Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Better off without religion

A. C. Grayling on why we're better off without religion:
[A]ll the major religions have become more assertive, more vocal, more demanding and therefore more salient in the public domain. ...

If children are ghettoised by religion from an early age, the result, as seen in Northern Ireland, is disastrous. ...

Religious belief of all kinds shares the same intellectual respectability, evidential base, and rationality as belief in the existence of fairies.

This remark outrages the sensibilities of those who have deep religious convictions and attachments, and they regard it as insulting. ...

The absolute certainty, the unreflective credence given to ancient texts that relate to historically remote conditions, the zealotry and bigotry that flow from their certainty, are profoundly dangerous: at their extreme they result in mass murder, but long before then they issue in censorship, coercion to conform, the control of women, the closing of hearts and minds. ...

(h/t to BEEP! BEEP! IT'S ME)


  1. Heh. I slaved all day over a hot keyboard for this one.

  2. Heh. Nice economy of words. I imagine you slaved editing and sharpening your phrasing.

    It's one of my favorite lines of thought.

    It might seem, then, that our need is for some genius to invent a new religion, a philosophy of life and a view of the world, that is plausible and generally acceptable for the late twentieth century, and through which every individual can feel that the world as a whole and his own life in particular have meaning. This, as history has shown repeatedly, is not enough. Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the "saved" from the "damned," the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. Even religious liberals play the game of "we-re-more-tolerant-than-you."

    Furthermore, as systems of doctrine, symbolism, and behavior, religions harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept "pure,--and-because all belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty-religions must make converts.

    The more people who agree with us, the less nagging insecurity about our position. In the end one is committed to being a Christian or a Buddhist come what may in the form of new knowledge. New and indigestible ideas have to be wangled into the religious tradition, however inconsistent with its original doctrines, so that the believer can still take his stand and assert, "I am first and foremost a follower of Christ/Mohammed/Buddha, or whomever."

    Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness --an act of trust in the unknown.

    --Alan Watts, quoted in The End Of The Beginning?

  3. BB--your guy Dawkins was on NPR's "Fresh Air" yesterday. Did you get a chance to hear him? He was very impressive: gracious, well-spoken, generous.


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