10 May 2007


Below the fold are some highlights from a post at Pharyngula discussing the conflict between science and religions. Everyone should read the whole thing, as well as the comments.

"What religion does is steal human accomplishment and bestows it on a fickle imaginary being. Modern medicine is not a product of religion, it's the highly refined outcome of years of empirical science, yet people still babble about miracles and prayers."

Agreed. With one caveat. In my experience, people who ask for prayers are not asking for divine intervention. They might be hoping for it, but not asking for it. More generally, they're asking for comfort and sympathy. I wound up at my mom's church a few times while my grandma was sick, and Mom would always put in a prayer request for her. It was comforting to know that others were thinking of her, however briefly. It was also disconcerting to find it comforting.

"One antiquated hodge-podge of a book becomes the arbiter of truth, with the added benefit that its clutter and inconsistency and diversity of authorship means you can justify anything with the right random quote."
Yes. Anything. It all goes back to "assume a contradiction and anything follows." Idiotically, people will fight wars over interpretation of some of this nonsense, rather than actually thinking.

"Religion provides a get-out-of-jail-free card for the consequences of our actions. That irrationality percolates through our brains, and influences more than just what we do in church on Sunday—it makes us susceptible to snake-oil of all kinds."
Most religions foster an attitude of blind acceptance. If someone says it, it must be true! Oh, unless they're not our kind of people: then it must be false. So all you have to do to convince someone that you're right is convince him that you're one of his own kind. Politicians are good at this, and its converse.

"The first time I heard this argument I could hardly believe it: religion never changes, while science changes all the time, therefore religion is better."
Uh, yeah. Sure religion never changes. Uh-huh. And I have this lovely bridge to sell you... For over a thousand years, the sun was believed to go around the earth. The Bible clearly said so. Now except for a few loony holdouts, no one thinks the sun goes around the earth, and they scream "metaphor!" to protect their precious book. Back in the 1800's, the Bible was used to justify slavery. Now they try to explain away the positive/neutral references to slavery, and hope that no one notices that the Bible never says anything negative about it. And don't get me started on the role of women in the Bible. "Do not speak in church." "A woman should never teach a man."

I can feel an attack of four-letter words coming on, so I'll stop there.


John said...

One Sunday, when I was five or six, one of the hymns at church was "Our God is an Awesome God." On the way home, I asked my mom, "Why is God awesome?" She never answered, and was mad at me for the rest of the day. I guess it was sinful of me to not just accept it, even at an age where asking questions is as natural as breathing.

Qalmlea said...

I never really questioned it when I was young. It was just what we did on Sundays. I was more interested in the music/melody than in the actual hymn lyrics (which never made any sense whatsoever anyway).

I really started thinking about it after being exposed to some very basic philosophy (some in school, some in books, including The Wheel of Time). And essentially tried to invent Taoism from scratch, to try and get rid of the inconsistency with observed reality. So when I finally encountered Taoism, my reaction was "Ah! This makes sense!"