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The Multiple Religions Problem
The Multiple Religions Problem is discussed in a number of places in both LIARS! Vol. 1: Scout to the Pole and LIARS! Vol. 2: Escape To Insanity.
In early societies, limited geographical mobility allowed social harmony to be maintained through religious models. Teachings of respected leaders, both religious and governmental, were accepted by the community, because they were usually one and the same. As population mobility increased, communities were confronted with dissimilar beliefs due to the mixing of ethnic groups. To maintain social order, a new social convention arose: “everyone was allowed to hold their own beliefs”. This practice was a cornerstone of Renaissance, egalitarian, “enlightenment” ideals. Note, this convention was still “pre-science”. As recently as 200 years ago, world culture was still agricultural, and isolated agricultural communities were ubiquitous. The horse was still the gold standard for communications speed and amplification of human power. Communications and heavy labor, still based on horse power, were relatively slow. Transactions between Maine and California took months. Therefore, disease and local strife in California had little effect in Maine.
Today, communication is instant and isolation is gone. The industrial revolution brought in specialization of labor and the ability of single individuals to direct and control huge amounts of power. To coordinate our complex system of interacting labor specialties, and the power each may direct, precision, real-time cooperation is vital.
Collaboration in cancer care provides a typical example. Cancer care is complex. Many studies had to be done just to understand the physiology of the disease. Many concepts arose. Many drugs and surgical procedures were developed. Each of these had to be tried alone and then in combination to assure safety. Extensive testing was done to find those combinations that were most effective. Once the effective strategies were determined, ALL of the steps in the application protocols had to be interlocked in precise ways. The drug formulations had to be closely controlled, even for inactive components, so that delivery instruments, storage and handling, long term preservation etc. behaved as expected. Hospitals had to train all categories of staff how to do their part: shipping and receiving, record keeping, stock rooms, dieticians, nurses and doctors. Medical devices were developed to insure the patient conditions were correct for particular drugs and that the therapy was going well. Physicians, of course, had to understand, precisely, how the drugs and surgical procedures were supposed to be used, and then use them correctly.
So, what happens in this cancer care example if each of the healthcare segments (physicians, hospitals, device makers, drug developers) were each allowed to hold and act on “their own beliefs”? Few trials would occur because it would be inconsistent to test any segment of the process if the assumption was already made that they could each “hold their own beliefs”. The result would be that patients would receive a wide range of treatments, many of them ineffective or even harmful.
Carry this example to its logical conclusion if the “personal belief” or “personal truth” convention is ubiquitous in a culture. Every social institution would be composed of individuals who believed, and who were expected by society to believe, that they could believe and act on what every they wanted. The result would be, for any institution that employs a complex system, which uses specialization of labor and many interactions, the process outcome would be unpredictable and erratic. If society then tries to hold such an organization responsible for promised results, attempting to identify individuals for personal fault, the behavior of the institution individuals will switch to personal defense.
What makes the “hold your own belief” social convention such a critical current problem is that democracy itself is a social institution, which has reached a critical mass of complexity, integration and demand for fast response. Like cancer care, modern societies are complex, integrated systems. Salmonella on one California farm can now spread around the country causing death to many people. INDIVIDUAL BELIEFS, of leaders, or citizens through direct voting approaches, are no longer adequate for governing unless those beliefs are tried and tested “truths” that accurately and reliably describe society and coordinated, social dynamics. “Majority rules” also fails, just as voting on a treatment for a particular cancer patient would fail because it would seldom match that particular patient.
In summary, the "Multiple Religions Problem” arises when many different religions are brought together in a common location. Each religion has its own set of beliefs. AND most of those beliefs require that a member of that religion TAKE ACTION in the real world based on those beliefs. Because the beliefs vary so widely, actions of one religion often conflict with actions of another. In some cases, the beliefs even require members to take violent action against other religions with the intent to kill their members and destroy their religions.
When a society brings together many religions, to avoid violence, a social convention is employed: “everyone is allowed to hold their own beliefs.” To give direction in action to this convention, citizens are also instructed that they should RESPECT EVERYONE'S belief. In other words, 'let's all just believe what we want and let others believe what they want', or ‘live and let live’. While these aphorisms sound good as "political" soundbites, as philosophical statements, especially in a complex, integrated society, they often lead to contradictions.
Western society has been able to get away with these logical inconsistencies up till now for four reasons:
o First, the overwhelmingly prominent religions have been Catholic denominations or Christian offshoots of Catholicism. This implies that there was enough commonality of belief that basic government principles could be aligned with those beliefs.
o Second, population densities were low with sufficient basic resources to go around. This implies that people could segregate by belief without being forced to intermingle.
o Third, communications throughout the population were primarily local. This implies that local problems were predominantly being discussed and judged based on a small cohesive set of beliefs.
o Fourth, life was relatively uncomplicated. This implies that social practices could vary quite a lot without causing a big impact on society, especially if some hazard or tragedy occurred.
All four of these factors have now changed. The following excerpts from LIARS! Volumes 1 and 2 discuss the Multiple Religions Problem in more detail as it applies to different situations. The headings are from the teaching version of the books and help to focus the point being discussed without the advantage of the larger context.
[Nanook is speaking with Ben in the radio shack. Nanook is in italics.]
"So, when our culture needs to figure something out, where do you think they should turn?”
Free choice - Solutions - government
“Where do I think we should turn? . . . . . Where do I think we should turn? . . . . You know, this is actually a very tough question.”
“Bingo! Here’s the gold star back. You’re completely right. Keep talking.”
“Well, my first thought was to ask the government. But I finally think I understand why my mouth is so full of boots. Turning to the government is a knee-jerk reaction we have all been brainwashed with because the government wants it that way. Maybe a better government might do it someday, but not the one we have. So the next fall back is the schools. They should be teaching us to think.”
“Right. CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS.”
“But you’ve already made the point that education is controlled by the government and the media. So as long as there is this big ‘de facto’ conspiracy out there, I haven’t got a clue.”
“Don’t feel so bad. This is a huge problem. How do you change a corrupt government? And I don’t want to sound like I think every part of U.S. government operations is corrupt. Some of the basic principles are sound; some of the legislators and most of the government workers are good people. But most of our principles are fundamentally flawed and need to be fixed.
So, let’s keep clicking off institutions we would EXPECT to have a responsibility to fix this.”
Free choice – solutions - colleges
“OK. The colleges.”
“Right. They should be thinking this through and continually proposing solutions. It’s not happening. The colleges have gone on the government breadline. They don’t want to chance hurting their grant flow. So they will make the smallest, trivial advances they can that will still keep the money rolling in.”
“OK. Ummmm … how about the churches. They should have a major thing to say about the goals of society, social values and things like that, no?”
“VERY GOOD. They do. And in fact, they’re all over it. But what kind of message would the churches bring to the government?”
Free choice – solutions - religion
“Hmmm… . . Well things like banning obscene books or stopping sex from being taught in the schools.”
“And which religion would be doing that?”
“Well, all of them, of course.”
“Boy has the Catholic Church brainwashed you. What do you know about any of the other religions?”
“OK. Actually, not much. I mean I’ve heard about a lot of different religions, but as Catholics, we’re not allowed to know much about any of them. They’re all just heresies.”
“I’m glad to hear you admit that’s what you think. I’ll leave it to Father Vincent to talk to you about that. Let’s just say, when it comes to telling the government to do anything, the churches are on thin ice. They can’t even agree among themselves on the most basic principles. So the government has a real problem with multiple religions. And most of the things the government does to pander to one or the other religion is because of corruption in the government. Even with something as sensitive as sex education in the schools, the Christians can’t present a unified front. The Catholics want the government to prohibit sex ed. But the Southern Baptist Convention, a very big and powerful group, is totally against that. It’s not that they endorse sex ed. It’s that they don’t want the government to start down the slippery slope of censorship, especially under a banner of Catholic leadership. So, there’s a lot of commotion in the press, but you’re not going to see a united religious push on Washington or from the Colleges. A lot of pushing for their own agenda, yes! But not united.”
“I still don’t understand? Why not? I think religion has a huge effect on how we live our lives.”
“Totally right. But the religions don’t agree on how humans should live their lives. In fact, if you look around the world, you’ll see, more often than not, they’re at war over it. To achieve a united front, the religions are going to have to resort to LOGIC to deal with the problem of public debate. And, if they approach the colleges, they are going to have to open the Pandora’s box of critical thinking. It would be a major conflict of interest for them. The last thing the churches want is people making decisions for themselves based on critical thinking.”
“Ughhh . . . right. Why didn’t I think of that. So, I guess I’m out of options.”
[Nanook is now talking with George, the psychiatrist. Nanook is in italics.]
Mental Illness - psychosis
"So you’re saying that this kind of passion is typically involved in Narcissistic Trauma Syndrome. And, you’re saying it’s a true mental illness.”
[ Narcissistic Trauma Syndrome ( NTS ), is NOT another term for Narcissistic Personality Disorder. NTS is a narcissistic disorder long recognized in Germany ( Alice Miller ) ]
"Exactly! People with NTS are not in touch with reality.”
"But how do they function on a day to day basis?”
"I think you are making an assumption about mental illness. I think you believe that mentally ill people are incompetent. That is, that they always wave their arms around, see ghosts and can’t even walk in a straight line. That’s the Hollywood movie version of mental illness. People with Schizophrenia can be like that. But that’s only a very small portion of what mental illness is about.
A mental illness is defined as a health condition that changes a person’s thinking, feelings, or behavior and that causes the person distress and difficulty in functioning. The more severe forms of mental illness are referred to as PSYCHOSES. A psychosis is defined as a major mental illness characterized by severe symptoms such as DELUSIONS, HALLUCINATIONS, and an INABILITY TO EVALUATE REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER.
Think about this definition a little. This is how the worst mental illnesses are defined.”
Multiple Religions problem
"I can just see how Father Vincent would respond to this. He’d say that most religious people automatically qualify.”
"Seriously, you should bring this up with him. Have you talked to him at all about the MULTIPLE RELIGIONS problem?”
"No. I don’t think so.”
"I’m sure he’ll get to that eventually. But, specifically related to what I’ve just said, let’s work through the logic. There are many religions in the world that all claim to be the ONE TRUE RELIGION. Can this be so?”
"Of course not. And Father Vincent discussed why we can’t even say that all the religions are fundamentally the same. They are very different.”
"Exactly. So, just assuming for argument’s sake, that one of them is telling the truth, that means many of the others must be following a number of delusions. When religious people say they see visions of supernatural beings, whether they are gods or angels or whatever, the experiences are indistinguishable from hallucinations. And when the foundation documents of the religions describe a world that is radically different from the world we can go out and repeatedly observe and measure, we can easily conclude that they are unable to evaluate reality in an objective manner. So, this looks like ‘three strikes you’re out’ to me.”
"I follow your points. The implication is that most religious people are mentally ill, right?”
"Let’s state this in a more diplomatic way. Based on this analysis, it is difficult to tell the difference between people with strong religious beliefs and people with medically defined psychoses.
[Nanook is now talking with Father Vincent on a different occasion. Nanook is in italics.]
Multiple religions problem
We explored some details of the definition for EXIST. Now let’s examine the definition of God. And, again, this is the Catholic God that you know, OK?”
"Whoa! What do you mean sure? Aren’t we out of the pan and into the fire already?”
"When we question the definition of God, we run right smack into something referred to as the MULTIPLE RELIGIONS PROBLEM. Let’s start with your proposed proof, ‘how could all the wonders we see in the world be possible without God?‘ Look at that proof from the standpoint of all the religions in the world. Do you see any conflicts?”
"OK. I hadn’t looked at it from that standpoint. What you’re saying is, there are many religions in the world that believe in God. Many of these say his presence is perfectly clear from just looking at the wonders of the world. So, if God is so clear, how come they don’t come up with the same definition of God?”
"Precisely! VERY serious problem. And think back to our discussion of the soul. The soul is a KEY element of religious thinking. But, from worldly observations, people come up with radically different descriptions of the soul.”
[Continuing at a later point.]
Most people are wrong about religion
So, let’s give up on question one about which religion is right. But there are some scary corollaries related to that question. Let’s assume that, even though we can’t point with certainty to the ONE true religion, let’s assume that there actually IS one. OK?”
“Then, what does that say about all the other ones?”
"Yeah, I see what you mean. If there is one true religion, that means all the others have to be wrong. If we do the math, that means at least 5 billion people out there are living their lives based on the wrong answer.”
"Precisely! But why is that a problem? As far as everyone of them is concerned, this analysis does not apply to them. It applies to somebody else.”
Population ability to be wrong - implications for democracy
"This is a pretty big problem, isn’t it. It takes into account your idea about philosophical stabilities, and how they can lock us into logical mistakes. If so many people can be so wrong about such an important topic, but just stick their heads in the ground, then what does it say about the ability of humans to handle DEMOCRACY?”
“Precisely! If people can’t confront their inability to find truth, then it’s just rams butting their heads together.”
“Are there any other direct implications of this?”
Religion as mental illness
“Sure, some very big ones. Did you talk to George at all about mental illness?”
"Oh, yeah! I was amazed at how mental illness was defined. It was something like DELUSIONS, HALLUCINATIONS, and an INABILITY TO EVALUATE REALITY in an OBJECTIVE MANNER.”
Belief in the face of contradictory evidence
"Do you see where he was leading you? In the past, people believed in many religions. But their knowledge of the real world was very limited. So, you could say they didn’t know any better and didn’t have a way to know. But that’s changed now. And this creates a FUNDAMENTALLY different situation. Most of the people in the world TODAY are hanging adamantly on to principles that they have been shown are clearly CONTRADICTORY or have no foundation in objective reality. But they are blocked from evaluating their principles against reality with statements from religious leaders like ‘humans can’t understand these things. They are mysteries of faith’. Doesn’t this seem to fit the definition George gave you?”
"OK. We’re all insane.”
"You can make light of this issue, but it’s actually a very, very serious problem. Once people are led down a path where they can be told anything, and will believe anything and they aren’t taught a reliable tool, like logic, that they can use to challenge what they are told, they have just become pawns in the religious power game.”
"Hmmm... And you’ve just tied this directly to religion because we have just admitted that most religions can not be true.”
"Precisely. There’s a perfect statement about this in a book called Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.”
- “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.”
[ Continuing at a later point. Father Vincent is having Nanook role-play various people.]
Role playing - head of the National Council of Churches - problem of religious moderates
"Right. I don’t think there is anything unexpected here. Your next role is being the head of the National Council of Churches.”
"What??? Where do you think these up. I mean, I’ve heard of them, but I don’t know anything about them.”
"It was sort of a trick question. The issue here is the PROBLEM of RELIGIOUS MODERATES. First off, you should know that the National Council of Churches does not include all churches. It’s statement of faith, in part, says, “The National Council of Churches is a community of Christian communions, which, in response to the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of God, as Savior and Lord.” That is, the National Council of Churches is a Christian group, and mostly Protestant. The Roman Catholic Church is NOT a member, for example. The problem with this organization, and its members, is that religious moderates are soft on religious truth.”
"But didn’t I hear you say they believe in the Scriptures.”
"No. Listen again to the specific words, ‘in RESPONSE to the gospel as revealed in the Scriptures, confess Jesus Christ … as Savior and Lord.”
"OK. Now I understand. There are a lot of trigger words in their mission statement, but it is worded to NOT actually require action on any of them.”
Religious moderates - the problem with pick and choose religion
"Correct! So, let’s ask what is the problem with religious moderates? One is that they only pick and choose things from the Bible which are convenient for their current, personal agendas. Do you see the problem with that?”
"Sure. And I saw that with the Catholic Church as well. They all say the Bible is the actual WORD OF GOD. But then they only follow part of it. Even worse, a lot of Bible passages are pretty confusing. So, they present their own interpretation of them, still claiming, of course, that they are conveying God’s word. And that’s what people are supposed to believe.”
"So, what’s wrong with that?”
"Simple. The people who belong to those churches aren’t actually doing what the Bible says at all. They are doing what their ministers want them to do, which can be a long way from what God intended and the Bible actually says. The connection to the TRUTH that they are depending on to get into heaven has been broken.”
"Right. And you saw what that can do when we discussed the 10 Commandments. Look what it’s doing with the whole issue of evolution. The current religious fad is for Christians to stand their ground on the Book of Genesis, no matter how illogical it is. This is like the Church of the middle ages imprisoning Galileo and forcing him to recant his publication for supporting the theory that the earth orbits the sun. It’s totally a power play. Just think about all the other parts of the Bible that religious moderates are choosing to ignore.
Religious moderates as shields for religious fundamentalists
But this is only half of the problem with the moderates. The other half is that they provide a shield for religious fundamentalists.
Religious fundamentalists will carry the words in their bibles to the extreme. They will kill others if that’s what their bibles say they should do. But if they do that, the world, and rival religions, will attack them back. If this was the only process in play, the fundamentalists would be restrained. But it isn’t. Being civilized, the world will also question the justification for conflict of any type, even with the fundamentalists, and look for a ‘logical’ justification to do it. So, the obvious civilized approach is to explore the beliefs of the fundamentalists to understand the truth behind them.
This is where the religious moderates become a problem. The world sees the religious moderates, generally, as ‘good guys’. BUT, if the beliefs of the fundamentalists are attacked, then the foundation the moderates depend on, which they share with the fundamentalists, is also attacked. So, an attack on the fundamentalists is viewed as an attack on the moderates. How does society resolve this? By doing NOTHING! We, in fact, establish ‘conventions’ that prevent us from overtly criticizing religion at all.
Problem with just allowing people to believe religion
Let me give you another way to look at this. Have you ever heard the statement: ‘even if religion were actually not true, would there be any problem letting people believe it anyway?’ What do you think about that?”
"Sure. I’ve heard that statement. Maybe the thinking is, if it gives people peace of mind, then what’s wrong with it. I guess it sounds OK to me.”
“I’m sorry Mr. Nanook. Single Sentence Logic. That is exactly the sentiment involved. But there is a BIG problem with it. People can’t just keep their beliefs inside. They say they will, but that’s just denial. People act on their beliefs. So, sure, if they believe they should feed stray cats, that’s one thing. If they believe they should kill doctors at abortion clinics, that’s a completely different issue. If they ignore scientists, who tell them living at the bottom of a volcano is not safe, because they believe God will protect them, that’s one thing. But if they expect the world to save them when the volcano erupts, and are mad when people don’t, that’s another. And as long as religious moderates will not stand up to this, we are going to have violence.”
"Ah ha. George and I talked about this. With some things religions believe, there isn’t a problem. But there are a lot of things that can cause disruptions in other people’s lives. So, if certain religious beliefs are known not to be true, then why not intervene and stop the problems before they start? In fact, this is the same fault as listening to the religious moderates.”
Religion restricts discussion of moral issues
“Precisely! And that’s just with science. What about MORALS? A significant problem arises with the discussion of moral issues when our culture is told that the justification for morals MUST BE supernatural. This is the current straight jacket that our culture is in. The development of theories of morality, based on MATERIAL TRUTH and LOGIC, is totally absent from our colleges and government.
I’m not saying it is wrong to conduct a discussion of supernatural issues. But if there is a claim that the discussion of supernatural beliefs will be based on TRUTH and LOGIC, then, as Paul Kurtz tells us, the proponent of the supernatural must first bear the burden of specifying TESTABLE conditions under which the belief can be FALSIFIED.
Let me read from The End Of Faith by Sam Harris; page 175 from his chapter on a science of good and evil.”
- “There will probably come a time when we achieve a detailed understanding of human happiness, and of ethical judgments themselves, at the level of the brain. Just as defects in color vision can result from genetic and developmental disorders, problems can undoubtedly arise in our ethical and emotional circuitry as well. To say that a person is "color - blind" or "achromatopsic" is now a straightforward statement about the state of the visual pathways in his brain, while to say that he is "an evil sociopath" or "lacking in moral fiber" seems hopelessly unscientific. This will almost certainly change. If there are truths to be known about how human beings conspire to make one another happy or miserable, there are truths to be known about ethics. A scientific understanding of the link between intentions, human relationships, and states of happiness would have much to say about the nature of good and evil and about the proper response to the moral transgressions of others…”
"Based on the multiple brain theory that George described to me, and understanding Single Sentence Logic, I think you now know enough to move pretty quickly in this direction, no?”
- “So many conversations have not yet been had; so many intuitions have not yet been exercised; so many arguments have not yet been won. Our reliance upon religious dogma explains this. Most of our religions have been no more supportive of genuine moral inquiry than of scientific inquiry generally. This is a problem that only new rules of discourse can overcome. When was the last time that someone was criticized for not "respecting" another person's unfounded beliefs about physics or history? The same rules should apply to ethical, spiritual, and religious beliefs as well. . .
- My GOAL in writing this book has been to help close the door to a certain style of irrationality. While religious faith is the one species of human ignorance that will not admit of even the possibility of correction, it is still sheltered from criticism in every corner of our culture. Forsaking all valid sources of information about this world ( both spiritual and mundane ), our religions have seized upon ancient taboos and pre-scientific fancies as though they held ultimate metaphysical significance. Books that embrace the narrowest spectrum of political, moral, scientific, and spiritual understanding - books that, by their antiquity alone, offer us the most dilute wisdom with respect to the present - are still dogmatically thrust upon us as the final word on matters of the greatest significance. In the best case, faith leaves otherwise well-intentioned people incapable of thinking rationally about many of their deepest concerns; at worst, it is a continuous source of human violence. Even now, many of us are motivated not by what we know but by what we are content merely to imagine. Many are still eager to sacrifice happiness, compassion, and justice in this world, for a fantasy of a world to come. These and other degradations await us along the well-worn path of piety. Whatever our religious differences may mean for the next life, they have only one terminus in this one - a future of ignorance and slaughter.”
“You probably don’t have much knowledge of Islam, correct?”
"Correct. I mean, I know it’s an Arab religion, but that’s all. I know they have a bible they call the Koran.”
"Did you know, they also claim their heritage through the Old Testament and Jesus?”
"Well, I didn’t know that before you told me earlier.”
Religion supports and justifies moral isolation
"And, like the Old Testament, there is supernatural justification in the Koran for conflict with people that don’t have the same beliefs that you do. The reason this is important is that our world is still very far from peace. In the Middle East, extremist Jews, Christians and Arabs are still at war with each other. There is NO WAY these religions can ever compromise. Their holy books won’t allow it. So, what’s the solution?”
"Why don’t they just stay in their own countries and leave the other guys alone?”
“Good try, Nanook. But there’s an important point you probably don’t know. Remember I said the Muslims also claim an Old Testament heritage? The problem is JERUSALEM! Which, ironically, translates to mean ‘The City of Peace’. All three religions claim Jerusalem as one of their key religious shrines.”
"WOW! No, I didn’t know this. Maybe I’m naïve, but this would seem like an ideal situation for someone like the United Nations to put in place an international city. They would set up rules that let all the religious people have access to their heritage, but not actually control it.”
"Good try, Nanook. But no cigar. As I said, there are passages in the Bible and Koran that give special rewards to people who die for their god battling their enemies. As long as religious fundamentalism is tolerated, the wars will go on with great danger to human life.
Religion is in conflict with the Environment
So, let’s try another example for you. I’m going to guess, being a Boy Scout, you’re strong on the environment and conservation.”
“So, where would you put the Christians on this issue.”
“I guess, with the same view that I have. I don’t see how all the talk in the Bible about love and the “beauty of the lilies” could leave out creating a beautiful environment for people to live in.”
“Precisely! HOWEVER! You have the WRONG answer. First off, we have to observe that there are a lot of different Christians. A group with an extreme case of negative environmental views is the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which I mentioned before. They believe the Second Coming is at hand. So, to them, the environment is a completed event. There won’t be any tomorrow for us to deal with.”
"OK. But I’m sure this is just an extreme example. The main line Christians couldn’t think that way, could they?“
“Do you see any of them leading city beautification programs? When you think of environmentally beautiful countries, do you think of countries with a large Christian influence? I don’t.”
"What about Greece and Italy? I mean, the Villas and aqueducts and things like that?”
“Your slipping Nanook. The Greeks and Romans built all of that before Jesus lived. And most of the beauty that has come since essentially was added during the Renaissance. Sure, the Vatican is a beautiful place. But we’re not talking one isolated statement of architecture. Were talking about preserving the environment. And a large amount of the stuff in the Vatican was ripped off of the Roman Coliseum and other Roman public places. Christian’s don’t believe that the character of the world we live in, its cleanliness, its beauty, amounts to anything in the final equation. The second coming is near. The current wave of Apocalyptic books puts the end of the world near the year 2000 with high certainty. Besides, the major elements of the world are under God’s control - as in the ACTS OF GOD: hurricanes and such.”
"So, what are you saying? That we have to depend on the government again to save the environment?”
“You wish! Didn’t we say that the government has been infiltrated by Christian thinking? Why do you think respect for the environment is so weak in current society. Let me read a quote from a book called Sex, Lies & Politics by Larry Flynt. Page 84.”
- “James Watt, . . . secretary of the interior, saw no need to worry about preserving our natural resources. For him, saving open space or virgin forests for future generations was not going to be a problem because, AS HE TOLD CONGRESS, ‘I don’t know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns.’ “
"WHAT??? He really said that? The U.S. Secretary of the Interior?”
“Nanook. I’m afraid you’re reading your own viewpoint into your religion. The Christian God and the actions of His followers are a danger to the beauty of existence. He is above nature. He is “supernatural”. His hand, remember, is the volcano, the earthquake, the flood, the hurricane, the tornado.”
"But what about America the Beautiful? The fruited plains; the amber waves of grain?”
“Yeah? And the dust bowl and the plagues of locust. You have be honest to put this in context. If you want friends of the environment, go to Japan. Look up Shinto. They believe that the divine is in the objects around us. A natural life is just and good. There is no evil in nature.”
Religion suppresses women
“Precisely! OK. Let’s look at the danger religion holds for a particular type of human: women. Let’s look at the sixth commandment, Thou shalt not commit adultery. Do you remember what that means?
“Sure. It means a woman can’t have sex with another woman’s husband.”
A big smile came across Father Vincent’s face.
“OK. Good enough for now. So, what does this say about a man having many wives?”
“A man can only have one wife.”
“Well, not exactly. Many religions have a rule like that. But If we take a survey of sex customs around the world, especially as related to marriage, we find large variations. In some African tribes, the chief can have 200 wives. So, where does this notion of Christian “monogamy” come from?”
"OK. I don’t have a clue.”
“Marriage is a social institution that was developed at the beginning of civilization. It plays a big role in the Old Testament. And while the, quote, ‘formal’ institutional view of marriage is a blissful relationship for both husband and wife, the realistic view is very different. And, there is a huge sinister side in it for women. In fact, for women, its actually a BIG TRAP. The trap is a hidden message: women have NO inherent value of their own.”
"Ah! Now I remember. You mentioned that to me earlier and George talked about it in detail - the MARRIAGE TRAP.”
“Precisely! Early human social groups were only a few notches above herd animals. The social groups were dominated not only by power but also by greed. Women were treated like possessions and hording was common. This would have led to continuous conflicts among the men if some rules weren’t established to control it. The rule that was established was MONOGAMY. In the process, however, the roles and status of women were severely restricted. To this day, where religion is strong, women are suppressed.”
"And, you’re saying, this is mostly due to religion. Wow.”
The sex of God
“And now you have a clue why God is always depicted as a male, and why this trait is so vehemently protected.”
"Hmmm… In order to justify keeping women subject to men, religion has to make God a man.”
**Danger of religious moderates
“But aren’t things changing in that regard? Aren’t the religions becoming more tolerant and giving women a more respected place in the world.”
“Not anywhere as much as you think. You are only seeing pockets of change in the modern world. This is actually just a reaction of the religious moderates to social pressure and the women’s movement.”
"But that’s good, right?”
“Actually, it’s a mixed blessing. There is a real danger to the world from religious moderates.”
"What? This is really confusing. If religious extremists are a problem, I’d think religious moderation would be a good thing.”
“Sorry Nanook. Single Sentence Logic! So, let’s dig into this to see how big a problem religious moderation really is and what dangers it poses to the world. Let me read some sections from The End of Faith again, starting on page 14.”
Range of emotion – moderate to extreme
- “OF COURSE, people of faith fall on a continuum: some draw solace and inspiration from a specific spiritual tradition, and yet remain fully committed to tolerance and diversity, while others would burn the earth to cinders if it would put an end to heresy. There are, in other words, religious moderates and religious extremists, and their various passions and projects should not be confused…
Problem of Moderates – misleading agenda
- One of the central themes of this book, however, is that religious moderates are themselves the BEARERS OF A TERRIBLE DOGMA: they imagine that the path to peace will be paved once each of us has learned to respect the unjustified beliefs of others. I hope to show that the very IDEAL OF RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE - born of the notion that every human being should be free to believe whatever he wants about God - is one of the PRINCIPAL FORCES driving us toward the abyss…
Definition of moderates
- Moderates do not want to kill anyone in the name of God, but they want us to keep using the word "God" as though we knew what we were talking about. And they do not want anything too critical said about people who really believe in the God of their fathers, because tolerance, perhaps above all else, is sacred. To speak plainly and truthfully about the state of our world - to say, for instance, that the Bible and the Koran both contain mountains of life-destroying gibberish - is antithetical to tolerance as moderates currently conceive it. But we can no longer afford the luxury of such political correctness. We must finally recognize the price we are paying to maintain the iconography of our ignorance.”
"This makes me think back to a discussion I had with Ben about what he called ‘bleeding hearts’. He said bleeding hearts are notorious for single sentence logic. They look at just one problem at a time and try to patch it. They are unable to see the whole picture. Sounds like A2 logic to me. And if the problem involves pain, they get tunnel vision about removing the pain. So, the parallel here seems to be for moderates to close their eyes to all the complications in the Bible to avoid the pain they feel when their members ask questions.”
“This sounds like a perfect explanation to me. Let me keep reading.”
Incompatible holy books – God does not allow respect for other religions
- “Our situation is this: most of the people in this world believe that the Creator of the universe has written a book. We have the misfortune of having many such books on hand, each making an exclusive claim as to its infallibility. People tend to organize themselves into factions according to which of these incompatible claims they accept - rather than on the basis of language, skin color, location of birth, or any other criterion of tribalism. Each of these texts urges its readers to adopt a variety of beliefs and practices, some of which are benign, many of which are not. ALL ARE IN PERVERSE AGREEMENT on one point of fundamental importance, however: "RESPECT" FOR OTHER FAITHS, or for the views of unbelievers, IS NOT AN ATTITUDE THAT GOD ENDORSES. While all faiths have been touched, here and there, by the spirit of ecumenicalism, THE CENTRAL TENET OF EVERY RELIGIOUS TRADITION IS THAT ALL OTHERS ARE MERE REPOSITORIES OF ERROR or, at best, dangerously incomplete. Intolerance is thus intrinsic to every creed. Once a person believes - really believes - that certain ideas can lead to eternal happiness, or to its antithesis, he cannot tolerate the possibility that the people he loves might be led astray by the blandishments of unbelievers. Certainty about the next life is simply incompatible with tolerance in this one…
Criticizing faith is taboo
- Observations of this sort pose an immediate problem for us, however, because CRITICIZING A PERSON'S FAITH IS CURRENTLY TABOO in every corner of our culture. On this subject, liberals and conservatives have reached a rare consensus: religious beliefs are simply beyond the scope of rational discourse. Criticizing a person's ideas about God and the afterlife is thought to be impolitic in a way that criticizing his ideas about physics or history is not. And so it is that when a Muslim suicide bomber obliterates himself along with a score of innocents on a Jerusalem street, the role that faith played in his actions is invariably discounted. His motives must have been political, economic, or entirely personal. Without faith, desperate people would still do terrible things. Faith itself is always, and everywhere, exonerated.”
"OK. But why can’t humans find a way to do it? Why can’t we find a way to have these discussions?”
"Because, people are so emotionally driven by religion. If we had the discussions, people would turn away from logic and degrade into emotion. That would lead to resolving their differences through violence.”
"What???? But NOT having the discussions ALSO leads to violence!”
"That’s what Harris is trying to tell us. We have our heads buried in the sand thinking somehow this problem will go away by itself. It won’t. But DENIAL is a very strong human trait! Let me continue. What I just read only set the stage. Here is what Dawkins has to say about this.”
- “I have previously drawn attention to the privileging of religion in public discussions of ethics in the media and in government. Whenever a controversy arises over sexual or reproductive morals, you can't get away with saying, 'If you try to stop me from insulting homosexuals it violates my freedom of prejudice.' But you can get away with saying, 'It violates my freedom of religion.' What, when you think about it, is the difference? Yet again, religion trumps all.”
“He then goes on to describe an exaggerated case, just to make a point.”
- “…the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Over the next three months, indignation was carefully and systematically nurtured throughout the Islamic world by a small group of Muslims living in Denmark, led by two imams who had been granted sanctuary there. …these malevolent exiles traveled from Denmark to Egypt bearing a dossier, which was copied and circulated from there to the whole Islamic world, including, importantly, Indonesia. The dossier contained falsehoods about alleged maltreatment of Muslims in Denmark, and the tendentious lie that Jyllands-Posten was a government-run newspaper. It also contained the twelve cartoons which, crucially, the imams had supplemented with three additional images whose origin was mysterious but which certainly had no connection with Denmark. Unlike the original twelve, these three add-ons were genuinely offensive - or would have been if they had, as the zealous propagandists alleged, depicted Muhammad. A particularly damaging one of these three was not a cartoon at all but a faxed photograph of a bearded man wearing a fake pig's snout held on with elastic. It has subsequently turned out that this was an Associated Press photograph of a Frenchman entered for a pig squealing contest at a country fair in France. The photograph had no connection whatsoever with the prophet Muhammad, no connection with Islam, and no connection with Denmark. But the Muslim activists, on their mischief-stirring hike to Cairo, implied all three connections. . . with predictable results.”
“The fallout from this was tremendous.”
- “Demonstrators in Pakistan and Indonesia burned Danish flags… hysterical demands were made for the Danish government to apologize (Apologize for what? They didn't draw the cartoons, or publish them. Danes just live in a country with a free press, something that people in many Islamic countries might have a hard time understanding.) …Embassies and consulates were trashed, Danish goods were boycotted, Danish citizens and, indeed, Westerners generally, were physically threatened; Christian churches in Pakistan, with no Danish or European connections at all, were burned. Nine people were killed when Libyan rioters attacked and burned the Italian consulate in Benghazi… A bounty of $1 million was placed on the head of 'the Danish cartoonist' by a Pakistani imam - who was apparently unaware that there were twelve different Danish cartoonists.... In Nigeria, Muslim protesters … burned down several Christian churches, and used machetes to attack and kill (black Nigerian) Christians in the streets... Demonstrators were photographed in Britain bearing banners saying 'Slay those who insult Islam', 'Butcher those who mock Islam', 'Europe you will pay: Demolition is on its way' and, apparently without irony, 'Behead those who say Islam is a violent religion'.”
“The point of this is, that even though all of this violence was going on, the governments of the world refrained from coming out with formal criticism condemning the religious leaders supporting the violence. The moderate religious leaders refrained from pointing out and criticizing the religious documents that were being used to support the violence.
Reasons that perpetuate the discussion taboo
The migrating theology problem
So, what is this all about? Let me present some reasons that society keeps us from resolving this problem. Let’s start out with a phrase from Ralph Waldo Emerson: ‘The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.’ What do you think he is trying to tell us?”
"I guess, that society refuses to acknowledge that religions now considered myths, what we call Egyptian, Greek and Roman Mythology, were once considered true religions. I guess, we want to deny this because it puts all current religions on shaky ground.”
“Precisely! And why does it put them on shaky ground?”
"Because… we would have to provide logical reasons to explain why the old religions were rejected. That would open current religions to logical criticism. So, the world just stays in denial.”
“Excellent answer. In fact, they use of the word ‘myth’ for the old religions perpetuates this. The other part of this reason is that it exposes the whole concept of religion to what I call the MIGRATING THEOLOGY problem. The ALLOWANCE OF CHANGE INTO ANY AUTHORITARIAN RELIGION is a very big problem. It challenges the authority of church leaders, exposing potential fallibility in their explanations. It challenges the permanence and omniscience of their God and the words of their holy books.
Multiple religions problem
Then there is the multiple religions problem. Let me read from Harris.”
- “Many religious moderates have taken the apparent high road of pluralism, asserting the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each. As long as a Christian believes that only his baptized brethren will be saved on the Day of Judgment, he cannot possibly "respect" the beliefs of others, for he knows that the flames of hell have been stoked by these very ideas and await their adherents even now. Muslims and Jews generally take the same arrogant view of their own enterprises and have spent millennia passionately reiterating the errors of other faiths.”
"In other words, they are each lying when they say the respect the validity of all other religions.”
“Precisely! They can’t demand that the government acknowledge that some are better than others, because that would force the government to choose. So they make it a taboo discussion for everyone.
Let’s not leave out the Seven Deadly Sins. Greed plays a key role. Many religious moderates are people out to make a living by selling people the religious beliefs those people want to hear. Let me read about this from Harris.”
- “… we must decide what it means to be a religious "moderate" in the twenty-first century. Moderates in every faith are obliged to loosely interpret (or simply ignore) much of their canons in the interests of living in the modern world. . . .
- The first thing to observe about the moderate's retreat from scriptural literalism is that it draws its inspiration not from scripture but from cultural developments that have rendered many of God's utterances difficult to accept as written.”
“Do you see the problem here?”
"Sure. Religion as a way to make a buck. We are told that we must believe the Bible as the Word of God. But the church leaders aren’t practicing what they preach. They are just tuning into the winds of current society, picking out parts of the Bible that people will buy, and selling those for what the market will bear.”
“And, using all the available marketing tools, they do this to optimize how much money it brings in. Shouldn’t we expect society to challenge this? Sure. But they don’t. The world is stopped from questioning these practices due to the taboo against examining religious truth. Let me keep reading.”
- “While it is easy to point at the Muslim religion as being radical about their goals to drive heretics from the face of the earth, the whole Christian world is in denial of similar prescriptions in their own holy books. . . .
- In America, religious moderation is further enforced by the fact that most Christians and Jews do not read the Bible in its entirety and consequently have no idea just how vigorously the God of Abraham wants heresy expunged. One look at the book of Deuteronomy reveals that he has something very specific in mind should your son or daughter return from yoga class advocating the worship of Krishna:
- If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. NO, YOU MUST KILL HIM, YOUR HAND MUST STRIKE THE FIRST BLOW IN PUTTING HIM TO DEATH AND THE HANDS OF THE REST OF THE PEOPLE FOLLOWING. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God. . . . (Deuteronomy 13:7-11)
- While the stoning of children for heresy has fallen out of fashion in our country, you will not hear a moderate Christian or Jew arguing for a "symbolic" reading of passages of this sort. In fact, one seems to be explicitly blocked by God himself in Deuteronomy: 13:1 "Whatever I am now commanding you, you must keep and observe, adding nothing to it, taking nothing away." The above passage is as canonical as any in the Bible, and it is only by ignoring such barbarisms that the Good Book can be reconciled with life in the modern world. This is a problem for "moderation" in religion: it has nothing underwriting it other than the unacknowledged neglect of the letter of the divine law.”
“Do you understand this last point?”
"I think so. Once you take the Bible away as the REVEALED TRUTH, then the religious moderates have no foundation left to fall back on. They are essentially making it up as they go along, but hypocritically not telling us so.”
Moderation blocks criticism and does not protect against extremism
“So, why do we let moderates continue to preach stuff that amounts to ‘false advertising’? Because of denial. The primary hidden goal of society is to just prevent violence. Most people believe that a moderate view will stem violence. Why? Because, using bleeding heart logic, they believe if they are hearing moderate words, that the world must really be moderate. What they are denying is that religious extremists hate and will ignore the moderates even more than the non-believers that disagree with them. Harris makes this point. Page 20.”
- “While moderation in religion may seem a reasonable position to stake out, in light of all that we have … learned about the universe, it offers no bulwark against religious extremism and religious violence… The problem that religious moderation poses for all of us is that it does not permit anything very critical to be said about religious literalism. We cannot say that fundamentalists are crazy, because they are merely practicing their freedom of belief; we cannot even say that they are mistaken in religious terms, because their knowledge of scripture is generally unrivaled. . . .”
“A clear example of this is how society deals with medical care for children. If a parent does not provide REASONABLE medical care for their children, say fixing a broken bone, wouldn’t you think they can be sent to jail for CHILD ABUSE?”
"Ugh??? I guess so.”
“But what if a parent, who withholds that medical care, claims their actions are just following their religion?”
"It doesn’t seem right. But I don’t know how to react to that and not be limiting the practice of religion.”
“Doesn’t society have a responsibility to protect children? Someone has to be accountable?”
"I guess, maybe, society should hold the religion responsible? But as I said, that would limit the practice of religion.”
“So, maybe the First Amendment has serious problems?
Moderation justifies empty directives
But the danger of RELIGIOUS MODERATION goes way beyond religious practices. It propagates a ‘moderate’ form of communication in our society’s whole way of thinking and discussion. Remember our discussion about ‘empty directives? This is a classic moderate language style. Moderates have learned how to respond to questions with words that completely evade giving any actionable answer. And because moderates can’t be challenged on that, because they are stating their religion, it sets a standard of permissiveness that others quickly follow - like politicians. It sets a style that people learn and use in every day discussions. Harris explains this. Page 20.”
Failure of moderation in religion itself
- “Religious moderation is the product of secular knowledge and scriptural ignorance - and it has no bona fides, in religious terms, to put it on a par with fundamentalism. The texts themselves are unequivocal: they are perfect in all their parts. By their light, religious moderation appears to be nothing more than an unwillingness to fully submit to God's law. From the perspective of those seeking to live by the letter of the texts ( by any logical analysis ) the religious moderate is nothing more than a failed fundamentalist. He is, in all likelihood, going to wind up in hell with the rest of the unbelievers…
- By failing to live by the letter of the texts, while tolerating the irrationality of those who do, religious moderates betray faith and reason equally. Unless the core dogmas of faith are called into question - i.e., that we know there is a God, and that we know what he wants from us - religious moderation will do nothing to lead us out of the wilderness…
- Rather than bring the full force of our creativity and rationality to bear on the problems of ethics, social cohesion, and even spiritual experience, moderates merely ask that we relax our standards of adherence to ancient superstitions and taboos . .”
“To give his discussion a tangible element, he gives this example:”
- “Imagine that we could revive a well-educated Christian of the fourteenth century. The man would prove to be a total ignoramus, except on matters of faith. His beliefs about geography, astronomy, and medicine would embarrass even a child, but he would know more or less everything there is to know about God. Though he would be considered a fool to think that the earth is flat, or that trepanning [drilling a hole in the skull to let evil spirits escape] constitutes a wise medical intervention, his religious ideas would still be beyond reproach. There are two [possible] explanations for this: either we perfected our religious understanding of the world a millennium ago - while our knowledge on all other fronts was still hopelessly inchoate - or religion, being the mere maintenance of dogma, is one area of discourse that does not admit of progress. We will see that there is much to recommend the latter view.”
“What do you think about this conclusion?”
"Actually, I think his two explanations are not an either/or situation. I think they are the same. That is, if we accept the Bible as Revealed Truth from the creator of the universe, then religion WAS perfected a millennium ago when the truth was written down. So the first statement is true. But if it was perfected, then religion should maintain that dogma and not expect to need any progress.”
“You sound like a fundamentalist. But you missed a key word: ‘mere’. He is saying, that an alternative way to explain religion is to recognize it as simply a process of establishing a given set of arbitrary rules – a CREED – that is then rigidly maintained into the future.”
"OK. And the problem then becomes how do we tell which case it is.”
“Precisely! And if it is the second case, it becomes just an exercise in Single Sentence Logic. This is a problem because it shields believers from all responsibility to address the larger picture. So, when people in the world who are committed to a dogma are confronted with the ‘larger picture’, they just go into denial.”
"OK. I see that. But can’t we say that, given some latitude for interpretation, the beliefs of many religions are similar?”
"No. You keep slipping back from a very key point. Sure, there are many things in various religions that are similar. Those are mostly issues based on social harmony. We don’t need religion to establish those. But when you get into the details, you find things that are mutually exclusive - like one religion believing that killing and eating animals is wrong. If that is true, then the other religions that are killing and eating animals are wrong.”
Moderation as the right path
"OK. Try this approach. Maybe there is a religion that is very minimal, very tolerant. Let’s assume they are the right religion. Wouldn’t that include all the others?”
"This is actually a very common belief – a good fit for the bleeding hearts. Using this approach, they believe, simplistically, that all the people in the stricter religions would still get to heaven - slip in the back door, so to speak. But, when examined in detail, it fails in multiple ways. Why?
First, it doesn’t do anything to tone down the stricter religions. They continue to make heavy demands on their members. They still go to war and kill people for false reasons. All the strife and conflict just continues.
Second, in order for this ‘minimalist’ belief to be true, it has to throw out most principles of justice. Other wise people committing crimes would not be restrained. It surely couldn’t happen with a God anything like the one the religions describe.”
“So where does that leave us?”
"Simple. It comes back to the conclusion that most religions have to be wrong. Which means, MOST PEOPLE have to be following the wrong path in life.”
"Ugh . . . yeah. I see the problem.”
"Which is, moderation still leads to a huge tragedy for human culture.”
"Precisely! It leads to a culture where people are at strife with each other for totally unjustified reasons. It leads to a world where people hold on to the belief that they are right and others are wrong.”
"Wow! Single Sentence Logic in spades. Each person yells out, ‘I MUST BE RIGHT’. But they aren’t able to understand the lunacy of that statement in the face of billions of other people with very different beliefs who are saying the same thing.”
**Danger of religious Fundamentalists.
“OK. We dismissed the moderates. So, let’s talk about the fundamentalists directly. In short, a fundamentalist is someone who tries to follow ALL the words of a holy book in a very literal sense. Is that an ok definition for you?”
"Sure. If the Bible says they have to dress a certain way and can’t work on the Sabbath, then they dress that way and don’t work on the Sabbath. So you’re saying, the whole principle behind fundamental reasoning is living according to the literal words of the holy books.”
Fundamentalism – Power and Hypocrites.
“That’s right. The first major problem with fundamentalism revolves around POWER. Fundamentalists aren’t able to get people to follow their beliefs just by preaching to them. Can you guess why?”
"Sure. Most holy books have a lot of rules. To follow them, people have to live a very restricted and controlled life. It goes against the Seven Deadly Sins. Most people won’t accept it.”
“Precisely! So the fundamentalists turn to government to force people to follow their rules. Do you and problems with that?”
"Well, in the U.S. yes. It’s in direct conflict with the separation of church and state. In other countries, where the whole country strictly follows that religion, I guess it’s OK. We may not like it. But, I guess that’s not up to us. But were you thinking about some more ABSOLUTE reasons?”
“Yes, I was. Think about it. Power driven fundamentalism is the highest form of hypocrisy.”
"Why do you say that?”
"Because, the whole concept of FREEWILL in religion requires a person to do what God demands based on their own freewill. If a person does something because a law forces them to do it, then the direct connection between God and that person is broken. If you pray 5 times a day because you will be punished by the government if you don’t, how can that be acceptable to God?”
Basis for religious criticism
"Hmmm... I see your point. If earthly power is used to force people’s actions, then the whole connection between the person and the supernatural is broken.”
“It’s really just the statement, ‘judge not, lest ye be judged’, right?”
"Actually no. That saying is very often misinterpreted because it is quoted out of context. The quote actually says: ‘judge not, lest ye be judged in the same way’. So, if a person makes righteous judgments, then they will also receive righteous judgments. It works out. And, in fact, all over the Bible, people are told that they should judge their neighbors. And, of course, stone them to death if they aren’t doing the right thing.
To understand my point, we have to go back and be VERY CLEAR on the BASIS upon which we can rationally criticize fundamentalism or even any religion.”
This is a pretty big issue, isn’t it?
"Yes it is! This is right up there at the top of the list along with TRUTH. Why? Because it is completely tied to the ability to know TRUTH.”
"Wow! Sure. I see that. To be able to criticize anyone or anything, we have to have some basis to claim WE know the truth about the issue. And, once we understand this connection, we fall back into the structure of philosophical stability. For example, let’s say we are basing our discussion on the knowledge of alchemy, as the, quote, ‘truth’. Then even though the basic principles of alchemy weren’t true, the collection of principles they used at the time were self consistent to the level of detail they knew it. Which means, whenever someone criticizes something, they need to clearly state their BASIS FOR TRUTH.”
"PRECISELY! So, what is the basis for truth that you think we are using to talk about fundamentalism?”
"Hmmm… OK. I can think of two.
First, in a society that has multiple religions, with a Constitution that says the government can’t favor any religion over any other one, then the government can’t favor any religion over any other one!
And second, for any discussion about anything, statements that are made have to be logically consistent. And by that I don’t mean Single Sentence Logic. I mean broadly, as in wisdom.”
"Very good! Very good! And if you think about these two reasons, I think you’ll find they are actually two example of just your second reason. That is, it’s not logically consistent for the Constitution to say the government can’t favor any religion over any other, and then have the government favor one of them.”
"This is funny in a way. It sounds like you’re telling me that we have to be fundamentalists about the Constitution!”
Father V broke out into a big laugh.
"Fantastic! Look at the two of us chewing on the fundamentalists and using fundamentalism as our justification! We’re DOOMED!”
I broke out into a big laugh.
“But, actually, NO, we are NOT being fundamentalists about the Constitution. We are NOT treating the Constitution as a, quote, ‘holy book’. And that’s the important point. The Constitution, built right into it, acknowledges it’s fallibility. It includes procedures to change itself. Let me read something from Richard Dawkins to clarify this. Page 282.”
- “Fundamentalists KNOW they are RIGHT because they have read the truth in a holy book and they know, in advance, that nothing will budge them from their belief. The truth of the holy book is an axiom, not the end product of a process of reasoning. The book is true, and if the evidence seems to contradict it, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the book. By contrast, what I, as a scientist, believe (for example, evolution) I believe not because of reading a holy book but because I have studied the evidence. It really is a very different matter. Books about evolution are believed not because they are holy. They are believed because they present overwhelming quantities of mutually buttressed evidence. In principle, any reader can go and check that evidence. When a science book is wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent books. That conspicuously doesn't happen with holy books.”
"So the key factor here is acknowledging our human limits of knowledge and wisdom and being open to change.”
“That’s right. And even scientists and philosophers sometime forget this simple truth. Let me read one more paragraph from Dawkins. Tell me what you think. Page 283.”
- “Philosophers, especially amateurs with a little philosophical learning . . .may raise a tiresome red herring at this point: a scientist's belief in evidence is itself a matter of fundamentalist faith. MAYBE SCIENTISTS ARE FUNDAMENTALIST when it comes to defining in some abstract way what is meant by 'truth'.”
"Hmmm... I see what you mean. NO. Scientists can not be called fundamentalists, even when it comes to defining evidence or truth. Why? Because even their understanding of evidence and truth are continually open to criticism and change. Scientists should never accept the fundamentalist label. This sounds like an attempt by some fundamentalists to escape the pressure on them by trying to con Dawkins into believing he shares some characteristics with them.”
"Precisely! That’s what I think. It’s just a misunderstanding about how science really works.”
"But let’s not get tied up with the definition of fundamentalist. There are a few specific dangers related to fundamentalism that you are pointing out. Hypocrisy was one of them. What else?”
"You’re OK Nanook. Keep me on the straight and narrow.
A second major danger with fundamentalism revolves around VIOLENCE. And this is primarily a Judeo - Christian problem. All of the holy books upon which the Christian related religions are founded: Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, Mormonism – all of these books have passages in them that condone, or even require killing people who don’t follow the directions in those books.”
"Hmmm... Big problem. That means, there is a major logical disconnect between accurately following the directives in any of these holy books, and also living in a world with other religions. So, why can’t the government just tell these people that they can’t go around killing anyone? Duh? Which of course a government like the U.S. does.”
"Well, not exactly.”
“This isn’t as clear as you’d like to believe. Remember, the government is full of people with religious agendas. To take a strong stand on a religiously motivated killing would be equivalent to DENYING THE VALIDITY OF THE BOOKS. And . . .”
"And, let me finish this thought. That would upset the religious moderates who would then start fighting with each other and the society would go into anarchy.”
"PRECISELY! And there is the other reason governments don’t strongly intervene. There are some governments that are one and the same with the religions. It is the intention of these governments to act on the words in the holy books. They are behind the wars.”
"You’re right! WE’RE DOOMED!”
"So how is this dilemma expressed in society?”
" . . . . . ah yes, DENIAL!”
"And denial leads to what?”
"Denial leads to Single Sentence Logic. And Single Sentence Logic leads to confusion and stress. Confusion and stress lead to insanity. Isn’t that what I just said. WE’RE DOOMED!”
"You’re batting 1000 Nanook. I wish George were here to hear this perfectly simple summary. You just opened the door back into his world."