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The dangers of religion; pt. I

So I got into a discussion with a friend of mine today, about the good and bad aspects of religion. I maintain the belief that any and all kinds of religion are positively harmful for human society. Even if we ignore all the terrible things some religious congregations or individuals did throughout history (which is, admittedly, quite hard to do) - even putting that aspect of religion aside, I still believe it is harmful, in a way which is maybe even more disturbing. I'm talking about a kind of brainwashing which goes side by side with religious upbringing. By this I mean simply the way of thinking practiced by most of religious individuals. As a former member of Catholic Church, I feel versed enough to be able to talk about the 'Christian mindset', but I believe most of other religions have the same way of operating on human brains and thinking processes. When you are a Christian, chances are you were taught never to question, never to doubt the holy scriptures and the words of the preacher, who represents a direct connection to god, and is the highest authority down on earth. Blind faith and silent obedience are stuffed into children's heads and encouraged in adults. And this is what I find the most disturbing, and the most harmful effect of religion - it teaches humans to be dumb, to accept the earthly things as dull and not worthy of admiration. It teaches humans to dream about the impossible and unreachable, and in the same time to ignore the beauties of this world, which are innumerable. It is easy to see why this is so - control the way people think and you control all of their lives. But if you teach a child to ask questions, to be curious about the inner working of things, you risk the possibility that it will come to conclusions which do not correspond with your teachings; the teachings that are created in such a way to put an effective stop to human ingenuity and creativity. Nurture the people as mindless worker drones, and you have made yourself a vast source of income as well as a strong army of blind supporters and deaf zealots. Put an end to creativity, skeptical questioning and free thinking, and you can be sure that the level of human society will stagnate on the one from centuries ago, where your caste of mystic wise old men is on the top of the hierarchical order.

Honestly, I'm afraid of this. I'm afraid of people who do not think for themselves. Not only are they more receptive to harmful, aggressive ideas and violence, but they hinder the progress of science, medicine, culture, and human society in general. I think we must always ask questions about every single thing that surrounds us. Curiosity is a beautiful thing, and should not be viewed like something bad, as a great number of preachers and 'holy men' seem to do. As a matter of fact, it should be encouraged, especially in young children. They must learn to ask questions, to wonder, to appreciate the inquisitiveness of scientific method. What great feeling of joy does knowledge bring! Or, as Neil DeGrasse Tyson said in his interview with KCTS9: "If you're scientifically literate, the world looks very different to you, [...] and that understanding empowers you."


I'm not saying that religion does not have its merits. It cannot be questioned that some of the best works of classical art, be it in music, painting or sculpture, were directly influenced by religion. Christian Church spread the written word, set the course for what would become the Renaissance, and sometimes even actively encouraged scientific experiments. Isaac Newton, possibly the greatest mind ever to live, believed in biblical prophecies. Many a scholar was a priest, and many a priest a scientist. But, undoubtedly, these individuals were not the typical examples of religious minds. These were great minds, set apart from the rest of humanity by sheer potential of their thinking process. I am not concerned with people like this - I am concerned with the ordinary men and women, those simple people who go day after day doing the same task, doing their jobs (which quite often do not comprise of philosophical debating and writing mathematical treatises), raising their kids and propagating that which they have been taught. Faith is very similar to a genetic disease - it also has a tendency to spread from one generation to the other, although by different means. And these means - upbringing, education and indoctrination - are what needs to be changed, I believe. This is not an easy thing to achieve - tradition has terribly strong and deep-grounded roots - but it can be done with time, if only we try hard enough. The educational system has to change in a way that promotes critical and skeptical thinking more strongly. Scientific values must be promoted as the only ones which bring true and concise results, the scientific mindset as the one most productive and beneficial for the society as a whole. Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition, but nobody wants the return of the Dark Ages either.

1 comment:

  1. Very informative post. Nice to know there are others out there that consider religion a crippling genetic disease.

    ReplyDelete

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