I critique religion where I believe it fails. I’m not an enemy of religion. I value it. My concern is that religion gets overrun by fundamentalists, idiots, control freaks and abusers. Religion, I think, can be a beautiful expression of human wonder, a magnificent response to mystery, a force of good in the world. It often is these things.
I also love science. One of the most influential books in my life is The Essential David Bohm, a collection of essays and interviews of Bohm, a quantum physicist. Did you know Bohm and Krishnamurti, the Eastern spiritual philosopher, were friends and saw the spiritual value of science and the value of religion for science?
But, just like in religion, proponents of science and rational thought can be just as dogmatic and fundamentalist in their thinking, writing, and speech. Not just towards religions and their adherents, but even towards other scientists and rational thinkers. Bohm faced opposition even within his own scientific community. All foreign ideas are held in suspicion no matter what field you’re in.
So we watch religious people scorn those who aren’t religious. And we watch non-religious people scorn those who are religious. Same mind. Unimaginative. Arrogant. Narrow. Closed. Mean.
This doesn’t always happen. There are many people who understand that religion is a valuable human creation, just like science is. It’s a rich expression of our human culture.
I like what Camille Paglia says in her book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art from Egypt to Star Wars:
“Although I am an atheist, I respect all religions and take them seriously as vast symbol systems containing deep truth about human existence. While evil has sometimes been done in its name, religion has been an enormously civilizing force in world history. Sneering at religion is juvenile, symptomatic of a stunted imagination.”
I compare those who want to rid the earth of religion to the Taliban who destroy ancient works of art. Stunted imagination.
Chris Hedges expresses his opinion on fundamentalism in his book I Don’t Believe in Atheists:
“The blustering televangelists, and the atheists who rant about the evils of religion, are little more than carnival barkers. They are in show business, and those in show business know complexity does not sell. They trade clichés and insults like cartoon characters. They don masks. One wears the mask of religion, the other wears the mask of science. They banter back and forth in predictable sound bites. They promise, like all advertisers, simple and seductive dreams. This debate engages two bizarre subsets who are well suited to the television culture because of the crudeness of their arguments. One distorts the scientific theory of evolution to explain the behavior and rules for complex social, economic and political systems. The other insists that the six-day story of creation in Genesis is fact and Jesus will descend format the sky to create the kingdom of God on Earth. These antagonists each claim to have discovered an absolute truth. They trade absurdity for absurdity. They show that the danger is not religion or science. The danger is fundamentalism.”
You see? It’s not religion. It’s not science. It’s the mind.
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