Yesterday something unusual happened in my Swedish home – a strong stench pervaded near the kitchen, and I could smell it across the room. After investigating for a while, it was found that one of the eggs had gone bad, and it was indeed the obnoxious Hydrogen Sulphide from a rotten egg. To single out the culprit, we had to boil a few suspects, and the rotten one was discovered as it blew up itself in the pot, and was all black inside.
This detour is to relate to my notion that religions should have had an expiry date. After these many centuries, I was hoping that 21st century would be the time when religion would go obsolete. Instead of going obsolete, religion has expired and turned into something stronger and more dangerous, in the form of vile fundamentalism. It’s stench pervades across the globe now.
As I had to boil some of the eggs to find out which one was the culprit, combating religious fundamentalism might require us to scrutinise all religions, and their believers.
I engage with a wide spectrum of religious people – ranging from the seemingly spiritual to the frankly fanatics. I am of the opinion that religion in its mainstream form, that relies on blind faith is a deterrent to intellectual well being of individuals, groups involved and world at large.In an interview with Mehdi Hassan, Richard Dawkins was cornered with a question “Do you think religious believers are intellectually inferior?”, and Dawkins ducked down and said “No”. But, I certainly think that in the department of logic and reasoning, and hence in the methods of scientific inquiry, religious believers, who endorse supernaturalism in one or the another form are intellectually inferior. They might be better than me in many other things, but in rational thought – nope!
It gets frustrating at times that some of the people we care about, or we might otherwise admire are bogged down in blind faith.
To me there are three gradual techniques to help me deal with the spectrum of believers, and for them to get over their blindness. Hence, the title of the post.
One of the seemingly sane reason given by a whole section of believers is that religion makes them experience the grandiosity that is super natural, beyond human imagination. I usually do not understand what one might experience to feel all spiritual. But, you could try showing them the latest Hubble Space telescope pictures, or the functioning of a cell, or show them how Kreb’s cycle is the same across all aerobic organisms to produce energy. Or even better, tell them how each one of us is star dust!
These are thoughts and ideas that humble me down, and take me through a mental journey where I am lost, and want to stay pondering in these joyous ideas as if in a meditative trance.
In my experience, the ones who are compelled to blind faith by nurture find inspiration through nature worthwhile to gain sight, away from the blind faith.
Not everyone understands Science. Most of the examples I gave above were scientific. Amusingly, some people admire all that I said above, and then flip the argument and cite the grandeur of the God who set all of it into motion!
In such cases, you could help them walk through the landmine of religious fallacies. All religion is built on inconsistent logic, and is enriched by a mosaic of centuries of imaginative, human ignorance. With a handful of questions, your inquiry will lead a believer shooting at his/her own feet.
Although this is sometimes hard when done to a person you care about, it must be done all the more imperatively, because you care about that person!
Inquiry will help you deal with blind faith, if the person is aware of the construct of logic and reasoning. Because we are dealing with people who believe, because they ought to believe it might not be an effective strategy. Sometimes, I have the sensation of bumping my head hard into an impervious wall of ignorance when debating with a class of theists. In such cases, at least to instigate a conversation, and grab the attention of the subjects under consideration, you could resort to satire. I use it effectively, at the risk of offending and unfriending a soul or two (actually tens of them). Nonetheless, it is better than being a spectator while the extreme versions of believers go on killing cartoonists and rationalists.
If you can’t handle satire about something, it should be seen as a lacuna in your rationality. I can to some extent understand why satire can be offensive – the closest I get to being offended by satire, or criticism is when someone who does not know about the solace A R Rahman has brought to me all my life criticises his music. But, I can handle it without blowing up people or ransacking art galleries.
Engaging with religion of all kinds is important to keep the rot from worsening.
And, if it was already not evident, I am a vocal critique of all religions! I am an atheist by all means, and also an anti-theist, when theism interferes with the functioning of the world.