Sunday, July 13, 2008
Don't Blame Everything on Religion !
The New Atheists: Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al point to the damage caused by religion and its adherents down through history: wars, pogroms, inquisition, massacre, intolerance, cruelty.
They do not spend much time on the good that has come from religion: peace both within the mind and outside it; feeding the poor; ministering to those suffering and misunderstood; charitable works; pointing towards ideals and virtues that -- when followed ---- have made things better for the world and mankind.
They have not spent much time on the destructive forces unleashed under the banner of reason and science. Consider the horrors unleased by the Industrial Revolution; by the utopian atheists of the Soviet Union; by the Nazis; by Capitalism; by the means Science has developed to harm both mankind, other species and this planet.
The Enlightenment itself -- usually pictured as the beginning of that great, positive evolution which is taking all of us to higher and higher levels of human development. Partly true, since there stemmed from it a greater emphasis on human dignity, on individual liberty, on attacking ignorance and combating injustice.
The problem with the Enlightenment and the secular humanism which it spawned is that it led people to believe that with the emphasis on Reason we could realize the perfectibility of humanity. Reason though can become dictatorial and unreasonable.
Stemming from the belief that through reason, science and sound thinking we can make a utopia --- spawned the horrors of the French Revolution; the cruelties and massacres of colonization; the barbarism of our own suppression and attempts to eradicate the Native Americans.
The story of mankind is not one of continual progress. History is not progressive.
History is basically cyclical. Science and Reason can make things much worse instead of much better. What makes the difference is the amount of Compassion and Wisdom there is inherent in our lives. The ability to eliminate millions more persons in war today is an example of Science. Would you call this --- an advancement?
When I read Harris and Hitchens and other New Atheists, their tone is vituperative, angry, intolerant and filled with hatred and outrage. I get the same feeling when listening to the Christian evangelist, John Hagee.
Must we choose between the zealots who worship at the shrine of Reason & Science or the dogmatists who follow a fundamentalist interpretation of the Koran or Bible?
Do we really believe in the "purity of the rational mind".
IMO, humans are simply not naturally good. There is evil, and most of it stems from people. The planet would not be harmed to a great extent, but probably enhanced --- if by some chance ---- mankind disappeared entirely.
What have we really contributed? What have we really "messed up"?
People are not going to evolve into some kind of perfected tribe by following reason. Reason is the mother of rationalization, and we know how prevalent it is. In fact, we have the ability to use Reason and even Science to justify our own lack of wisdom, inner forces of hatred, lust, greed, anger...
Whether there is a God or not --- we can be absolutely sure that Reason + Science is not It !