Friday, May 20, 2011

Is Religion the Enemy of Progress?

"Many Thinkers and Doers are Less Faithful when it comes to subject called GOD.The only reason i think is that...These people(like me and Eric Stockhausen) THINK and OBSERVE whn Religious people blindly follow any path as GODS's path." (Ashish Borakhadikar) 
The following will be Chistocentric because I am a cultural Christian and this is what I know about.

Where I disagree: It matters whether the religion or person is a minority. The religion of those in power serves to keep things the same while the religion of the minority serves to aggitate. So in that respect, the doers can be religious. Naturally, there is lots of disagreement in the Abrahamic religions, and dissidents often have to think up a ideological framework about what their cause is. Jesus, for example, from what we have on this figure was a heretic for his many counter-culture ideas. This led to religious movement that protested against the Roman empire. 

Now where I agree with Ashish Borakhadikar: Once the religion becomes in the service of the powerful, it is the enemy of freethought. While Jesus was a heretic of yesterday, now he is the dogma of today. 

In much of history, the heretic has become the voice of reason pointing out the evils of his or her day. The major thinkers have always had new ideas that challenged the mainstream, which the religious authority often controlled. It was hotly argued in the United States and Europe where languages came from. As Col. Robert Green Ingersoll, a 19th century American abolitionist and feminist, shows in his lecture On Ghosts, the holy texts or ecclesiastical authorities have led to ridiculous beliefs about our natural world (he is just so good I just had to indulge myself in over quoting him):

To show you how perfectly every department of knowledge, or ignorance rather, was saturated with superstition, I will for a moment refer to the science of language.
It was thought by our fathers, that Hebrew was the original language; that it was taught to Adam in the Garden of Eden by the Almighty, and that consequently all languages came from, and could be traced to, the Hebrew. Every fact inconsistent with that idea was discarded. According to the ghosts, the trouble at the tower of Babel accounted for the fact that all people did not speak Hebrew. The Babel business settled all questions in the science of language.
After a time, so many facts were found to be inconsistent with the Hebrew idea that it began to fall into disrepute, and other languages began to compete for the honor of being the original.
Andre Kempe, in 1569, published a work on the language of Paradise, in which he maintained that God spoke to Adam in Swedish; that Adam answered in Danish; and that the serpent — which appears to me quite probable — spoke to Eve in French. Erro, in a work published at Madrid, took the ground that Basque was the language spoken in the Garden of Eden; but in 1580 Goropius published his celebrated work at Antwerp, in which he put the whole matter at rest by showing, beyond all doubt, that the language spoken in Paradise was neither more nor less than plain Holland Dutch. 
Are the theologians welcomers of new truths? Are they noted for their candor? Do they treat an opponent with common fairness? Are they investigators? Do they pull forward, or do they hold back? 
Is science indebted to the church for a solitary fact?
What church is an asylum for a persecuted truth?
What great reform has been inaugurated by the church?
Did the church abolish slavery?
Has the church raised its voice against war?
I used to think that there was in religion no real restraining force. Upon this point my mind has changed. Religion will prevent man from committing artificial crimes and offenses. 
I do not pretend to tell what all the truth is. I do not pretend to have fathomed the abyss, nor to have floated on outstretched wings level with the dim heights of thought. I simply plead for freedom. I denounce the cruelties and horrors of slavery. I ask for light and air for the souls of men. I say, take off those chains — break those manacles — free those limbs — release that brain! I plead for the right to think — to reason — to investigate. I ask that the future may be enriched with the honest thoughts of men. I implore every human being to be a soldier in the army of progress. 
I will not invade the rights of others. You have no right to erect your toll-gate upon the highways of thought. You have no right to leap from the hedges of superstition and strike down the pioneers of the human race. You have no right to sacrifice the liberties of man upon the altars of ghosts. Believe what you may; preach what you desire; have all the forms and ceremonies you please; exercise your liberty in your own way but extend to all others the same right.
I will not attack your doctrines nor your creeds if they accord liberty to me. If they hold thought to be dangerous — if they aver that doubt is a crime, then I attack them one and all, because they enslave the minds of men. 
The heretics, scientists, and philosopher have proven every biblical argument false one after another. The contents of the bible is not based on science but the superstitions of ancient people. As my very religious friend put it, "for those who believe the Bible is infallible, the texts are holy Scripture because they represent God speaking to humanity through the authors of the texts." Once a creed is formed and people asked to just believe these things and nothing else will be asked of their brains, progress in the sciences find cultural obstacles to hurdle. The child is taught to believe not to think. The adult expected to defend the bible not reason. Every thinker must keep nothing holy if they are to freely question and only look at the facts when considering any philosophy.

Another consideration would be that freethought and individualism necessarily mean that those who ascribe to them cannot use the will of the majority tyrannically on minorities. Freethought and individualism makes everyone a minority. The freethinker learns that in order to have liberty him- or herself, he or she must be willing to extend liberty to another. When someone in society is refused liberty, that threatens all individuals because it creates a condition where liberty can be taken away from minorities, and in an individualistic society, that would be everyone ironically enough. In other words, being an individual rather than an adherent to any ideology or faith puts you on an equal playing field with everyone else in society. Leaving dogmatic forms of religion  is the first step in overcoming the barriers between people. By dogmatic religions, I simply mean those religions where one cannot enter or leave freely because of threat of ostracism, violence, or a hell.

I do suggest that people read Ingersoll's lecture On Ghosts for it covers way more than just the origin of languages and the emergence of modern linguistics. 

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