There are those who are aware that they are always facing death. Knowing this, they put aside all quarrels.
– The Dhammapada
There are those who are aware that they are always facing death. Knowing this, they put aside all quarrels.
– The Dhammapada
I just read a blog post by Kids Without Religion about a father’s right when it comes to the life of his unborn child here. As I read about Texas as they fight to save this unborn child, I could not stop thinking about George Carlin and his bit about the sanctity of life. Those who are pro-life, especially in Texas, will devote so much time to making sure the child is born. But after that, these same people will turn their backs on them. So for a bit of serious comedy which I have now been inspired to post, here is George Carlin, saying it best, on the sanctity of life. Enjoy.
Also, as a side note, I have revised my last post a little, primarily the conclusion, so if you would like to read that, here is the link.
Today, while I was eating lunch, I was feeling sentimental. I missed good ol’ Christopher Hitchens and wanted to listen to him speak. So I decided to go onto YouTube and watch this debate here. The debate was asking the question; is Islam a religion of peace? Hitch in his opening statement made many points, from the totalitarian beliefs to the acts of many of the followers, speaking of terrorist attacks, fathers murdering their daughters, etc. We all know the rebuttal to this, regardless of the religion in question. They will proclaim that we cannot judge a religion by the acts of the extremists.
I agree. We shouldn’t do that. But this creates a better means of answering this question properly. There is one thing we can turn to in each of these religions. The Bible, and the Qur’an. While the people of the religion are free to interpret the text as they please and worship as they desire, they cannot deny that their holy book is the sole unquestionable representative of their faith. What do I mean by this? What I mean is that regardless of what you believe personally, your worship is based upon the existence of your respective holy book. Without the book, you have nothing to stand on.
So when we ask the question, is Christianity, or is Islam, a religion of peace? We need not look to the followers. The question for them would be, are the followers of Christianity, or are the followers of Islam peaceful? But this is not the question I am analyzing today. What I am looking at is the religion itself. So looking specifically at these religions holy texts, do they ever endorse violence? Do these texts ever promote things like slavery, misogyny, or the killing of those who leave the faith or who do not believe in one’s respective faith? I think it would be laughable if you asked me to actually point out these verses to you. Clearly, these religions are grounded in text that encourage violence in the defense of their God. They also foster ignorant views of the world and damn those who would dare to question. We need not look to the people to learn about the religion. We need to look at the religion. When we do, the answer couldn’t be more clear.
A single caveat to this point is that many followers will explain that much of the text was intended for a different time. Not only does this imply that you admit that at one time slavery was good or killing of those who don’t believe was okay, but because these “needless” verses remain, people can still interpret the text and come to violent conclusions about how to behave in the real world. In either case, religion is a cause lacking in peace.
This is where the argument falls, and yes, it falls heavily in favor to the atheist. When the religious try to claim that atheism is a religion, and further, atheism is a religion not of peace, they are met with many sad realizations. We do not have a doctrine prescribed to atheism. This also hurts their argument when they try to assert that people such as Stalin were atheist and therefore atheism leads to evil. If you wish to follow that train of thought, then you must concede to the facts regarding violence and your own religion. Thus if your religion, or any members acting on behalf of their interpretation of your religion, has an equivalent violence rate or history as Stalin (which it does, and it’s worse), and you then proclaim atheism is a religion of evil, then by your own logic, your religion is a religion of evil.
And you have no atheist text to hold us to because WE SIMPLY DON’T HAVE ONE! You cannot proclaim that Dawkins said this or Hitchens said that and therefore atheism believes this. No. Atheists are free to learn and believe what they so desire, and no text plays the ultimate hand. And no text acts as a holy book of atheism which then supports violent acts. You could maybe argue that an atheist activist has published statements that promote violence but this is not enough. If we are to say that any atheist, no matter the popularity, can publish his thoughts on the path of atheism, and then you go on to proclaim that what they say must fall into the line of what all atheists believe, then you once again must accept those who have done so within your own religion, whom you currently say we should ignore since they “aren’t representative of the true beliefs of your faith”. Thus, it must be crystal clear that the only religions* which are nailed to a book that truly represents their lives are the other two (Christianity and Islam, since these are the only two we are considering in this post).
We have already accepted that these texts do promote violence. Whether you believe that these verses are irrelevant in today’s society or not, the fact is, the verses remain. Anyone with faith in one of these religions can read their respective texts, and draw conclusions which lead to violence. What puts the wait of these consequences on the backs of these religions is the fact that these conclusions come from their most important book. People can justify some of the greatest evils by reading the one book you recommend everyone study with passion. The book that you will proclaim is the book to answer all questions. People can justify the worst evils simply from the book that you will advise everyone live their lives by. Is Christianity or Islam a religion of peace? How can it truly be when this can be said about it? As Steven Weinberg states, “With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”
*I should go on the record saying that clearly, atheism is not a religion. I just grouped atheism with Christianity and Islam for the sake of this post, given that many religious people tend to try to put us in the group. I merely show how the argument breaks down in that case.
We live in a great time. It is a time when almost all of the information we desire is at our fingertips. We can learn about almost anything, MIT has mathematics coursework for anyone to look at, physics professors post videos of their lectures on YouTube for all to see, and TED talks has become a gateway for people to present new and innovative ways of thinking. Again, for anyone to see. We live in a great time indeed. But I do believe that we are abusing this gift, and not utilizing it in the best way possible.
Far too many people these days take information they hear or read about as fact. From standard blog posts to scientific papers, if people hear or read of something interesting, they far too often take it immediately as fact. This is a mistake on our behalf as the reader. We need to learn to take a step back.
Living in the age of technology, not only can you learn about whatever your heart desires. You can just as easily go online and create a page to tell everybody what you think about everything. And blogs are the most common place where people make this mistake in judgement. As I scan mindlessly through Facebook or here on WordPress. I am continually reminded of many people’s poor reasoning faculties and far too well functioning “gullibility machine” (I will call it). I am sure we all have those friends or family members pushing some article with a title such as, “Mysterious Plant in the Amazon Cures Cancer: What the Government Doesn’t Want You to Know About”, or, “Quantum Theory Proves Existence of a Multiverse”, and sadly, “Aliens Seen by Many, Whistle Blowers Now Missing”. I am quickly overcome with my face in palm. I then look to see where they have found their information, only to be underwhelmed with the not surprising blogspot.bullshit or conspiracy.forum.living4christ webpage. The problem in time has become clear. People put far too much trust in what they find online.
When you read about conspiracy theories, amazing drugs that cure cancer, or new theories in quantum mechanics, they need to be taken lightly. You should (virtually) never accept something new to you immediately. If you are really intrigued and wish to really research a topic, the results you find from further research should be what strengthens your belief in a claim. And when we do take part in personal research, look to valid sources. And if you want to claim that you can’t trust a .edu or .gov website, then why in the hell should you trust a blog? We must take blog posts, yes even mine, with a grain of salt. This does not mean that we have to discount blogs or should never look to them for information. We can of course use our reasoning faculties to determine whether or not we could potentially buy into an idea, but further thought and study needs to be taken if we truly want to award these ideas significant merit especially if they themselves do not provide reputable sources. It is of course also okay to let people know about new ideas or claims and say why you are inclined to believe them. You may also develop a structured argument as to why the idea may be valid. But this must all be done with greater perspective. That is, you must look at what you actually know versus what is just hypothesis or bullshit rambling.
Even new hypotheses in science need to be taken with only interest in the beginning. One of the beauties of living in this time is seeing people with a limited science background read about the science that interests them to their hearts content. People should always strive to learn about our universe, from the microscopic to the macroscopic. But these fields too get abused, typically, by those with weaker scientific backgrounds (In my experience at least). Magazines such as Scientific American and books by Stephen Hawking play a great role in society in many cases. I am repeating myself by saying that we need this information out there. They take complex ideas that brilliant minds are working with and package them in a way that many of us can understand, even with a poor foundation of scientific understanding. But what people tend not to realize is that when a magazine makes a claim like there is evidence of a multiverse, it should not be taken as fact. That is, we should not interpret this claim as “there are multiple universes”. This should be taken as an interesting hypothesis that is worth analyzing more. Now before I stray from this, I should say that I personally am a big fan of the multiverse hypothesis. But I would never at this time claim it to be so. What I do claim is that with my understanding, it appears to be the most plausible, but I would hold no judgement to competing hypotheses with strong arguments.
Do not let this discourage you from continuing to utilize our technology to learn about new and fascinating things. There truly is a universe of information out there, more than a thousand lifetimes over. The water of information, true and worthwhile information, will never run dry. So we need not get hung up on wild and unjustified ideas just because we desire to be fascinated. Look for the truth in this reality. That is what will bring the real fascination we all crave.
So when you are reading the many posts that you find on WordPress, or the articles posted by friends on Facebook, take them for what they are, ideas and/or claims. Never take them as fact immediately. At least not until you check the facts yourself. Enjoy the information that we are lucky enough to have at our fingertips. This is a great time to be alive, and we need not abuse it.