Examine the coexistence paradox of reason and religiousity in the human mind.
Discuss the parallels of religion and the state.
Question the preconceptions of the religiously minded.
Some people believe in a God. Some do not, being more like a personal system of morality; Buddhism may be classified that way. Further, theistic religion is not to be confused with the realisation that there are many things within and around people that are wonderful and mysterious, like music and beauty; the fact that some do not understand them — and they may never understand them — does not mean that such things must have a divine origin. One should fully enjoy them, but not give them a status they do not have.
But for those who do believe in a Creator, there are unfortunately some major paradoxes:
In a free society, obviously there must be no law or compulsion about what anyone can personally believe, even though their belief is wildly irrational.
The only way to live in a free society consistently — and especially, to help bring one about in the first place — is to live according to rationality.
The very essence of living free — of making all one’s own choices for oneself — involves a high sense of self–esteem and self–reliance; a rational pride in one’s own accomplishments and a strong will to manage one’s own life rationally and independently. In contrast the very essence of a religious life is that the individual subjects themselves to and prostrates themselves before an alleged supreme being, delibrately trying to enslave themselves to Him.
One is most reluctant to turn anyone away from a deeply–cherished belief; but that third point makes it formidably difficult to reconcile religion — which all agree rests upon faith, not rational analysis — with freedom — which does rest firmly upon rational analysis. The religious will have to work this paradox out for themselves.
Those profoundly committed to irrational beliefs will not change their minds but will rather be strengthened by having to think the challenge through; those with a less profound commitment may realise it is time to shed this as a fairy tale, however comforting.
By the exercise of reason, one should therefore conclude that God cannot exist; that like government He is an elaborate myth and, like government, should be regarded as such.
There is a further connection between religion, freedom, and government: Historically, the great religions have been very closely associated with government and have helped it suppress individual liberty. In the early 2000s it became widely realised how true that is of the Muslim religion; indeed one interpretation of the “terrorist” menace is that Muslim fundamentalists are determined to take over the governments of countries with nominally Muslim populations, so as to make those countries’ laws conform to their religious rules ” like the Taliban did in Afghanistan; and that they destroy “infidel” icons like the Twin Towers so as to impress their prospective supporters.
Christian hands too are by no means clean in this respect. The bond between church and state has for 1,700 years been often close, and always damaging to liberty. The organised church benefits from state power — with laws crafted to please its supporters to forbid Sunday trade, prohibit certain types of marriage and even, in the past, to compel church attendance. That power has even been used to execute and persecute heretics — both by Roman Catholic and Protestant varieties; the Pilgrims themselves came to Plymouth Colony because of state–backed religious persecution in England, yet within a few years were busy executing women who were oddball enough to get called “witches.” By state power, of course.
Likewise the state greatly benefits from church support, for preachers almost uniformly urge their flocks to obey the government’s laws and “do their duty to their country” so providing a thick veneer of morality atop what is in truth a murderous kleptocracy. The cosy relationship between the two is helped along by a quite sinister tax arrangement found in most countries. The deal is that churches are “allowed” to operate tax free, and donors to their funds can give money out of pre–tax income, provided that the church obtains government permission to be registered as a charity that will not engage in political speech of any kind. Thus, any time a preacher criticises government, they are in danger of ruining their church’s finances.
Make use of the following questions and the associated feedback to check knowledge and understanding of the topic covered in this unit.
The first basic belief is that an invisible, intangible Person created the entire Universe. However, the Universe by definition consists of everything that exists, which must therefore include God. So how did this God manage to create himself?
Right. So actually, to assert that the Universe was created by God tells us nothing at all, but merely moves the question one stage further back, leaving the question 'Who created God?' — as anticipated in the response. And to that, there is no answer. Therefore, the excursion was a logical waste of effort.
The premise of this argument is that everything has a cause, yet its conclusion is that God does not have a cause. This blatant contradiction completely invalidates the argument! If one can accept that God (who- or what-ever He is) can just be there without explanation, one must also accept that the Universe can just be there with no explanation so far uncovered.
So the visible universe could not have created itself, but its invisible Creator could? Or if you can accept that the Creator — who must, if He exists, be vastly more wonderful than his creation — just existed for ever and had no super-Creator to bring Him into existence, why not accept the much less incredible proposition that the visible Universe had no Creator?
Sometimes Christians say the resurrection of Jesus proves that God exists and that the Bible is true; and the crowning evidence for that resurrection was the empty tomb. But why could not Pilate have had the body removed?
Actually he did have a motive: Revenge. He had just been humiliated, by the leaders of the very society he had been sent to govern. He wanted to show those leaders that after all, he was still more cunning and powerful than they. So he had the body removed and disposed of precisely to show them who was 'boss', and frustrate their wish to crush the new religion.
Actually there was not — or, probably not. The Jewish leaders came to him the day after the crucifixion and asked for a guard. His reply was ambiguous: 'You have a guard'. Commentators agree he probably meant 'Very well, I will arrange a [Roman] guard' but certainly, he could have meant that. And if he did, his opportunity was ready-made.
Almost certainly the Jewish leaders did figure it out, at once — they would hardly believe the guards' excuse that they slept on duty. But they, above all, had strong motive to keep quiet and grind their teeth: they did not wish to be ridiculed as the ones whom Pilate had outwitted. As for Pilate and his guards, they would obviously not wish their malfeasance to reach Caesar's ears, and the guards would be well rewarded to ensure their silence. The disciples, meanwhile, were at first astonished but then fully credulous: they saw it as a miracle and a confirmation of their faith and never wavered, nor even thought of the possibility that Pilate was responsible.
God is claimed to be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent. Yet countless species of living things, which God presumably designed and created, can live only by killing and eating other species of living things, which God presumably designed and created. How can a designer of carnivores be full of loving kindness?
Those standards are not just human, they are supposedly divine. Jesus said he observed (presumably with sadness and empathy) when even a sparrow falls from the sky. Therefore, this response fails to account for the flagrant contradiction revealed by the question.
It is at least possible that plants do not have feelings, and so do not suffer fear and pain when killed, as the 'higher' animals obviously do. So — being omnipotent — God could easily have made everyone vegetarian. That He failed to do so, demonstrates that He is either not all-powerful, or not all-loving. Or, of course, that He does not exist at all.
That is, indeed, the orthodox answer; but it is easily the most absurd of all. Using the presumably God-given abilities of observation and reason, zoologists estimate that man appeared on Earth about one hundred thousand years ago, and certainly well within the last million years. Before then however animals — complete with fearsome teeth for slashing through the hides of victims to be eaten — roamed it for about a billion years, that is a thousand to ten thousand times longer. Dinosaurs for example were dominant for tens of millions of years before becoming extinct about sixty-four million years before the first primates even appeared.
The preceding questions refer to some alleged attributes of God, but nothing precise. So how exactly does one define “God”?
Arrogant or not, we must agree that it is impossible to define who or what God is. Therefore no further discussion is possible. But check the other answers please.
Nor can anyone else. Therefore no further discussion is possible. Check the other answers please.
Exactly. The massive superstructure of theistic religion, along with all its alleged moral obligations and persecutions and endorsements of the evil of government, are here proven to be based on nothing that can even be clearly defined! — as well as having mutually contradictory attributes. Consider this, borrowed from author George H Smith: Imagine I declare my religious belief by stating 'unies exist.' You might respond by challenging me to 'prove it!' and I might make some attempt. But actually, you would have made the wrong response. You should have asked me to 'define a unie!' because there is no point in discussing the existence of unies until we both agree and understand what unies are supposed to be. Theistic religion can be very comforting, especially as one wishes that life would last for ever, but we have now seen it to be entirely incompatible with the basic rational nature of human beings; so it has the 'comfort', alas, only of the fairy tale.
Good. For your own reassurance though, you might want to run it by a few theologians. You may be the first ever to have accomplished this. But check the other answers please.
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