Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Religion and stupidity

Are you for or against religion? Neutral, maybe? (Write me, tell me.)

If you are down on religion, is it because so many wars and abuses have been carried out in the name of religion? Because so many religions preach tolerance, but practice intolerance? Because of atrocities in the name of God?

Don't worry. I am not a terribly religious person. And what I believe, I mostly prefer to keep to myself.

But there was a brief period in my younger days when I was into religion. That period was preceded and followed by times in which I looked very negatively on religion. I knew a small number of very religious people whom I admired, and so many more that I either pitied, or actively distrusted. In those days, it seemed to me that so many of the world's problems were caused by formal religions.

Eventually, though, I came to realize that the core stupidities that I blamed on religion -- prejudice, ignorance, arrogance, narrow-mindedness -- were in fact not religious problems, but human problems.

I saw that, even though I am no longer religious, I am still full of prejudice and prejudgement. And although I am no longer associated with any formal religion, I am still full of arrogance. My opinion is the right one. Others, however well-intentioned, are at best misguided. I may not say it. But that is what I think.

There are many things that happen in the name of God and religion that are shameful. And criminal. And many of us just accept them, perhaps because we are habituated to do so.

Politics can be similar. Look at the atrocities done in the name of Communism. I wonder if there is a list of how many that were done in the name of Democracy?

I believe we need to start by recognizing that the core stupidities -- the intolerance, the narrow-mindedness, the arrogance, the prejudice -- all start with us. With humans.

They are natural consequences of our intelligence. That doesn't make them desirable. That doesn't make them OK. That doesn't mean we can't do anything about them. But we have to stop blaming religion, or politics, or anything else, for the problem. The answer is locked away inside of us.

But, since we are speaking of religious faith -- and even political faith -- how can we deny the role they often play in so many abuses, so many wars, so many atrocities?

It seems to me that, under some circumstances, religion (or politics, or even love) can introduce a multiplier effect. Obedience and devotion -- whether to a higher power, to a cause, or to a loved one -- can be a good thing. But if turns into blind obedience or blind devotion. If we turn off our ability to question, for example. If we reduce our conscience to formulas, or rules -- or to somebody else's instruction -- we start down a path that may even turn our stupidities into evil.

What's worse, we then can't see the wrong we do, because the conscience that should warn us has been replaced. We still have a conscience. We have probably worked hard to acquire it. We are proud of it. And, since our conscience is by definition good, we can't see the problem.

But it is not just religion, or politics, or even love that introduce these multiplier effects. Anything can do it. Loyalty to a group. A sense of belonging. Being very busy. Being deeply absorbed in something. A racing mind. The desire for achievement. And on, and on.

In the end, our prejudices and our arrogance -- and all the other stupidities -- begin with us. Yes, some activities may introduce muliplier effects, but they are not the root cause.

Stupidity is part of the human condition. It is nothing to be ashamed about, except when we do nothing about it. That is where the problem must be solved.

Spread the word.


Blogger Phil Plasma said...

I haven't ever proselytized or even mentioned anything about my faith or beliefs with coworkers or hardly ever friends. I agree with you that it is not 'organized religion' that suffers the entire blame of past, present and future outrages. I also agree with you that we all have an inherent ability to do stupid things and be stupid people. All I can say about the religion into which I was born by virtue of my parents being in this religion, is that no matter what Jesus was, he taught a lesson to love thy neighbour. In at least that respect I will continue to always try to be nice to pretty much everyone and hope that this belays my penchant for stupidity.

word verification: ejfguh


7:37 AM  
Blogger Mr K said...

I would have to pretty much totally agree with what you are saying there, although I do think religon can introduce ludicrous arguments that can split communities, so can minor ethnical differences (rwanda being a prime example).

12:39 PM  
Anonymous fern said...

hey hey mr k,

i got to agree
with what you say

and mr plasma
i choke with asma

when I hear you say
the word belay

what do it mean

4:44 PM  
Blogger Phil Plasma said...

be·lay ( P ) Pronunciation Key (b-l)
v. be·layed, be·lay·ing, be·lays
v. tr.
1. Nautical. To secure or make fast (a rope, for example) by winding on a cleat or pin.
2. To secure (a mountain climber, for example) at the end of a length of rope.
3. To cause to stop.

Note that I was using the third definition.

word verification: fmidgn

8:15 AM  
Blogger wicwit said...

My own turn from religion stemmed from all of the hypocrisy I saw. It had nothing to do with wars, crusades, or abuse. However, those things added to what keeps me away.

I never turned from believing in something greater than me and this world, but I most definitely turned from anything remotely organised.

9:48 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Excellent post! I'm glad you pointed out that it's not (religion/politics/other ideology) that's causing the problem. It's just easier for people to pick out that aspect and blame it for the problem.

7:40 AM  

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