Mikel Ocean Azure




Posted by Cobaltsoul on April 4, 2012 at 2:20 AM

It's a famous song, a lot of people like it, John Lennons "Imagine".  I never particularly liked it, perhaps because Lennon's own commitment to astrology and the like made the whole song smack of hypocrisy to me.  However I've mellowed a bit thru the years and while I still think Lennon was more than a bit blind to his own religious preoccupation I do get more of a "fair enough" vibe happening when I listening to the song.  Hard to argue with "...nothing to kill or die for...".

Apparently there is a big Atheist Convention in the city of Melbourne soon, maybe even over Easter.  Hmmm, I wonder if Atheists have a big convention in Cairo over Ramadan...  anyway..

The Atheist convention has generated some blogging, which I've read bits of.  Got me thinking.  Thinking about what I believe with regard to religion, people, wrong doing, non-belief, the whole kit and caboodle.

It is a common presentation of certain streams of Atheism (Like any large belief system it's a quite varied animal, so almost anything you say about "atheism" will be wrong in some particular instance.) that religions are the source of most of humanities problems.  Religions abuse power to control the masses.  Yes they generally do.  Religions promote fear where there is no actual reason to fear (eg the idea of hell if you think a bad thought.).   Yes, they do.  Religions are anti-science.  Weeeeeell that's not quite such an easy one to give the nod to, certainly some fundamentalist religious stances are quite barking mad in their willingness to see the process of disciplined thinking and research as a threat and an evil to combat.  However the Greeks were pretty religious and plenty of good thinking was done in that culture.  The Ottomans where pretty religious but plenty of great science was done in their era.  China has always (Communist period aside.) been a religious culture and the Chinese achievements in science go a very very long way back.  The so called "dark ages" of Europe were not actually dark at all and for many centuries the Christian institutions revered the hard won intellectual knowledge of former ages and encouraged a worldview that invited reason and discovery. 

I got side tracked there, sorry, too much history reading can lead one astray. :)

I could enumerate other examples of how some Atheists present religion as the thing that needs to be done away with.

When it comes to religions, including my own, I don't really care one way or the other if they cease to exist.  Nor do I think if they do somehow get expunged from the human intellectual and cultural frame of reference that we will be any better off.

Some religions are noxious in terms of what they actually believe and the actions they promote, no question.  There are religions that believe you gain power from killing another human being slowly and painfully.  Clearly we'd all be better off if that kind of belief ceased to exist and nobody acted on it any longer.   Most religions however, tend to promote getting along together, they might have different ideas about HOW to do that, different ideas about why we currently don't get along, but the goal tends to be similar and it seems like a pretty decent goal.  Getting along together,  less grief, less sorrow, less sickness, more peace, more happiness, more life for more people of a higher quality.

I suspect that plenty of Atheists would aspire to something similar as a world wide outcome.

I differ with them in seeing religions as the problem.

I think humans are the problem - religion is simply a particular way the problem is expressed.  If religion ceases to be, the problem with humans will find other ways to be expressed.

I'm not even going to try to suggest what the human problem is.   It is pretty obvious that while the vast majority of us honestly express pretty good aspirations for how we want to live and act and for the kind of society we want everyone to experience  what we actually produce falls far short of those aspirations.

That's a problem.

It's a problem that will exist in the absence of religions. 

Western societies have been significantly secular for a good hundred years or more at this point, an experiment that reveals how many different ways humans can find to fall short of their aspirations, ways that have nothing to do with religion.  Consider any political process in any democracy.  Consider the United Nations.  Anyone who's ever sat on the Board of a Charity organisation or Community group for very long will know the same truth.  Humans fall short of their good goals and values and aspirations - within the very structures enacted to express those good goals and values -  without any help from religion.

So that's my thought for the day.


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5:38 AM on April 6, 2012 
But the point could be made that at least Humans HAVE good goals and values and aspirations. Nobody ever reaches a worthwhile goal without failing to reach it first. Religions have, as you say, been the flag bearers of some of those good goals. But clearly we're not there yet. Most of the religion that atheists have a problem with is authoritarian religion, which is a problem I'm sure you share. And though tradition isn't a bad thing per se, I would argue, and I think it is a growing feature of worldwide culture, that a good goal is to move away from pass me down "truth" that is expected to remain unquestioned. I suspect that a good deal of religion will die a death if this attitude continues to prevail.

Science, if not always the scientist, is all about questioning previous certainties until they can stand without refutation. I think morality can be treated in the same way. I would say that good morality is testable and objectively proveable. If religion can adapt to that mentality then it might have a future...but in doing so it will have to dump a lot of stuff which is purely about faith...or at least acknowledge it's very personal nature. I hope it does because what we definitely need, atheist, theist, deist, scientist, artist, or non-of-the-aboveist, are communities in which to share, learn, grow and find comfort in our common humanity. We have these already of course...the goal should be to make them better.