Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Socratic discourse

Some of you might find the following interesting. It's a small part of an exchange I had with a good friend from Lebanon, who happens to be of the Greek Orthodox persuasion. I've called him Amine for purposes of anonymity.

Thanks Amine – your response was particularly thoughtful. I need to take issue with a couple of points though:

“either God exists or He doesn’t”:

Well, it depends on what you mean by God, doesn’t it? I believe that there has to be a Prime Mover – a force that started everything. To me that’s self-evident. This doesn’t make it God, at least in the sense that the various religions use the term. Still less does it give any credence or validity to the various religions or their dogmas. Every half-assed preacher claims to have been in communion with ‘God’. Furthermore, religions like Hinduism have numerous gods, incuding one with an elephant’s head and man’s body, or whatever.

“We blame God…....”:

You don’t blame him unless you believe in him as defined above. Personally, I don’t blame him when things go wrong or credit him when things go right. The opposite view can reach laughable – yes, mockable - levels, such as those tsunami victims who survived by some freak chance and credited Allah for it. Obvious question: wouldn’t it have been a lot easir if Allah hadn’t caused the tsunami in the first place?

“hypothetically, if everyone instantaneously chose to believe in God and let that impact completely all decisions, actions, thoughts and states of being, then would it be possible for any of the following to exist: war, injustice, poverty, crime, hate, jealousy, the corruption of power, lack of mercy, seeking wealth at the cost of keeping thousands in poverty, exploiting the environment by destroying the very creation we need to exist etc etc? Would we not instantaneously then create the conditions for the Kingdom of Heaven? “

NO, NO, and NO again! The whole f*cking problem we have, and always have had, is people ‘believing in God and doing what He wants’ Except everyone has a different idea of what He wants. So we get millions killed in religious wars, untold misery all over the world even today. It goes back to what I said – even assuming God had intentions - who knows what they are? You cant just select the saints, as you’ve done, and ignore the mass murdering religious figures throughout history, again, up to today (e.g. Mr. Bin Laden and Bush).

Equally you identify all the good and desirable things – and I agree fully with you on that – and then with a wave of the wand equate them to God’s will. I know you don’t mean it personally Amine, but I resent it when people assume that if you don’t subscribe to some organised religion you don’t have a moral compass. Well, I direct you to look at the various international statistics.

Compare the Nordic countries – undoubtedly the least religious – with the most religious, probably the Islamic and Latin American ones. On every practical moral count the heathens win overwhelmingly.

*Corruption and dishonesty

*Violent crime

*Disparities between rich and poor

*Poverty levels

*Democratic accountability

*Real foreign aid as % of GNP

*Peace and cooperation between the states

I could go on, but you get the drift. Even in my own acquantainces I see no difference in moral standards whatsoever between the religious and non-religious ones. Sure I’m provocative, but what’s wrong with that? We need to be able to debate the issues with open minds. For the record, I have prayed and probably will pray again. I truly believe there has to be ‘something’ there, but I sure as ‘hell’ don’t find it in organised religions. Lighten up!

Christianity: The belief that a cosmic Jewish zombie, who was his own father, can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master so he can remove an evil source from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib woman who was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magic tree…. Yeah, makes perfect sense.


Viking said...

Have millions been killed in religious wars? The greatest genocides in histoy have been perpetrated by athiests, notably Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, Pol Pot et al. Hitler was hardly a Sunday School teacher, and the Mongols slaughtered quite a few also. In fact, one can argue (and I do) that more people have been killed because of their own religion, rather that because of the religion of their murderers, for example the Jews in World War 2. And, yes, they were also an ethnic group, but most cultures outside the 'West' don't make the distinction between religion and culture anyway, and never have.
All religions, with the glorious exception of Islam, condemn killing for most reasons, and yet members of those religions continue to do so - do we then blame an abstract concept ('religion'), or 'God'?, or do we take a realistic stance and work out that people kill people for lots of reasons that differ from what they say their motivation is.

That is not to say there isn't value in secularism - there is plenty - and secularism is a feature of Western societies that are nominally Christian. Your example, the Nordic countries, is a good one. I can only speak for Norway, but while you are right in saying church attendance is negligible, most Norwegians pay the optional church tax - and most Norwegians have weddings, baptisms and funerals in the traditional way. They have absorbed Christian values and ideals so fully, that church attendance is not a good measure of their 'religiosity'.
Most of the causes of misery today have little to do with religion, with the exceptions of, well, most things to do with Islam, and possibly African cultural practices and 'scientific' opinions on things like HIV, which could be loosely connected to their religions. Catholic laws against contraception could be added to this list ....

thorshammers said...

Religion is an evolutionary strategy, it works. Who cares if it's true. Euro's are being replaced by more cohesive groups.
As to debating with anyone outside your group, forget it. That's called negotiating.

thorshammers said...

Religion is an evolutionary strategy, it works. Who cares if it's true. Euro's are being replaced by more cohesive groups.
As to debating with anyone outside your group, forget it. That's called negotiating.

kerdasi amaq said...

Ever heard of a guy called Immanuel Velikovsky? Carl Sagan certainly did, and he owes his 'stardom' to him.

thorshammers said...

The jewish part of Christianity is negligeable. It's a European religion - no whitey no Christianity. You might as well look back to the ancient Egyptians for it's roots.

Joe O'Neill said...

Viking......You know full well that the Catholic Church killed 20 Million South American Indians during the inquisition, stop blaming Pol Pot and Mao.....These people were killed because they would not accept that the Harlot of Jerusalem had a baby when she was still a virgin... and she got shagged by the holy ghost.......what a load of bollocks!

SAVANT said...

Joe O'Neill is right. But I was also making the point that religion more often kills indirectly. By this I mean events like the 30 Years War where untold numbers were killed over a religious dispute. India/Pakistan, the centuries-long war between Islam and Europe, the list is endless. Also in many cases where religion was not the overt reason, it played a major role behind the scenes (e.g. the countless Balkan wars)