10 May 2007

Harmless nonsense



Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, when asked how the world might have changed, Richard Dawkins responded in the Guardian:

“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!”

In recent times the discussion of religion has always meant that conversations have ended with statements like – this is my belief you cannot question it. Internationally, too people are discovering their identities through religion while killing the Other – those who do believe in some other religion. It is this trend that makes George Bush declare a “Crusade” and thousands of young people ready to sacrifice their lives for “Jihad”.

Growing up, my friends and I never bothered about religion. In fact, it was fashionable to wear T-Shirts which said –“If God exists that is His problem” and “God is late, he is still trying to find parking space”. People used to laugh back then. This is not a secular – I respect all religions - bullshit. We used to question people about why they believed in God. It was OK not to go to your place of worship. It was actually cool. One of the few reasons I liked the eighties.

Twenty years later (Ok now you know when I went to school), I am a misfit. I still do not believe in God (and I’m sure He does not in me) but people I meet are pretty religious. And it is not the case that those I meet are all old fuddy duddies. I’m talking about people in their twenties. For all the other stupid things they do (drunken driving, watch cricket matches on their mobile, pay ten bucks for sweetened polluted water) I cannot fathom when did they think it was cool to to become religious?

The net result is that today young people see religion as a good thing and refuse to accept that their religion is responsible for many of the problems today (Much like scientists who refuse to accept the fallout of theoretical research on modern warfare). In fact, hardly anyone analyses their own religion anymore – they just blame the other religions for the problems. And inspite of all the “convent education” they start judging people on the basis of their religion(actually they have many factors to judge people – caste, colour, race, sex – you will fail their test somewhere).

Recently two writers Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have written books on the negative impact of religion on society today. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and The God Delusion.

Try and read them. It will open our minds into questioning those beliefs that tearing apart our society today.

Cartoon courtesy: www.gapingvoid.com

Update :Read this review of Hitchens book on NY Times

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think there is no-one who would dispute that religion has often been the root cause of many of the world's problems...the point is does that make god irrelevant? it may make religion irrelevant...
blake i understand once said that if the devil did not exist the author of the poem - pardise lost- would have to invent him...
sometimes i wonder whether the so called rational people in this world need to create some demon of their own to make sense for senselessness/senseless acts - lets blame god, lets kill gandhi (yes the chaddiwalas think they are rational too)ect...and hitchens may never raise a finger to help anyone but he will go after teresa of calcutta...the left has often justified its own moralities, sense of righteousness etc with statements that reek of the same 'religiousity' they accuse religious people of...interesting because may of the ideas that formed the left's intitial ideas were either entirely judeo-christian or reactions to judeo-christianity....

Shyam said...

Interestingly, just finished listening to (the audiobook of) the Good Delusion. Can't say I agree with everything he says ,but it is definitely an unfortunate choice of title. Personally I like it but I can't imagine giving it to a religious person & hope him/ her to approach the book with an open mind. But then it is probably only meant to target the converted alone. Maybe an "'Atheist's Bible" -- and "god" knows we need one. More seriously, I wish there were a way to make every religious scientist" go through this book so that they could confront the duplicity of their beliefs.