Somebody I have known for quite some time, and respect enormously has requested repeatedly over the last few months for me to expand on some of the subjects I typically try to avoid in the blog.
I guess the elephant in the room is always going to be my lack of belief in any of the organised religions, and the roots of my personal opposition to them. It’s worth pointing out before I start that I would never publicly call out somebody else’s faith. Sure, I might have a thought or two privately, and I might stop listening as soon as somebody starts quoting chapter and verse, but I would never challenge their personal faith, because they obviously have their reasons to believe what they do, and who am I to try and stop them if they are doing no harm ?
So why don’t I believe in any of it ?
I tend to agree with the question Richard Dawkins forced a student to confront when she called him out on stage and asked him “what if you’re wrong?” – he explained that what she happened to believe in was an accident of the location and epoch of her birth. If she had been born either into another culture, or at another period in history, she would quite possibly have had very different beliefs. He asked her in return, what if she was wrong ?
I was brought up at a predominantly Christian infant school in the 1970s. I can still remember a hall full of fresh faced children singing “Onward Christian Soldiers, Marching us to War”… it’s depressing really. I think that particular song was banned at some point.
It’s not just the dogma, and the songs, and the parables though. It’s the idiocy of the timelines in the “Old Testament”, the books that were removed (Enoch is actually really interesting – the UFO brigade would have a field day with it), and the behaviour of all organised religions in setting out rules, and praying on the most psychologically vulnerable.
Quite how so many supposedly objective, educated, rational people cannot take a step back and begin to question at least a little of the text they are encouraged to take on faith is kind of stunning to me. I’m not sure if it’s due to apathy, laziness, or a bit of both.
Just to illustrate the point, even within the “Christian” faith, there are many different churches, interpreting different versions of the King James Bible in different ways – it’s utter madness. Also, is the Judeo Christian God a different one than the Islamic God? How about the Buddhist, Greek, or Roman Gods? I suppose you have to give the Romans some credit though – they absorbed any religion they came across – adopting Gods in order to appease without conflict.
In modern history, it’s interesting to read about the life of Gideon Mantell.
Gideon Mantell worked in Sussex in the 1820s. His hobby was geology, and following the discoveries of Mary Anning on the south coast (she of “She Sells Sea Shells on the Sea Shore” fame), he is widely credited with identifying the first Dinosaur fossils – we now know he had found the fossilised remains of an Iguanodon. Senior figures in the Anglican Church of the time worked for years to discredit him. The efforts began at the Royal Society at the time, and continued until as recently as 10 years ago, when a plate bearing his name finally moved from a side gallery of the Museum of Natural History, to the main Dinosaur exhibit. It’s also worth noting that at the same time a statue of Charles Darwin was finally moved from a dusty corner of a cafe to pride of place looking over the main hall.
The more stories you read, the more you wonder how society has managed to progress. That the likes of Ken Ham can convince so many people to listen to their ill conceived ideas about the nature of the world makes you wonder why we bother to educate children at all – or perhaps the existence of such people is why we must educate future generations.
I think perhaps a fitting way to close this post would be with a video I saw on YouTube some time ago, when an Irish television show host invited Stephen Fry to explore what he might say at the gates of heaven if there is a god.