Friday, November 16, 2007

Splash du Jour: Friday

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown, and partly… the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing – fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand.
-- Bertrand Russell --

Have a great Friday!


Merisi said...

Pretty lazy argument, as if societies with no "religion" lived in harmony. Remember Stalin? And so on.

Anonymous said...

But Russell doesn't really try to make a case in favor of [or against] those "no religion" societies, does he, merisi?

Unless I am reading it wrong, in this quotation, he is simply pointing out what he considers to be a flaw - or shortcoming - of religion. I'm sure he would just as readily say that mere absence of religion alone is not going to create an ideal society.

Religion, after all, is shaped (interpreted) by people - just as Stalin made up his own political agenda with its own particular set of human motives guiding it.

Could it not be possible that neither the strict religionist nor the Stalinist has found quite the ideal approach to How to Live? Shouldn’t we be open to critical and rational thought concerning both systems? I think there is ample evidence that we often believe as we do for fear of punishment, for hope of an ultimate reward, or simply because it was the way we were brought up.

Russell doesn’t seem so much to be talking about how to live "in harmony" here, but rather about WHY we believe as we do...and whether this is the best reason for holding a belief. Or a rationale for our behavior. . Are these ideas worth our thinking about – if just a little?

Aye me. It's hard to get an entire philosophy from a single quotation, or even from reading an entire book by someone like Bertrand Russell, whose range of interests extended far beyond theology.

If you want to read about societies with "no religion" stack up in the cruelty department -- and by that I presume you mean those societies with no belief in a divine creator [?]-- you might look into Sam Harris' work. Or Christopher Hitchens. Both have done considerable research into the nature of societies that hold firm “religious beliefs” and those that do not. Both sides could cite good and bad behavior from "believers" and non-believers.

In his “Why I am Not a Christian,” Russell says, “Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in. . .”

It seems like something that would not hurt us to at least consider.

cipriano said...

One of the flaws we make.... "mistakes" would be a better word, is that when the word "religion" is used in any generic statement, we tend to inject the religion most familiar to US, in there. And then [naturally] we get defensive.
It is PEOPLE that create discord, with other people.
And these people [whoever they are] usually adhere to a religion, within their culture, their cultural context.
The problem with ANY religion, [inasmuch as it leads to conflict between cultures] an be traced to its claim to exclusivity.
It's claim to applicability to other cultures.
In this sense, we will never see "harmony" on this planet, if by harmony, is meant, religious proselytization, conversion, singularity and agreement.
Thus, religion emerges as the great incongruent dividing line... the division!
The demarcation.
At no point, will religion become culturally normative, for our planet. Increasing levels of discord, are rather, a more accurate picture of our future.
Wars. Terrorism.
I agree with anonymous.
Read Sam Harris.
Our only hope, is the End of Faith.