Tuesday, September 11, 2007

No God but Nothing:

Why religion doesn’t matter.

It is quite remarkable that at a time when religion, known also by its more nuevo moniker, spirituality, is most unneeded, more and more, from presidential candidates to pundits, are praising its importance. The simple truth is that humanity has aged beyond the need for make believe or fairy tails, outside of child’s programming, blockbusters, and the bedroom. Recent works by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others, serve as a call to embrace this fact and shed the myths of the past.

To be fair there was a time when religion served the all important function of suppressing curiosity so real work could be done. “Why can birds fly and I not”, an inquisitive child might ask. “Because it is god’s will, now get back to harvesting”. When we lack knowledge, faith gives us the comfort of at least pretending we have answers and nothing is more human then delusion. Unfortunately, with that satisfaction comes nonsensical rules, angry deities, and the ever popular holy war.

Today however we need not find solace in the belief in belief. We actually do have answers; answers based in fancy concepts like observation and experimentation, not on flights of imagination rebranded as revelation. From how the universe began to the how rain works, we have more understanding then we can possibly ever individually understand.

The somewhat scatterbrained, and rather mean, God of Abraham shabbily constructing a man out of mud like some ill conceived piece of pottery, holds no candle to the amazing process by which complex molecules congealed and evolved over billions of years to result in our present form (that story has apples in it too!). If you think God is mysterious, try quantum mechanics. At least one admits to being somewhat probabilistic and arbitrary.

For millennia it was the priest who heard the calls of the sick, the confused, or the victim of tragedy. Outside of fringe groups and simpletons, we turn elsewhere for such things. We send the confused to school, the sick to the doctor, and ask the government, though recently as successfully as prayer, to build protections against natural disasters. We only ask the priest to tell us nice stories on the weekends, and to please keep his hands off the little children. Quite a fall from grace if you will.

If you must cling to a god as some sort of prime mover, or place holder for nature, you are of course free to do so. Unlike the religious, the secular prefer to persuade, not demand. Recognize however, the justifiable smallness of this god compared to the god of before, whom we actually fancied to control the weather.

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