Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Is Religion Harmful? (cont.)

Blind faith and dogmas was where I left off last Tuesday, and now it is time explain more about what is meant by those terms.

Bertrand Russell states that having total faith in a religion can be harmful for several reasons. As we know, it is considered virtuous to have faith. That is, having a conviction that can’t be shaken by contrary evidence. But what happens when there is so much contrary evidence? That evidence is hidden and suppressed because the more one learns, the more one starts to question what is Truth. And that could be the down fall of any religion.

As the introduction to the book was written in the 1950’s, Russell states the example of Capitalism/U.S vs. Communism/Russia and how we each vilified the other to make our viewpoints “valid”. As that is a bit out dated today, let’s take a look at this from the modern view of Christianity vs. Paganism vs. Harry Potter. There has been much talk about how Mr. Potter is bringing the masses to contemplate converting to Paganism. So the logically next step for some Christians would be to suppress Harry Potter so Pagans don’t get converts. Never mind that the Potter books have nothing to do with Paganism. In other words, the truth of other religions must be hidden to keep the young locked into the religion that they are born into. Keep people from questioning and keep them ignorant of other religions.

Also mentioned, is how our education system is set up to prevent growth of habits such as questioning. We are taught that the teacher is the ultimate authority in the classroom and we are not to question what is being taught. And with those in political power today trying to push the issues of prayer in schools, creationism, and other religious agenda onto people who don’t believe the same, I see them as trying to create converts. What a double standard. So, they suppress available information on other religions, calling it a sin to read about them, while at the same time forcing their beliefs on others. By putting these agendas on the educational table, these politicians are squeezing the already limited educational funds, not to mention classroom time for something that is illegal within our Constitution.

Russell also points out that particular beliefs are harmful. He gives a few examples: Catholic condemnation of birth control, Hindu belief of a cow as sacred, Hindu widow cannot remarry, and Communist belief in the dictatorship of the minority. He mentions that all these beliefs cause unnecessary hardship for those who have to follow these rules. I’m not going to discuss what these hardships may be, as I am sure you already know.

He implies that most religious rules are born out of fanaticism, with those fanatics saying that their rules help to make a social group effective. What really happens is that it is easier for the few leaders to take control of the group and also so they don’t have to question their own beliefs. (If everybody thinks like I do, then I can’t be wrong.)This is an example of the “shared reality” that Lilith Saintcrow was talking about over at The Juggler a couple of weeks ago. Although, in Russell’s example, it would be forced on people instead of being influenced. These fanatics are defining successful conversion without consideration to what is affected, either religious or social.

I agree that particular beliefs can be harmful, but it all depends on how well the sheep follow the shepard. These beliefs are harmful if they are blindly followed. That is why education is so important. The more we learn, the more we are able to think rationally about what we choosing to believe in. The key word here is choice.

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