Sunday, August 13, 2006

How Dangerous Religion Is

How Dangerous Religion Is

In order to understand how dangerous religion is, one must first understand what religion is, and what it is not. The biggest barrier to understanding such things is the common tendency to view religion as a subject-area, instead of as an epistemology. Every statement about religion which views it as a subject-area tends to see spirituality as being intrinsic to it, and this is especially misleading.

Religion is not spirituality, although some proponents of religion falsely equate the two.

Religion is faith. Anyone who lacks faith lacks religion.

Faith can be held in practically anything. But when it’s held in some Scripture that’s alleged to come from The Almighty, or God, we’re talking about organized religion, and many people falsely equate religion with organized religion, as if a person cannot be religious unless a member of some organized group that believes similarly to himself.

In some organized religions, The Almighty is held to be nature, or called “the laws of nature.” Organized religions of this kind are falsely denominated as “atheistic,” as if the only god that were suitable for worship were a “supernatural” one.

For a prominent modern example of such nature-deification: Marxist Communism held the laws of nature to constitute, themselves, The Almighty, and held that the essence of virtue was to flow with these laws, which, according to Marxist Scripture, meant to let the proletariat become dictators over the means of production.

What separated Marxist Communism, or any such “atheistic” faith, from science, was that, like any organized religion, its criterion for truth was some Scripture, not experience. The Marxist Scripture was Das Kapital. Karl Marx became the prophet in his own organized religion. Anyone who didn’t possess faith in Das Kapital as representing laws of nature regarding politics and economics couldn’t authentically be a Communist—no more than anyone who doesn’t have faith in the Bible as representing The Word of God can authentically be a Christian.

It is important to understand the essence of religion. Atheistic religion not only is possible; it exists. Furthermore, religion is not first and foremost a community, as is commonly asserted; it is a belief. The belief makes the community, not vice versa. However, it is important to understand that what makes this belief is faith—an epistemology. This epistemology, faith itself, is the essence of religion. Any given religion is a specific faith—that is, faith in a specific Scripture.

Since the essence of religion is faith, no religion is merely hereditary. If an individual who is raised within a given faith comes to reject that faith, he’s no longer authentically a member of that faith-group or organized religion, not even if he pretends to be still a member in order to be accepted within the faith-culture in which he was raised. To hold the contrary view—to hold that religion is defined by descent—is to hold a purely Tribal, or “racist,” concept of Religion: that a religion is merely hereditary. But religion is, above all, not a matter of mere heredity, but one of personal belief. Specifically, it is a person’s belief which is based upon faith in some Scripture.

The basic attribute of Scripture, since it originates from The All-Powerful, is that it’s inerrant. The expressions from The All-Powerful have necessarily got to be True, because the only thing that’s required in order to make them true is that The All-Powerful wills them so. Otherwise, The All-Powerful would not be The All-Powerful: What the All-Powerful wills, happens necessarily. By definition of the All-Powerful’s being The All-Powerful, whatever the All-Powerful asserts to be the case has got to be the case; and any exception from this would vitiate or destroy The All-Powerful’s being all-powerful. This is why any religion is based upon its Scripture being inerrant—inerrancy follows from religion’s worshipping The All-Powerful.

The difference between a religious conservative, or “fundamentalist,” and a religious liberal, is that the fundamentalist really believes this way. By contrast, a religious liberal isn’t entirely certain it’s so—a religious liberal possesses less faith in Scripture. In other words, a religious liberal is simply weaker in his faith than is a religious conservative. The religious liberal might not want to acknowledge this, and he might wish to be a member of a congregation of others who are similarly weak in their faith, but this doesn’t change the situation. If these people were more rational, what they’d be ashamed about is not that they hold their faith weakly, but instead that they hold their faith—or any faith—at all.

The opposite of faith is skepticism. This skepticism is not—as religionists commonly maintain—the same thing as cynicism. Skepticism is simply a systematic questioning and analysis of all allegations, irrespective of their source; it is the holding that nothing possesses authority. Another term for this epistemology is “science.”

In science, there are experts, but there are no authorities. An expert is demonstrated by a past record of achievement which is a high percentage of confirmation of his past predictions. (For example, a person such as U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who was renowned for his long record of predictions which subsequently proved to be false, might nonetheless constitute an authority to conservatives, but he is thoroughly discredited as an “expert” by scientists.) And an expert, unlike an authority, is constantly questioned and challenged by other scientists in his field, and takes no offense at being questioned, simply because he is a scientist, and because, in science, authority simply does not exist; only expertise does.

Unlike a person of faith, there exists no Scripture for a scientist. This is necessarily the case, because there is no inerrancy—anyone might be wrong on a given allegation, and skepticism constantly reigns among scientists, on all subjects.

A scientist is not an atheist, because a scientist does not make assertions about issues that aren’t yet even properly formulated. For example, if a scientist is asked “Does God exist?” a more basic question is automatically raised, in the scientist’s mind, as to whether there might possibly be something other than The All-Powerful which might qualify (according to some rational set of rules) as constituting a god, or even as constituting The God. For example, a scientist might assert in reply to such a question: “I worship truth, not power, and certainly not the very personification of power, which is The All-Powerful One; but I would call truth God, even though this is not Truth—not the assumedly inerrant Word of The All-Powerful One, since that does not exist. So, I worship truth but not Truth. And thus, since I worship something, I’m not an atheist.”

For a scientist, the very question as to whether a god exists is unanswerable as of yet in human history, for the same reason that a question of whether the earth circled around the sun or the sun circled around the earth was unanswerable before physics became scientific with Galileo: human culture has not yet reached the stage when such a question is answerable from the standpoint of scientific epistemology. Thus, a scientist is not an atheist, but an agnostic.

Therefore, the difference between religion and science is not two different subject-areas, as religionists maintain, but two different epistemologies—one, faith; the other, skepticism. And liberal religious persons are somewhere in transition between those two polar opposite epistemological positions.

The key thing to understand about organized religion is its worship of the very personification of power, The All-Powerful. Power-worship leads to the problems which culturally immensely infect the world of today; it constitutes a cultural disease that inevitably produces massive bloodshed and misery, including wars in many regions of today’s world—northern Ireland, the Middle East, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria: the list goes on and on.

Furthermore, religion is, by its very nature, opposed to findings by science, in numerous areas, such as evolution, abortion, homosexuality: the list goes on and on.

Consequently, the embodiment of religion in politics, which is commonly and accurately known as “conservatism,” constitutes a form of terrorism against scientists during the present Age in history, the Religious Age. Scientists during the Religious Age are so terrified by religionists, that scientists cannot openly even assert that religion and science are fundamentally and irrevocably opposed to one another; scientists have to assert, to the exact contrary, that, rather than being two opposite epistemologies (which they are), religion and science are merely two different subject-areas. Even today, scientists remain, to a large extent, under the religious curse, as was Galileo, and as was Darwin. We remain, today, still in the Religious Age, not yet in the Scientific Age.

This is not, however, to assert that mankind has made no substantial progress. Before the Religious Age, there was the Tribal Age, which was even more barbaric.

In a Tribal Age culture, the moral authority of the laws is ancestors, and a person’s individual merit derives from his having “good” ancestors. In a Religious Age culture, the moral authority of the laws is God’s will, and a person’s individual merit derives from his being approved by God. In a Scientific Age culture, the moral authority of the laws will derive from the extent to which they improve the welfare (well-being or long-term happiness) of the ruled, and a person’s individual merit will derive from the extent to which he serves that end.

As of today, we remain in the Religious Age, and therefore the world is today cursed by massive wars and oppression, stupidity regnant, and scientists aren’t even free to assert that this is the case, if they even understand that it is, and why it is.

Mankind’s progress from the Dark Ages is far less than is commonly thought, and we might be yet thousands of years from reaching the Scientific Age—if we’ll ever reach it at all.


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At May 13, 2007 at 6:49 PM, Blogger Brian Hayes said...

Marvelous consolidation that sweeps across both culture and conditions, but damn, 'stupidity regnant' is not ever the bumper sticker I was hoping for near your concluding fire.

I'm going to take the liberty to stumble into another way of putting the anarchist grip of the stupid, because I'm clipping a few tidits of this post to link you from my blog.

At April 11, 2011 at 2:03 PM, Blogger Abels_Angel said...

When you are talking about the almighty is nature, that is Wicca and Taoist. Athiests do not believe in anything, no supernatural power, no god no allah or anything else. I agree with you on everything else, but it's just that part, you mixed up.


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