it will eventually dwindle into insignificance and this primitive way of understanding our existence can be eliminated from our consciousnesses.

The shit-for-brains critique of Dawkins etc., goes like this:

This is "militant atheism" or "fundamentalist atheism" and (Oh! But this is brilliant!) is no different from militant/fundamentalist religious devotion. (Oh! The delicious irony!)

Yes. Apparently silly atheists can't see that believing that explaining the world according to ancient legends about super-powerful or even omnipotent beings, which legends supposedly are based on infallible, eternal truths (whatever present reality might appear to be) is as valid a way to go as any other worldview.

This isn't the viewpoint of the religious of course. Or at least not most of them. There are some religious people who belief that there is some sort of "truth" in all religions, that the religious impulse speaks to some sort of connection with the divine (or whatever): "There are many paths to God" and all that. But most Christians wouldn't say that the Hindus or the Buddhists are just as right as they are. Most Christians believe that the Jews missed the boat about Jesus and that the Muslims foolishly went and built a new boat and are now rowing in the wrong direction.

The idea that the Buddha, who was supposedly enlightened and all-knowing, and Jesus, who was the Son of God who was also all-knowing, and all the other religions from animist beliefs to pantheistic mythologies contain some "truth" even though these religions themselves explicitly deny this ("false gods" "errors" "heathens" "blasphemies" "heresies") can only be true if you water down the religious impulse so as to make the commonality so as to be meaningless, to whit: "All human cultures have struggled to make sense of the world and they have all invented stories to try to explain it to themselves."

Big deal.

Science will never be able to explain reality. The "world" is bigger than our senses. We cannot even begin to fathom what is beyond our senses to even register. Even the world of sense-perception as extended and elevated by science is incomprehensible to us. Isaac Newton didn't know what caused gravity. He just knew that everything attracted everything else to a degree and he could calculate it for the largest objects like the Earth and the Moon and the Sun and he didn't trouble himself to speculate on the source of this power.

But what is explained by religion, besides the obvious fact that we are subject to powerful forces beyond our control? What of these "many paths to God"? When we're sick, should we pray for health? Should we sacrifice an animal on a stone altar? Should we try to expel the angry alien souls from our systems? Should we ingest some magic potion?

"AHA! 'Magic potions' 'eh? What's the difference between YOU (oh superior, rational atheist) taking your doctors' medicine and the devotee who drinks a 'magic potion'???"

Yawn. It's true that when it comes to science a lot of my trust in it is based on faith in its truth. But as David Hume said, we have to believe a lot things on faith. Pretty much everything if you read him correctly. He wasn't an atheist, but he was far from being your typical agnostic. He wasn't prepared to think that it was a toss-up between atheist certainty and certainty in ancient myths. Some things were plausible and some almost certainly nonsense. And I don't think, on a practical level, that he would have cared one way or the other if religious delusions were eradicated by the genuine exercise of reason. So, facile equivalence between trusting in the edifice of science and trusting in some groundless, evidence-free magic, is just that: facile.

In the end, human stupidity can create inquisitions and atomic bombs. But there are far more opportunities for misbegotten fanatical certainty to lead one astray with religious delusion than is the case with scientific inquiry.

I've typed enough for today. I'll type again another day. (Unless I get hit by a bus and go straight to H-E-double hockey-sticks.)

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