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Friday, May 11, 2007

True Believers, False Hopes

I was watching a debate on TVO last night about the relevance of religion in the modern era specifically relating to Richard Dawkin's book - The God Delusion. The panel (a spiritualist, an Imam and a psychologist) concluded that Dawkins was basically wrong, and that we need religion to be fully human.

In particular, I found the arguments against violence and religion being specifically connected compelling. My own interpretation is something like this - the idea that if religion was abolished we'd all suddenly start to behave on the grounds of our own morality is frankly silly. You don't need a degree to understand this since you've been to high school. Remember high school? We all learned one crucial thing there; you’re not welcome outside your clique be it preps, jocks, nerds, punks, goths, band whatever. There was always an US and always a THEM. Humans, as a species, can't seem to get enough of assembling into groups and then actively disliking other groups simply because they exist. It's in our DNA to be competitive and since war is the ultimate form of competition, it's unlikely to vanish just because we burned some books and knocked down some statues.

One of the panel members brought up Nietzsche, a man who rationalized survival as the ultimate goal, declared "God is dead" and then went insane and killed himself. According to Nietzsche once God is dead there won't be enough water in all the rivers of the world to wash away the blood. Some interpret that as a Lady Macbeth style postscript, meaning we will never be able to erase the stain religion has left on our history. But what if it's not? What if it's a warning, a stark realization of the real value of religion? What if it turns out that religion is actually the dam that holds back the true savagery of the human race and all the purges and crusades and jihads are merely leaks in that dam? Not a pleasant thought.

Incidentally, while the debate was running, they ran a poll online "Do you think the world would be a better place without religion?" Final score: Yes- 84% No-16%. The panel was decidedly non-plussed.

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  • I would argue everyone ALREADY behaves on the grounds of their own morality. This can easily be seen in religious people who pick and choose what to believe in and what not too within their own holy texts. The Bible endorses all kinds of cruelty and wretchedness which the average person would not agree is moral. God says it is OK to execute a disobedient child (Deuteronomy 21:18-21) or condones slavery (Ephesians 6:5), but in the 21st century, most civilized individuals would not find this acceptable. This is simply because they are making judgments against their own innate sense of decency (if they have any of course). Dawkins point is if everyone ultimately makes decisions based on their own morality, then why do we need religion to tell us what is right or wrong since we already know. You might as well throw out the middleman!

    By Blogger Zain, at Sat Jun 16, 06:37:00 PM  

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