I guess all this stuff about burqas and my searching out some history on the wearing of them has led me again to think about religion per se. I have difficulty with religious superstition and the necessary dogma(s) that belief in religion entails. It leaves me cold to my bones; at the same time I can get quite incensed about it.
Religion is the weirdest concept to have become over-developed in our species. I don’t have a problem seeing an original animism, tribal cohesion and the recognition of environmental danger in the genesis of these types of superstition. I can understand that offspring look to their elders for guidance and rules of engagement with the strange, large world about them and their relative vulnerability.
That makes enough sense to me to nod my head at Richard Dawkins and other evolutionary biologists and philosophers and other thoughtful thinkers who postulate this behaviour and agree that it is evolutionarily sound in primitive man.
Ahem – this is the 21st century. We now know all that rustling in the bushes is not a supernatural manifestation sent to test us by some god or another – of which there are thousands anyway – gods that is, not bush rustles.
We have identified our sun as a star and our planet as one of many that revolve around it. We know that our planet is not the centre of the universe. Right?
The universe is a BIG place. Right?
Geocentricity has lost favour to greater, evidenced knowledge and cosmological understanding. Right?
Then why do we behave as though we are the most important beings in the universe and believe there’s a god up in the sky (now don’t pick on this primitive description of a god) who watches every move you make and holds you to account on some far off (but apparently getting closer) judgement day?
I don’t understand the obviously puny nature of this (these) god(s) that can only relate to our wee planet and us. I was going to say, forgive the sarcasm, but I won’t.
I have lost count (even if I ever knew) how many times religite ‘leaders’ have predicted dates for the end of the world as we know it – and they mean the universe, folks, not just earth. The latest craze is for death, destruction and other mayhems at the end of 2012 with the supposed cessation of the Mayan calendar presaging the demise of everything. Whew!!
Then there’s the Armageddon of that lunatic John writing his mushroom-soaked scribbling in a cave on Patmos. For that to come about, there are so many preconditions to be filled involving Jews, gold, oil and land with re-builds of temples etc. I don’t claim to have misused my time researching these things ad nauseum but others have and get quite excited by the prospect of our annihilation. Bizarre.
No prediction has ever made any sense let alone even uttered a cosmic cough but the excuses are always forthcoming as to why predictive errors were made. So why do people still predict and think that their predictions have any credibility? Why are their followers so credulous as to believe, fervently, that man’s invented gods have any more presence than individual neurological twitterings?
As a species, it is long past the time for us to put away childish things. This phrase is quoted far and wide but how many of us know that it is biblically founded?
The childish things Paul of Tarsus referred to were the base emotions to which we fall prey, not toy trains. Paul further begs the Corinthians to develop an adult understanding and eschew malice.
At least, that is sort of what his letters to the Corinthians appear to say. After all, these writings have been translated, re-translated, interpreted and re-interpreted until it is not surprising the religites have to come out and publish yet another version. But the story is basically the same, depending on which religious tract, holy book and etc you read. No one takes any notice of course. We still exhibit the basest of human behaviour and make the lamest of excuses for our piss poor behaviour to each other and other species in general.
Anyway, Paul of Tarsus was a little mad (these days he’s fingered as an epileptic) and claimed his visions as the supernatural made manifest. He’s the one who had a conversion on the road to Damascus and claimed god spoke to him. Well ….
Well, so did my great-aunt Mary. She saw visions of Jesus standing at the end of her bed or so we (as kids) were told. She was harmless enough to my knowledge (probably schizophrenic) and she wrote screed after screed to my father exhorting him to turn to religion so he could be ‘saved’. He didn’t.
I still have some of the pleading letters she sent him. She was part of that whacky cult The Plymouth Brethren. The cult started in Ireland and spread to Plymouth in England, surprise!! Anyway the cult were religious separatists so it was not surprising when there was a schism, some split and left for the New World having to sojourn in The Netherlands for some four years before they arrived in New York.
I guess that goes quite a long way to explain America, really. No wonder the initial drafters laboured to keep religious dogma of any one type out of their newly minted Constitution. Hasn’t helped all that much has it? The Americans still encourage religious adherence, at least it seems that way.
The most recent Gallup poll I could find was conducted in 2004. The discussion I read was published here and it appears that since 1997:
… belief in heaven has ranged between 72% and 83%. According to Gallup’s most recent May 2004 Values and Beliefs poll*, 81% of Americans currently say they believe in heaven, 10% are unsure, and 8% do not believe. As expected, regular churchgoers are more likely than others to say they believe: Virtually all (98%) of those who attend church weekly do so versus 89% who attend “nearly weekly” and 64% of those who say they attend church seldom or never.
Probably the most worrying trends in the poll are the increases in belief in angels up from 54% in 1978 to 78% in 2004 and belief in the devil up from 55% in 1990 to 70% in 2004.
What is disturbing in all this, and the poll discussion is worth reading, is that despite the overall secularisation of the western world the population of the largest and (at least on paper) wealthiest post-industrial nation increasingly believes in fairies at the bottom of the garden!
It appears that the American Christian extremists are a burgeoning minority. And the majority of Americans seem unable to self-identify without aligning themselves to some religious cult.
It is getting worse, just quietly. We now have the Muslims hell-bent on out-extreming the Christian extremists in rhetoric. The only thing they have in spades over the Christian camp is a predilection for violence and self immolation while taking as many others with them as possible. Nice!!
The problem for the rest of us is that we have hitherto stood by while these groups and their members became increasingly more certifiable. Then, when a number of us come to the notice of the media, write books and undertake lecture tours to try and point out the folly of all this superstitious way of thinking and behaving, we are called militant, divisive and strident.
I (and many others, I’ll warrant) wonder what can be more militant, divisive and strident than Pastor Phelps and his little banner waving picket who seem able to insult everyone.
Even though I am well aware that there is no profitable discussion to be had between those who choose belief with faith and those who prefer their knowledge well tempered with evidence, the battle rages on.
Intellectual dissonance is not really something that should be encouraged in this (maybe our last) century. We can see where religious fervour could about-turn us to the ignorance and backwardness of centuries past. This is not a value judgement; I am stating a fact that must be obvious to anyone who cares to view our history dispassionately.
As always, I welcome and appreciate comments and discussion and look forward to hearing from you.