You are probably wondering why a post titled ‘The End of Religion’ is popping up on a website about climbing the 7 Summits. Fair point, now let me explain. I started this project to promote education. In particular, education to some of the most disadvantaged people on our planet, but education none the less. Education is the only real defense against ignorance and the void-filling beliefs that may otherwise exist. That’s what has brought about this post.
I was caught off guard by a comment I heard recently during the presidential nominee campaign, that 90% of Americans believe in god. It got me doing some research & I was truly shocked at what I found; the beliefs still held by a large, large number of people, often individuals in positions of power. I honestly believed the majority of the developed world, particularly those with high-level educations, had turned away from religion as science had progressed. While the U.S.A is certainly an extreme case amongst the Western world, even Australia had a far higher percentage of people identifying themselves as religious than I had expected.
I personally, wish to see an end to organised religion. I believe it has caused humanity far more hardship than good which continues to this day. A world without religion would be, in my opinion, a better place. Unfortunately, I don’t see it happening anytime soon. It will require at least 2 more generations to mature into rational adult thinkers before I think we finally have a chance to achieve to do away with many of the ridiculous beliefs and ideologies that have plagued our society for centuries.
Please understand, I am not talking about spirituality or the belief in a higher power. I am talking about ending the institution that is organised religion; be it Christianity, Hinduism or Islam. I have no qualms about the belief in a ‘god’ or higher power. I’m not against this notion as, while I have an opinion, I have no idea what actually happens when we die. My personal beliefs are; once we die, that’s it, there is no ‘soul’ that drifts to another plane or a consciousness that is transported to a different realm. Our physical bodies break down and the remnants are used for other purposes. The atoms that once made us are used again to give life to another entity. That’s beautiful to me, we become part of a new life, the same as we are made up of those lives that came before us. Those are my beliefs though, I am just like everyone else in that I have absolutely no idea. The difference however, is that I don’t profess to know.
The only thing I can hope to achieve with this post is that, after reading it, you may ponder the issues I raise and consider your own position on religion in our modern world. Maybe a little more research into the sacred texts or reading the works of authors who have dedicated their lives to this issue.
Is there a place for religion in this current day and age? I don’t believe so..
Why is it that in all other aspects of life, we are generally critical thinkers. We don’t blindly believe what we are told without first examining the evidence and proof to determine if it is in fact, true. There is only one particular subject that seems to escape any rational discourse: religion. As Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith puts it; “On the subject of religious belief, we relax standards of reasonableness and evidence that we rely on in every other area of our lives. We relax so totally that people believe the most ludicrous propositions, and are willing to organize their lives around them.”
In the modern day, one reason is certainly the fact that the belief is so widespread. It’s the sheep mentality at work again- if so many people believe it, there must be some truth to it. What if an individual, even a small segment of society, went around telling everyone the son of god came down to Earth (born to a virgin mother), walked on water, was killed and then came back to life. This story provides the basis with which these particular individuals live their entire lives. You’d think they were completely mental and have them locked up. Since the majority of priests and bishops are not currently incarcerated (although many should be) then it must be that what they are preaching is not completely crazy after all. This is a fallacy of social proof at play.
‘When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called insanity. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.’ Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Another factor, is that criticism of religious belief tends to be relatively taboo. I can argue that your sports team sucks, the political party you vote for is a joke or that your sister probably sleeps around too much. Heaven forbid I were to question your belief in an antiquated 2,000 year old text. They say you should never discuss religion at the dinner table. Why? Is it because people are embarrassed by their beliefs? Or that they don’t want to have their beliefs questioned, perhaps in fear that a little doubt may just creep in.. This ‘off-limits’ approach has surely been the reason some of absurd these religious principals have been preached unopposed for so long. It’s about time to break that tradition.
Individuals are of course, free to believe what they wish. This is one of the great virtues of the society we live in. You can then choose to express these beliefs or keep them to yourself, you will not be persecuted either way. Although your beliefs are uninhibited (and rightly so), it doesn’t mean they are free from the judgement of your peers…
When people say ‘my beliefs are personal, I don’t go around preaching them so I can believe whatever I want’. That’s very true. The problem here is if that person is in a position of authority, making key decisions that can affect the fate of others (aka a certain former Australian Prime Minister). If you are the leader of a nation such as Australia, making decisions that influence 22 million people, what you believe in the privacy of your own home holds tremendous sway. If you were to believe that the Earth is only 10,000 years old and that there was once an arc that held 2 of every single species on Earth, how sound can your logic really be? How can you make an informed decision on the science of climate change, if you don’t acknowledge science as a whole.
This is where the previous argument leads.. If individuals could truly separate their religious beliefs with all other aspects of life, it would certainly not impose much of a problem on society. That is simply not the case however. As such, these strongly held views need to be open to criticism, just as communist or fascist ideas would be, just as a leader who believed in alchemy or astrology would be. This double standard needs to stop.
A key argument made by those who express the need for religion in our modern day is that without it, humans are naturally morally corrupt. Without the guiding principles of the bible and the virtuous life of Jesus, we would be running around stealing, murdering and coveting our neighbors wife at will. In fact there would probably be less of the first 2 and an equal amount of the third, although we might be more open about it..
The presumption that we need religion to be moral beings is preposterous and to assume we should use the bible or the Koran as our moral compass is even worse. I won’t even begin to go into detail as to the moral double-standard played out in the Bible and Koran. The list of examples is far too extensive. The more positive teachings have been chosen to represent the morality of these works while the rest have been played down and passed off as outdated or misinterpreted. I think Sam Harris says it best:
“The [sacred texts] themselves are very poor guides to morality. The only way you find goodness in good books is because you recognize it. They’re based on your own ethical intuitions.”
Let’s touch on the issue of marriage equality, such a well publicised and polarizing topic in recent years. First off let me just say, I think we can agree that the only opposition to allowing marriage equality is the church. The absolute majority of rational, free-thinking individuals (I include myself in this group) believe it is a human right to marry whoever you so choose. The whole prolonged debate about the issue is quite frankly, ridiculous.I do believe however, that those campaigning so heavily for marriage equality are misguided. Their focus and energy should be directed to the root cause of the impediment to the progression of human rights, religion itself. If we were to do away with this archaic institution, the issue would be resolved, as would innumerable others that stunt our growth as a global society.
For hundreds and hundreds of the years gone by, I wouldn’t have been able to express these views for fear of persecution, likely i would’ve been put to death. That was the bullying and controlling nature of the Catholic church for so long and what we currently see in the Islamic world. The only reason religious figures now present a friendly face is because that power they once held is slowly slipping away as the world is awakened from its pious sedation.
As Professor Richard Dawkins would have you, “Imagine, with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ-killers’, no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no ‘honour killings’, no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money (‘God wants you to give till it hurts’). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing an inch of it.”
Now picture a world in which the end of religion has come to pass.
On the teaching of religion in our schools…
This is perhaps the most important topic of this post as it’s the only way to truly resolve the issue at hand. The only way I see religion slowly dissolving it’s stranglehold is through it’s relevant teaching in our schools and at home. No doubt this has already started to take effect. Religion should purely be taught as literature and history. Faith itself has no doubt had tremendous influence on humanity over the centuries and much of the current world would be inadequately understood without first exploring the various belief systems throughout history. This should not be limited to the one most prevalent in the schools particular society at the time.
As for the home, it is certainly a parents right to bring up their children in the manner they best see fit. However these kids will one day be apart of the greater society, perhaps in influential positions such as politics or business. It is therefore the duty of the school system to provide a balanced education, promoting critical thinking and allowing kids the chance to think for themselves and make up their own minds. When the facts are presented free from bias, you’ll likely find religion is pushed to one side, as appears to be slowly happening in the developed world.
If you want an example of what religious brainwashing at home and at school can do to a child, watch Jesus Camp. This is what occurs when you have fanatical parents mixed with a bias and partial education, often combining the 2 with home-schooling (Is there any doubt as to why such a large portion of children with parents belonging to cult like religions are home-schooled?) This is obviously an extreme situation and not meant to reflect the majority of moderate Christians. I just pointed it out to demonstrate that this kind of fanatical behaviour is still going on, in one of the most educated nations on Earth. Although just for a moment, can you imagine one of these kids in a position of political power one day 30 years from now? Imagine the implications that may have for America and the rest of the world. Don’t say it couldn’t happen..
On the topic of education, I’d highly recommend reading the works of authors who are far more knowledgeable and articulate than I could ever hope to be.
Here is my recommended reading list;
Stay tuned for The End of Religion Part 2..