Friday 17 April 2009

The empty name of God

A C Grayling always puts it so much better than I ever could:-

"The basic doctrines of the major religions have their roots in the superstitions and fancies of illiterate peasants living several thousand years ago’

What religious people mean by “god” means nothing to me beyond an incoherent cluster of concepts from which the aforesaid folk choose the subset most convenient to themselves.

But the word brings to mind the man-made phenomenon of religions, whose net effect on humanity now as throughout history has been, by a considerable margin, negative. It would be so just because of the falsity of belief; and the consequent absurdity of behaviour premised on the idea that there exist supernatural agencies who made this very imperfect world, and who have an interest in us that extends to our sex lives and what we should and should not eat on certain days, or wear, and so on. But it is worse than false: it is far too often oppressive and distorting as regards human nature, and divisive as regards human communities.

It is a frequent source of conflict and cruelty. Monstrous crimes have been committed in its name. And more often than not it has stood in the way of efforts at human liberation and progress."

(Opening paragraphs of a New Statesman article)

quedula says:
. . . and religion is even now wasting our (homo sapiens') valuable time; always inviting us to look backwards; not to learn from historical facts but to dwell on largely mythical happenings whose truth or falsity, notwithstanding centuries of study have never been revealed and never will be. Yet there are still theological colleges in England receiving public funding. Has not the time come to put an end to this nonsense? Should not mankind be putting all its efforts into planning for its future on this planet and possibly beyond; for continuing its existence, expanding its knowledge and providing answers to questions we have not yet thought to ask?


  1. I am all for learning about religion as cultural phenomenon, but they should never, ever be taught as containing historical truth (no more than say, the Arthurian legend). Evolutionism has been long proven and should be taught in school. Allowing anything else, any form of creationism is basically encouraging ignorance and in effect sabotaging the education of our youth.

  2. I quite agree. Yes, where it's of historical significance, of course we should take in religious stuff as well as secular stuff. But you're right: there's been an unhealthy obsession with mawkish religion over the ages, and now, during this century and the last, there has been far less reason for it.