Dogma: a principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as incontrovertibly true.
As mentioned previously, the bottom line of being truthful must be the improvement of the human condition and wellbeing. I see this as the highest of values and religious dogma as one of the worst ways to go about it.
Just because it provides comfort does not mean it’s true, nor that it should be pursued.
I was devastated when I found out that Santa Claus did not exist and lived in denial for a while. But guess what, I not only survived but also got to grow (up) with that knowledge. It made me value more my parents’ efforts so I could tear up wrapping paper in wondrous excitement. Alas, knowledge made me more mature.
In order to grow, (and paraphrasing Christopher Hitchens) Mankind needs to outgrow its fables and child-like superstitions. The pursuit of comfort and ease of mind through religious dogma – which has arrogance and self-righteousness as by-products – leads away from this endeavour.
Isn’t it amazing how all gods are false except for the particular one we’ve been brought up with?
Virtue and Humility
I find religion to be fertile territory for intellectual laziness – arrogant claims to having all the answers, gives people permission to stop thinking. Religion was a great idea to dictate behaviour and control the masses. It answered ALL questions, inevitably culminating with a holier-than-thou “It is God’s will!”
How humble is it to claim knowing God’s purposes? It’s not. It’s lazy, condescending and dangerous.
What would be the joy of having all the answers? There would be neither meaning nor purpose. Living in absolute certainty of all is a path to no thought; no curiosity; no debate; no innovation.
The search for answers, that intellectual pursuit – based on reason, logic, offering hypotheses and trying to disprove them – is all that matters because it will take us closer to find how the world really works. It will take us closer to the ‘truth’, closer to that which is, not that which we wish it to be.
However, the current lack of credible answers; our innate necessity to have some, any; our repugnance to say “I don’t know!”; and the fear of the unknown keeps us clutching to fixed ‘religious truths’. Within these, ‘proof’ lies in millennial books (apparently written by the Creator(s) of the universe); personally held beliefs; and whatever the religious guru says.
Easier is not better and believing without proof is not virtue, just gullibility.
All the “evils” in the world (a.k.a.: actions that hinder human flourishing) can be traced back to religion – its belligerent imposition on others; subjugation of fellow men; censorship to free enquiring; curtailing of personal freedoms; disregard for secular rule of law.
There are those who argue that without religion there would be no morality. The arrogance of such a statement… “You can’t be moral without my God”. That makes every single person on earth amoral in the eyes of somebody else.
Does it mean that before religion we were just vicious creatures with no regard for the wellbeing of our peers? Is it only when, as children, we’re indoctrinated into the religious truths that we learn the Golden Rule? How did we, as a species, get this far before the ‘creation’ of religion?
When it comes to morality, there is right and there is wrong. The intersection of these opposites though, is not unanimous – for me, genital mutilation is utterly wrong, but not to the imam and not to the rabbi; wedding grown men to 7 year old girls, honour killings, women as property of men is wrong but again, the imam disagrees with me.
Once again, I propose that this baseline is established on the thoughts, words and deeds that promote human wellbeing.
People like Sam Harris argue that science has a say with regards to morality and its argumentation – how we can set a generally accepted moral framework based on facts. I lack the intellectual acumen to fully understand how it can be done, but I have an utter belief, that it is possible for science and its method to eventually answer such questions.
This belief, rather than being based on dogma, stands on scientific breakthroughs throughout history, that relentlessly broke the then “impossible” barriers, which forever changed the way we now see and understand the world.