Monday, 20 March 2006

People who believe absurdities...

After three days of near-total immersion in Wagner's 'Parsifal' -- about which more later -- as a commentator on current affairs I'm about as useful as a one-legged man at an arse-kicking contest. Except to say 1) that the real Brian Lara seems to have stayed home; 2) that it's surely no surprise that the judicial arm of Government is not taking the present Executive to court over the election victory bought with stolen money; and 3) that Sparc should have let us keep our own money and spend it on the sportsmen and women of our own choice(s), on anything else I'm less than fully informed.

One thing that did strike me however upon my re-emergence into the rest of the world were a few comments made by bloggers on the subject of religion -- a subject on which 'Parsifal itself has more than a bit to say.

Richard Dawkins's UK TV programme 'Religion: The Root of all Evil' has got lots of tongues wagging, including Julian's. He quotes from the programme "physicist and Nobel prizewinner Stephen Weinberg [who] describes religion as an insult to human dignity." Which of course it is. Religion demands a sacrifice of this world to some indeterminate supernatural realm; an elevation of faith above reason; and a substitution of duty for real morality. "It is more moral, " says Dawkins, "to do good for its own sake than out of fear." And so it is. Read on here and follow some of Julian's links to see what else Dawkins has to say in this controversial and enlightening programme.

As if to show that absurdity is not confined to the Christian religion, Julian also links to an interview with the heroic Dr Wafa Sultan, whom I featured here on my blog last week. Sultan describes a close reading of the Koran as "the turning point of her life." As she read, she says, she gradually came "to the conclusion that the violence and oppression of most Muslim governments and some of those fighting against them stemmed directly from the teachings of Islam":
"I began to question every single teaching," she says. She noticed that "there are too many verses in the Koran which say you must kill those who are non-Muslim; you must kill those who don't believe in Allah and his messenger. I started to ask: is this right? Is this human? All our problems in the Islamic world, I strongly believe, are the natural outcome of these teachings. Go open any book in any class in any school in any Islamic country and read it. You will see what kind of teachings we have: Islam tells its followers that every non-Muslim is your enemy."
A line that Julian quotes from Dawkins's programme clarifies the point:
Without [religion]... you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.
Damn right it does. People who believe absurdities and are encouraged by the elevation of faith to do so do have fewer compunctions about commiting atrocities, as Voltaire was wont to remind his own generation. There are things that can be learnt from religion, but neither morality nor epistemology are among them. Meanwhile, speaking of absurdities and religion , and how they affect our own era, Ruth spotted this one: 'God's scientist receives supreme award.' The 'supreme award comes not from the scientist's imaginary best friend, as the headline might lead you to expect, but instead from the overburdened taxpayer. Talk about absurd:
Cambridge University cosmologist and mathematician John Barrow was awarded $1.6-million yesterday to do research into whether God is sitting at the control panel behind the Theory of Everything about the universe...
You just could not make that sort of nonsense up.

LINKS: Religion: Root of all evil? - Julian Pistorius
Women at war with the mullahs - Times Online
God's scientist receives supreme award - Globe and Mail
'Clash of civilisations' rubbished by Arab-American woman - Not PC

TAGS: Religion, Philosophy, Nonsense


  1. My fave quote from The Root of All Evil? is, "For a book which claims to offer moral guidance, the Bible reveals God as the most vindictive character in all fiction."
    The programme is packed wth comments like this - no holds barred - and he talks to some truly scary people in both the Middle East and the southern US.

  2. How anyone can quote Nietsche in one post and next quote "for good people to do evil things, it takes religion" is beyond me.

    But whatever. Richard Dawkins is sure the darling of the people who are less interested in science than in story telling.


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