This was not my intended blog, but another reactive one to some of the comments I received about the last one. For those new to this, I am writing a post a day, many of which are me working out what I think I think about something. They are written hastily, messily but passionately. Sorry for the grammar and punctuation chaos.
As I presumed while I was writing yesterday’s blog post on science, a few have commented that it sounded “a bit like a religion”.
Religious promoters and science decriers have an advantage using the positive PR for faith groups, who rationalise that so many human endeavours, social behaviours and private contemplations are “like religion really”. I have already trodden in religion to some minds by mentioning contemplation, hang on, isn’t that what monks may do, and thus, thinking about things “is a bit like religion”.
Enjoying a sunset, wondering about a butterfly, joining a chess club, all of these are “a bit like religion”. Anything that involves more than five people gathering together in a common pursuit is just a shade away from extremist Islam or evangelical creationists. A deep interest in astronomy is a similar character trait to shooting nurses outside an abortion clinic. I think this woolliness in language does pretty much everyone involved a disservice.
While debating about religion last month, one of my opponents said that “football was a religion” while the 9/11 acts of terrorism were cultural and political actions not religious.
One comment below my post said that “wanting answers has a deeply religious origin”, but I think this is putting things back to front. I don’t believe (oh no, i just typed believe, that is a “religious” word, so this must mean that the following words are “a bit like religion” too).
But I do not believe that religion came first and then humans started asking why there was thunder and sharks and crescent moons and pustulous death. The questions exist free of religion, religion was the tool that gave answers and then the muddle got worse. Once religion gave the answers, and the priests became the kingmakers and power possessors, then new answers, based on telescopes and experiments, were frowned upon. Sometimes it went beyond frowning to stoning, impaling or burning.
Though I can understand why people want a belief in gods, hopes of an afterlife, and the idea that there is something beyond human comprehension that constructs and maintains the universe, the succour of something that may hint at a grand universal purpose, I do find it difficult to understand why some people still believe in some almighty or other.
I don’t have what it takes to make the leap to imagining a deity. My limitations make it hard for me to see why people who have received much education and are well-read in science and philosophy can still find a place in their predominantly rational mind for God or gods.
It is these friends of mine that most often give me that “do you see?” look if I mention a something that I find beautiful or moving. I was once at the top of canyon, it was dawn, and that tingling sensation, the speechless moment of seeing the magnificent was unfolding, and my religious friend looked at me and said, “do you see?”
The experience was thrilling , the removal of all usual life hubbub and detritus, but I could see nothing that insinuated, “and thus there is a god”. If anything, I found the idea that behind all this was mystical being with a hand crank and blueprints diluted the delight.
If nothing else is forthcoming, the inexplicable does not immediately require the nonsensical as an answer, some things can be left until we have the tools and knowledge required to understand, sometimes the understanding may not even be that important.
I am afraid I think religion takes credit when no credit is required and it enhances nothing.
People have said to me, “imagine a world without religion, think of all the glorious art that wouldn’t exist”. I think, imagine the variety of paintings that would exist if the popes and the preachers didn’t hold the pursestrings and keep on demanding another bloody painting of death on the cross or life in a manger. Painting may have grown out enacting hunts on cave walls, as some totemistic behaviour perhaps, but once painting was up and running, it’s not as if artists would have stopped had they found out it wasn’t a requirement to please the gods and their representatives on earth.
As for the idea that gathering together with a common interest immediately makes something a religion, that is surely poppycock. Is religion really just an alibi for get to together, no more than the gathering of train enthusiasts at Crewe station?
Much of the “isn’t that a bit like religion” ignores the historical behaviour of dominant religious groups, many of whom weren’t all about the joy of existence, the wondering about the universe, and the need to find a nice place for a get together. If science wanted to take lessons from religion, it may involve a greater level of threat should you depart or question the dogma (predicts blog post comments about how climate change scientists are beaten and silenced if they depart from the official propaganda, creationists are now banned from being heads of depts of evolutionary biology etc etc and so on and so on). Science will be the new religion when those who follow it are told that a step out of line will lead to their atoms being eternally smashed together in the seventh ring of the Largest of Hadron Collider or there are more sing songs about Faraday our eternal father at the Royal Society.
My Importance of Being Interested Tour is coming to Manchester, Radlett, Bristol,Sheffield, Birmingham and many more towns. Details of those and Christmas shows at Hammersmith with Brian Cox HERE
The Cosmic Genome app now incl Ben Goldacre, Helen Czerski, Richard Dawkins, Brian Cox and 50 more is HERE