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Religion: Who Needs It? — The Heathlander

29 Mar

Good heavens: this is the second reference to Jamie Stern-Weiner’s blog in two days! He has written there an entertaining account of a debate at Westminster on “‘We’d be better off without religion.” Jamie agrees we would be, and admired participants in the debate such as Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and A.C. Grayling rather than their opposition, Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Prof. Nigel Spivey and the conservative philosopher Roger Scruton. I am not a Scruton fan either.

It is all very hypothetical though. Religion isn’t about to go away, not in my lifetime or probably in yours. Me, I am a believer in God who does not believe in magic books. So I agree entirely about the dubious morality of much of the Bible, but not of all of the Bible, and ditto for the Quran, though here is an interesting conundrum for the world as Muslims tend to be wedded to the magic book principle even more than Christians or Jews. Rather than go into all that here, I refer you to entries on my archive page under the tag “Bible”.

So I do not identify with this characterisation of religion:

…Rather than a rational discussion of morality culminating in a series of arguments, religious morality is just a set of rules written down on paper, with no attempt at rational explanation and no critical discussion of the issues. Moreover, believers are positively discouraged from thinking for themselves about morality, and are rather indoctrinated or terrified into blindly following whatever their “Holy Book” or “religious teacher” has to say. That’s not morality, it’s tyrannical brainwashing…

Rather, I do lean towards this comment in Meanjin Vol. 65, no. 4, 2006:

Modern-day Christians have to stop thinking that they do not need to engage in dialogue because they have found their good shepherd. Having to engage with those of a different faith is not always comfortable. But in our post-secular society, in which the boundary between belief and unbelief is much less clear than for previous generations, interfaith dialogue is the way of the future…

We are becoming a society in whch secular and religious cultures coexist, and indeed can sometimes learn from each other. In that sense we may be moving to a post-secular generation.

— Constant J Mews, Monash University

In that spirit I have been compiling this section of my blog roll:

Faith and philosophy

NOTE: Now you can read chunks of Amin Maalouf — enough to get his drift — on Google Books: In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

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6 responses to “Religion: Who Needs It? — The Heathlander

  1. AV

    March 29, 2007 at 3:37 pm

    So I do not identify with this characterisation of religion

    Because it doesn’t apply to all religions, or because it is just plain inaccurate?

     
  2. ninglun

    March 29, 2007 at 3:43 pm

    I primarily meant “doesn’t apply to me.” However, it is also both of what you said, Arthur, though it does apply to much religion, especially in the past, and in the present the more traditional, conservative or fundamentalist the religion (or the religious person) is, especially in the three “Abrahamic” faiths, the more it applies.

    On the other hand we have Thich Nhat Hanh’s 14 precepts (neither infallible nor magical) the first three being:

    “Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. All systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

    Do not think that the knowledge you presently possess is changeless, absolute truth. Avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. Learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to receive others’ viewpoints. Truth is found in life and not merely in conceptual knowledge. Be ready to learn throughout our entire life and to observe reality in yourself and in the world at all times.

    Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

     
  3. AV

    March 29, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education. However, through compassionate dialogue, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness.

    Richard Dawkins said something very similar to this in The God Delusion (well, the part in bold, anyway).

     
  4. Lexcen

    March 29, 2007 at 7:07 pm

    You bring up the subject of religion and you open a can of worms.

    I think religion is for people in search of a religion. People looking for the mystical, the magical the denial of death as being final, a reason for pain and suffering and a purpose to life that cannot be found in the materialistic world. Religion is not for me but I do realize that it has it’s purpose for those people who need to believe in something spiritual.

     
  5. ninglun

    March 29, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    Lexcen, I suspect you, like me, remember the old rule that you never discussed sex, politics, or religion in polite conversation. That would kill off a lot of blogs, eh!

    I guess the way we discuss such matters is what counts… Let’s face it, all those topics concern people.

     
  6. AV

    March 30, 2007 at 9:26 am

    Lexcen, I suspect you, like me, remember the old rule that you never discussed sex, politics, or religion in polite conversation. That would kill off a lot of blogs, eh!

    I think that old rule survives to a certain degree in the “real world”–many people, I suspect, would feel most uncomfortable engaging in anything but the most cursory or superficial treatment of sex/politics/religion in the workplace (for example), before moving on to a safer topic like the cricket or Desperate Housewives.

    In the context of an online discussion–be it in a discussion forum or a blog–such topics thrive, probably because of the disembodied nature of such discussions. You can’t see the individual you’re chatting with–or perhaps even arguing with–so you’re not as reticent to discuss matters that you would feel too intimidated to broach face-to-face.

    Communication theorists call this “communication apprehension” (or “context apprehension”).

     
 
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