Religion & Science

   

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS RELIGION?

Perhaps before we start looking at the impact of religion it may be useful to look at the different types of religion that exist. Similar ideas underpin many of the religions found in the world, although they may be expressed in many different ways. The term 'religion' comes from the Latin word 'religio' which translates into 'duty', and we are well aware that religions often impose rules on their followers. A vital part of many religions is the belief in the individuals spirit or soul as an entity which is separate from the body and the mind. For religious followers, our spirit is immortal and after our physical death, this spirit continues its existence into an invisible, spiritual world where it may be punished or rewarded for deeds performed during our lifetime. As a result of this belief those who follow religion live their lives in a prescribed way so that they can enter their spiritual realms after death.

A further key idea underpinning religion is the belief in one or more higher beings who, as creators of the universe, have power over the world, over nature and over humanity. Such higher beings are worshiped and may be named deities or seem as unimaginable sources of absolute power. These religions also offer their followers answers to philosophical questions about how the world and universe came to be, the purpose of life, the way we should live our lives and what happens to us after we die. Religious texts or scriptures often form part of worship and are treated with great respect, and in some religions they are thought to be the unchanging word of god, whilst in others they are seen as emanating from god via some form of human channel.

WHAT IS RELIGION FOR?

Religions have many functions: it provides explanations for the numerous inexplicable phenomena of the world (natural events, human suffering), it gives us an ethical framework to guide us in the living of our lives, it can be a source of comfort and can allay fears. However it could also be seen as a framework of repression, of control and restriction. Whilst one religion may say the world was created in eight days (or is it seven) science tells us that our world was the product of the Big Bang. Whilst one religion states that god created man in his own image, science looks to Darwin's theory of evolution. Science and religion seem to be in contrasting corners as to the creation of the world and in explaining our existence. For me, religion is more about control and repression, and I feel that these views will become evident throughout this section of my site. Whilst I would like to think that I would go onto another world when I die, or come back as an animal, I feel that the answers to our existence lie not in some religious scripture written to control and mislead people, but rather in the realms of science.

WHAT TYPES OF RELIGIONS ARE THERE?

THE VIRUS RELIGION

I am astounded that religious faith continues to be a major force within the existence of humanity, especially in the face of rational, scientific truth, based on hard evidence. Indeed as we continue into the early years of the 21st century religion is still at the forefront of many societies, with each of these 'faiths' not only defying evidence, but remaining untestable and unshakeable, and so therefore it is in direct contradiction of the sciences. science is based on skepticism, investigation and evidence, and it continues to test its own concepts and claims and it is here that we will discover the very meaning of our existence, eventually, not in the confines of religion.

For Richard Dawkin's religions preach morality, peace and hope, yet in fact they also bring intolerance, violence and destruction. He adds that the growth of extreme fundamentalism in so many religions across the world not only endangers humanity but, he argues, is in conflict with the trend over thousands of years of history for humanity to progress to become more enlightened and tolerant. For me this is perhaps a good a place as any to start in the analysis of religion within our world. So despite science exposing old religious myths militant faith is back on the march. The mechanisms for perpetuating beliefs that leads to murderous intolerance in the name of religion is by imposing religion on children who are too inexperienced to judge it for themselves. We don't categorise children according to their parents political stance since they are too young to make up their minds on such matters yet we segregate them into sectarian religious schools where they are taught superstitions from ancient scriptures of dubious origin, which promote a contradictory and poiseness system of morals.

Dawkin's compare this to a virus, which infects the young and is passed down the generations. Indeed the number of faith schools is increasing, more than half of the governments proposed city academies will be run by religious organisations, and there are also growing numbers of private evangelical Christian schools, whom have developed a curriculum which includes a mention of god or Jesus on every page of its science text book.

Transmitting such a warped reality to young people amounts to indoctrination. Children are uniquely vulnerable and if the y fail to question and shake off such superstition, they remain in a state of perpetual infancy. According to Stephen Weinberg religion is an insult to human dignity without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things it takes religion.

Drawing on such evidence it is not difficult to demolish the claims of religion as fairytale, and dangerous ones at that. But there is more to religion than ancient stories and articles of faith. Dawkin's touched on the sense of belonging promised by religious groups but dismissed this as 'seductive group solidarity', which he described as a 'shared delusion.' In doing so he glances off the more subtle dilemmas of how religions and religious traditions are woven through peoples notions of community, history and identity.

Having a sense of ones place in the world is important to everyone, but has particular significance for minorities and peoples under political, economic or military pressure. Individuals may even accept Dawkin's atheistic and scientific deconstruction of the myths they have grown up with but still defend and nurture the matrix of institutions, practices and relationships which make them who they are.  

For me the question no longer centres on the validity of religion: its deconstruction is more or less complete. Let us take a few examples to highlight my point.

  • On the 26th December 2004 intense pressure between two tectonic plates brought devastation to thousands of lives in the form of the Asian Tsunami. As a result buildings were destroyed, amongst them Buddhist and Hindu temples, mosques and churches. These tidal waves drowned people of all religions.
  • A few months later thousands more lost their lives when Hurricane Katrina hit new Orleans, whereby the victims were mainly Christians .
  • A powerful earthquake struck Kashmir at around the same time, and the victims were mainly Muslim.

All of these victims came from diverse religious backgrounds yet at the same time one common factor united them all, those who suffered most in the Tsunami, New Orleans and Kashmir were among the poorest people within their societies. This fact much surely challenge the view of those committed to the religious world view centered on a merciful god who promises that the 'meek shall inherit the earth.'

Religious leaders say that scientist deal with cause not purpose, they ask 'how the volcano erupted' and not what the purpose of it was. Many Christian, Muslim and Jewish spokespersons subscribe to a model of moral 'cause and effect'. People, young and old, are punished by an angry and vengeful god, but they each suggest their own triggers for this anger, in the process revealing their won agendas. Hurricane Katrina typifies this point. Without reference to the children crushed and buried under the rubble, a prominent individual from the Christian faith stated that 'god judged New Orleans for the sin of shedding innocent blood through abortion' whilst a pastor representing another religious organisation rejoiced that 'the hurricane had wiped out rampant sin' in a city about to host its annual gay pride event.

It seems clear that religions does have its own agenda. As I mentioned earlier religion has been deconstructed to a certain extent, yet the number of those who continue to follow increases worldwide. Religion is a tool which controls the mass, it is a vehicle which orders people to live their lives in a certain way, and perhaps above all else it offers a false hope to all its followers, a belief built upon lies and misconceptions. We only need to look at how religion is affecting our lives today, if we don't have battles between religions (Israel), we only need to look at the suicide bombers (9/11) who act 'in the name of Islam.' I used to be of the opinion that science would displace religion as the 'new religion of the 21st century,' yet it seems that this is not going to happen and that in effect the opposite is happening.  And the future....given the increasing influence of religious leaders within our schools and the vulnerability of children, it would seem that religion will maintain its grip of human aquiesence......

 

 

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