The main points of this essay are as follows; with the coming of modernisation religion is becoming less necessary, it is replaced by science and ethics born of logic rather than superstition. Modern religious fundamentalists thus try to mount a counter offensive against modernity in the form of terrorism or hateful protests and general bigotry. Although as a gatekeeper it keeps a minority of people down in terms of limiting some crimes under the fear of hell, religious belief for centuries have been used to justify some of the worst crimes mankind has ever known. Another point I make is that religion is anti-intellectual in its content as it demonstrates that knowledge and power are evil, and destructives influences. In terms of cultural integration and transmission of values, I have tried to show that when taken literally (fundamentally) most religious texts incite violence and hatred toward other religions and those they deem undesirable (homosexual/adulterers/atheists/people who have sex out of wedlock). Religion in this context actually serves not only to divide people from each other but to divide people from the physical world, thus further justifying violence and persecution as bodies are finite but the soul is seen as infinite, thus devaluing the lives of individuals.
Every society passes through certain stages; the first is religion, as we lack physical evidence for existence we turn to a belief in an unseen higher power to explain creation. The second stage develops on this as we move into metaphysical concepts of our existence, we start mapping the world with logic rather than farfetched stories of mythical beings. The final stage is a positive or scientific stage, where the mysteries of the universe are unravelled with the aid of science and logic to reveal the truth. Human knowledge becomes more definite as it is refined through these stages.
“...in the end, when all society has passed through these stages, ethics will become a science, no less objective in its results than physics or chemistry. At this point, the moral and political conflicts of the past will disappear” John Gray (2003)
This is the stage we live in today, sadly there are those trapped in a previous age by archaic belief structures that have no basis in reality. To those with apocalyptic beliefs (Christians/Jews/Muslims/Catholics) the world is finite and human life is insignificant in comparison to that of God, which to some degree I agree with but this reasoning is often used to justify inhuman carnage everyday. “They love Pepsi cola, but we love death...” (Taliban fighter). Martyrs feel no pain; they give their bodies to God without thought. Their lives are worth nothing, they are empty vessels who worship death as an escape from the life they have no love for. All responsibility in their eyes lies on god, they see they’re actions as the will of god and thus subtract all their own agency from the equation; they have no responsibility for their actions all they do is push the button, it’s up to god as to what happens next.
“We should not be trying to solve problems through human intellect, we should seek salvation instead” (Ian Buruma. 2004:81)
The terms “religious education” are somewhat juxtaposed as the purpose of religion today is to argue against science and against knowledge, the only book fundamentalism holds dear is their own religious text. Adam and Eve is a story about the corruption of knowledge, they lived happily in ignorant bliss and then they ate from the tree of knowledge and were cast out to suffer on alone. Here and now doesn’t matter to religion, life is a waiting room and people just scramble around trying to score points waiting to be dead. “We seek religion because we are afraid of the present...” (Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche 1939-1987). People turn to religion because they’re afraid to live their own lives.
“Religion can never reform mankind because religion is slavery”
Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-1899)
Every institution on the face of the earth lies, why not religion? In fact it is the foundation all the other lies are dependant on, removing it is key to modernisation. Religion is a prison, it tells you what to think, what to wear, what to eat, who to marry, what to buy, who to kill. It serves no other purpose than to detach the species from the natural world and each other.
“Hush up and obey your god!”
Shirley Phelps (Matriarch of the Phelps family of the Westboro Baptist church 2007)
Westboro Baptist church is a relatively small fundamentalist Christian sect, which is most famous for picketing the funerals of dead soldiers returning from Iraq and the Australian actor Heathe Ledger as he portrayed a homosexual cowboy in the film “Brokeback Mountain”. They preach hate and intolerance towards gay people and gay culture, which to them encompasses anyone involved in perverted sex acts; anything other than one man and one woman in their marital bed. They carry signs exclaiming; “God Hates Fags!” God for these people isn’t a creator, he’s someone to blame. He is a scape-goat for their homophobic beliefs. They hide behind their god. They pour their hate through this imaginary figure because in their minds it washes their hands of it. They distort their religion for their own vicious agendas and hold god responsible.
Modern society forces the decay of religion. When we read something like “God Hates Fags” our natural impulse is revulsion, we know this is wrong, being gay isn’t a choice we’re all born differently but we are all more or less the same. We have evolved in terms of human rights and sexuality to a point where religion isn’t as necessary as it once was. It’s because of this terrorism and fundamentalism is born, terrorism is a defensive action taken by religion trying to avoid its own demise. We just didn’t assume they would fight so hard.
Gray, J. (2003). Al Qaeda and what it means to be Modern. Faber and Faber limited.
Joseph, P. (Writer Director) (2007). Zeitgeist. USA: Retrieved from http://www.zeitgeistmovie.com/
Pinkerson, D., Levin, M. (Director) & Voll, D. (Writer) (2000). Soldier in the Army of God. USA: Offline Entertainment Group.
Theroux, L. (Writer and Producer) (2007). The Most Hated Family in America. UK: BBC
Townsend, C. (2002). Terrorism, a very short introduction. Uk: Oxford university press.