Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Thank God there's no God?

I have a proposition. Let's get rid of religion once and for all. Maybe religion is like a clutch which the recovered has no use of anymore. Maybe religion is like an imaginary friend and we adults have grown out of. Maybe religion is like a ladder and once we have used it to reach high ground, we kick it off.

This world is experiencing a great convergence and with it comes the crystallization of secular values. Once we lived
 separate and apart, now we are together in the foxhole of globalization; the flat, cramped, and standing-room-only world. We are a global local village and we can fend for ourselves now. We write our own rules with technology our Savior and science our Cross. The writings are on the wall: We are the masters of our own fate.

Once we thought rain and drought were the result of unpropitiated deities. Now we know better. So, it is with religion.
We have reached a new zeitgeist of the times. We are now more than able to self-govern. We can moralize our lives and set boundaries for ourselves without looking for a transcendent being at the end of the religious rainbow.

A world without religion means that man will no longer depend on an imaginary friend for comfort, hope and moral guidance. A world without religion means that prayers are like wasted tossed pennies in an abandoned wishing well. A world
 without religion means that there is no heavenly hope or hellish scares to keep us hanging in existential uncertainty round the mortal clock.

So, let's seriously consider this proposition. Let's get rid of all religion. Let's evict god from his heavenly abode. Let's root him out of our lives so that we may live without looking over our shoulder for big brother’s approval. Let us tell god to recreate the genesis of another universe and leave us all alone.
 Let us build an altar of humanity and worship only human effort and human achievements. 

Better still, let’s wake up from our bubbled dream world and return to the real world where god is clearly a creation of man to ward off the fear of death and random misfortune. If it is a sense of control we desire, we can very well achieve it without altar sacrifices, tithes and offerings, prayers and fast, and pilgrimages and worship. Wealth-creation, scientific explanations and principles based on humanism are easily more logical and sound substitutes.

Mm...naturally, with this proposition comes a reservation.

Then, what's next? Having achieved a good measure of this proposition, what's next? If religion is taken out of the human equation, what will our future be? Will the equation be: Man minus god equals peace? Or man plus godlessness equals betterment?

Honestly, a world without religion may be a slippery-slope proposition. It's a gambit that stakes too much on the table. And I fear that when we lose, we may lose big. Our history has shown us to be self-seeking. It is our evolutionary fate. And being self seeking, we will do anything to make sure our interest comes first. The question is, will we be less self seeking once we get religion out of the way?

If the levee of religion breaks,
 what is going to hold us back from our most basic instinct? Will human laws be the answer? Have we reached a point of evolution where we can rely on altruistic behavior of reciprocity to overcome our savage past?

In other words, can humans govern humans in the absence of religion?  If the world is going to be ruled by a trustee of atheists, enlightened and highly celebrated, proscribing and enforcing man-made laws, how can we be sure that this same group of worldly sages would not act in their
 own interest at the expense of others? Will the top 0.1 percent come to the unconditional aid of the other 99.9 percent, if such aid threatens their livelihood, their reputation and their wealth?

Now, quite naturally, the question is, does religion then make a difference? Does religion rein in our corruptible nature, control and channel it for good? Shouldn’t a theist who lives in a glass house think twice before casting stones at an atheist? 
Because we all know that in that exalted name, many atrocities were committed. In that same name, many were deluded, deceived and finally de-converted. Even the most religious among us cannot deny that evil was very much a part of religion as was good.

But I think herein lies the difference. And let me spell it out by first putting myself in the atheist's shoes. Let me take away the most presumptuous context of religion, that is, faith. I
 know that without faith it is impossible to please God. But to an atheist, pleasing a figment of his imagination is no more self-deluded than thinking that the earth is still flat. So, let's suspend the argument that God exists. (note that I am merely suspending the debate about it and not taking it out altogether)

Leaving aside the debate about the existence of God, what good is religion? How is it more superior than humanism or atheism?

If I can name just one, it would be
 this: religion dethrones us. It sets us in our place. It reins in our most basic instinct, that is, self. A man who knows no boundaries is a man who can do anything. The boundaries of religion therefore keeps a man from believing in his own invincibility. Somehow, the belief that we are not alone, that there is a higher order of things (the Platonic ideal Forms), that the universe(s) has an origin and this origin has a specific design, and the design is the product of creative thought and indissoluble mystery, that we are where and what we are because of a purposeful convergence of elemental forces that is beyond us and beyond what our science can ever comprehend, collectively keeps us from readily taking the fate of humanity into our own hands and screwing it all up in an accidental pushing of a button marked “nuclear annihilation” (or something along those fatalistic/nihilistic lines).

What's more, history has shown that religion is very much a part of us and has molded our behavior and institutions. I cannot imagine the world today without the cradling hands of religion and the distilled moral values it impart to the world. For this reason, I choose to believe that it has done more to redeem us than to condemn us. It's not a zero-sum game. Neither is it a negative one.

Man can no doubt govern man.
 That's not the issue. The issue is, can man govern himself? To those who answers that question too quickly, there's a risk that he will be disillusioned just as quickly. He can moralize all he wants about ethics and the good life, but his morality cannot save him if he cannot save himself from himself. A woman activist once said that it is not about power over men but over ourselves that matters most. 

If power corrupts, then absolute power corrupts absolutely. For every Gandhi in this world, I can think of a dozen more Idi Amin to take his place with inhumane relish. This is the price man pays in a world without religion. It is no doubt a prize of total freedom. But it is also the price of total corruption. And this raw and hidden reality in a world without religion scares the gentle spirit out of me. Cheerz.

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