I’ve been following two great blog posts here and here which are trying to answer the question “Is faith reasonable?” It’s a glimpse into how tightly people cling to their faith, even when unable to present any acceptable evidence.
I felt compelled to explore a different line of reasoning, which is how I believe god “evolved” in our minds over the millennia. My line of reasoning was so different, so I’m going to post here why I think it is not only unreasonable but dangerous to believe in god.
Humans developed our current level of intelligence hundreds of thousands of years ago. Back then, we didn’t live long and we also didn’t have the scientific method. But we still had amazing brains with our fantastic imagination, and our ability to conceive of the mystical. We also had our insatiable curiosity and the ambition to answer our tough questions:
1. What happens after we die?
2. Who is in control of all these random events going on?
3. Where did all this great shit come from?
4. How can we control our violent impulses?
And so, in the absence of science, we invented god. And for hundreds of thousands of years, “God” became an acceptable answer to a lot of tough questions. “God” was unfalsifiable, and actually had the added benefit of keeping people in line, and so added social controls which actually helped humanity survive through those tough early years. So the tribes who were immersed heavily in a “God” tradition were more survivable than those that did not.
The name of “God” varied from culture to culture, but it was basically the same mystical concoction of the human imagination. So for ten thousand generations, human brains were conditioned to favor the “God” concept.
Then science arrived, and we began to answer questions using fact and experimentation. Science has been prominent for only about 250 years—a mere drop in the bucket! But so far, not one single mystical assertion or “God” concept has been provable using scientific observation and experimentation. Some things, like volcanoes, used to be thought of as mystical, but science has redefined and demystified them, and their non-mystical nature is no longer in question. This is because the volcano myth was falsifiable. Anyone caught throwing a virgin into a volcano today would be thought of as a kook and a criminal, even though just a few hundred years ago, this practice is what held societies together.
Many people have deduced that mystical phenomena do not really exist at all, even the unfalsifiable ones. To show how it is unreasonable to believe in these gods, these skeptics have created intentionally fictional, equally unfalsifiable gods. (The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the omnipotent teapot floating in space, etc.) Many others, however, still cling to the existence of mystical phenomena. But still, many faithful adherents continue to cling to their belief in god. Among a variety of reasons, I think they cling because these mystical phenomena offer comfort where science does not. They also cling due to familial pressure, fear of the unknown, fear of death and chaos, etc. There are many reasons why it is easier to remain mired in the paradigm of religion, rather than trudging forward into the realm of science, where there are no convenient answers.
But if you look at theism and science over the last hundred thousand years, you see science as the new paradigm and theism as the fading, old paradigm. Consequently, the more advanced governments on Earth use the rule of law to control society, thus eliminating the necessity of the fear of god. These two paradigms won’t be in direct opposition if science ever proves the existence of god. But that isn’t looking likely.
It’s not surprising that the adherents of the religious paradigm feel threatened by science. To wit, the fear of atheists has eclipsed the fear of blacks, women, and homosexuals. The fear of science and reason is growing so profound that many religious people are attempting to push us backward in time. Christian groups want to introduce Biblical principles in our government. Funding for scientific research and development has been stifled for religious reasons. The Reactionaries of yesterday are perceived as the moderates of today—but they are still reactionaries.
Yet we are all taught to be open-minded and accepting. “Be tolerant of other religions,” is the mantra of the enlightened—even though many of the religions we tolerate are themselves intolerant of anyone outside their religion. Although Christian teachings imply tolerance, many prominent Christian voices today are distinctly intolerant. Islam today is an even better example. It matters not that there might be 99 peaceful Muslims for every militant fanatic. The heart of the problem lies in uneducated person having an irrational belief in an irrational, non-existent god. These pliable minds are then easily manipulated by greedy forces seeking power. A gun is put in the adherent’s hands and he is told to point it at “infidels.” So the irrational adherent points the gun and pulls the trigger. As these growing ranks of fanatics continue to gain power and credibility, the world is headed for some very troubled waters.
In 2008, a day when science and rational minds should prevail, the shrill, scared voices of irrational religion are gaining volume, and we teeter on the brink of a massive, irrational, war. Although the war is actually over resources, those who kill others will be led to believe that they are doing it in the name of one imaginary god or another. Without the emotional hook of “god,” these greedy forces might not have such an easy time of manipulating the poor into fighting their petty wars.
After reading Dawkin’s “The God Delusion,” I was a bit put off by his recommendation to stop tolerating irrational religious thought. But I have come around and now agree with him. In order to preserve society we have to take the courageous step toward free thought and science. I do not agree that the poor or uneducated populace “need” god to preserve social order, as many orderly societies exist today with poor people, and without god. When it comes to the poor and uneducated, we should not simply apply the salve of god, but rather do the rational thing: educate them and raise their economic status. This response decreases the likelihood of them being manipulated into killing others for an irrational religious cause.