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CHAPTER TWO

RELIGION
2.1 For hundreds of years, science and religion have had the most disconcerting of relationships. Popular Religion asserts truths that suggest Science to be just a great delusion. Science on the other hand proves itself through experimentation and empiricism, and attacks Religion at its weakest points. With the recent and on-going progressions in science it can even be argued now that religion has been made virtually redundant and that we should look to science and science alone for the answers we so dearly seek. As we become more and more advanced and knowledgeable about the world our interpretation of the universe in which we live has less and less room for superstition and faith based arguments, belief is no longer realistic if it is not accompanied by proof. There are two sources of proof that we can call upon when considering truths; the first is empiricism which states that knowledge can only come from experimentation and empirical evidence, and the second is rationalism which states that reason is the best test for knowledge and that there are significant ways in which we can gain knowledge independently of our sensory experience. Both sound logical, yet both claim priority status over the other. So, which of the two methodologies should we listen to? Well, if for example there was a conflict in the explanation of a particular phenomenon then what better to call upon than empirical evidence; something that has proven its truth through vigorous testing. There is no doubt that

empiricism has its seat anchored a touch higher than that of rationalism, and that is why it plays such a crucial role in the scientific method. There is also no doubt however that rationalism is also an invaluable arbiter in the endless quest for knowledge. There is too much of significance that empiricism has not its grasps upon to discount rationalism; inquiry, logic, scepticism and even morality play compelling roles in the determination of political, social and cultural affairs. In order for us to build an accurate and appreciative perspective of the world we must look to empiricism when able, and recess to rationalism when dazed. Nonetheless, empiricism does a great job on its own; science would not stand as it does today without it. The incorporation of empiricism into the scientific method gives both its admirers and practitioners great confidence in its discoveries. Science has seemingly solved the problem of truth and banished religion to the underbelly of intelligent thinking. It is largely no longer considered cogent and plausible to follow popular religion, there is ostensibly no need for it as we now have a much better source of information than religious texts could have ever given us. But should religion be shackled for its weakness? Perhaps it is just religions unwavering loyalty to its doctrine that keeps it restrained. After all, there is value to be taken from nearly all religions; yes, they have got a few things wrong about the world and yes, they have caused great suffering to those who have opposed them, but I think the root cause for this lies not in religion, but in arrogance, ignorance and misinterpretation. What we need is a religion that emphasizes the wonder of the universe and supports science as it unfolds its mysteries one by one. I thoroughly believe that with an appropriate and logical attitude to what religion is and to what it has to offer, science and religion can exist with indifference to each other, peacefully and without contradiction.

2.2 So what is religion? What are its aims and why is it here? At first glance we can see that religion consists of a set of fundamental principles that exhibit morals and ethics. In turn, these principles are to be used in order to lead a good life. As we delve deeper though we begin to see much more than just a combination of ethical statutes, but a philosophy that seeks answers to the most elementary of questions, all in reverence of humanity. These questions largely concern the existence of the universe and the meaning of human life. In its past, religion has sought to add value to human life unnecessarily, often using metaphorical analogies and oversimplifications of complex and confounding ideas. We, as the practitioners, misinterpret these ideas and over time they flower into the eccentric stories that we find in books such as the Bible and the Quran. Science, on the other hand, takes a much more considerate approach. Just as scientists claim that the best theories are simple ones, science itself is the most simplest of ideas. It is an effort to organize knowledge in such a way that we can build a verifiable perception of the universe in which we inhabit. Science, just as religion, is a philosophy. In fact until recently the words science and philosophy were so tightly associated that they were used interchangeable. When one really considers the two philosophies for their inner most cores of motive, one realises how the two both simply strive to explain nature so that we can live a more comprehensive and understood life, and therefore a better life. It was Einstein himself who told us: Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind. Ideally, religion and science should be able to work together in combining philosophical and analytical ideas to answer questions unknown; and in doing so combining the methods of

empiricism and rationalism. The reasons that this has not yet been achieved are twofold; one is that much of science sees religion as a natural enemy, and the other is that religion has a bit of a problem with critical analysis; it takes scripture at face value and calls the reasoning supporting it faith. Science works in such a way that it assumes that nothing is predetermined before examination and because of this it will always reject arguments based on faith alone. 2.3 So far I have shown religion as in the dim shadow of science, but I maintain that there is great value to be taken from many, if not all of the worlds greatest and most prominent religions. To be thorough about our analysis, let us first take the two largest theistic religions which together make up 54% of the worlds population and critique them in regards to their views on God and on life. First, Islam, which takes up; Well, Islam clearly has a main focus in its doctrine; a vast majority of the substance of Islam resides in its view of God, or Allah. It teaches; that God is beyond all comprehension and that one should not be expected to visualize such a God, that ones purpose of existence is to love and serve God by devoting and submitting ones complete self to God, that the universe and everything in it was brought into existence from creation by God, that their holy book, the Quran, is the literal word of God and is therefore to be considered gospel, that humans are greater than all other living things due to the attribute of free will (yet they believe this will to be bound within the restraints of their Gods commands), that at the end of ones life one will be subject to judgement to determine ones eternal fate, and of course the five pillars of Islam; Shahadah (confession of faith), Salat (obligatory worship and prayer), Sawm (fasting during Ramadan), Zakat (alms giving) and Hajj (obligatory pilgrimage to Mecca).

When you read about Islam, this is what you find, no precession of sentiment or appreciation of the beauty of nature, just an effortless command by God to create a world filled with beings created for the one task of worshiping and being judged by their creator. To me, this God sounds more like a dictator than a supreme being. Unfortunately, Christianity improves little on Islam, its core beliefs being; that through the acceptance of Jesus Christ as God the Father one will achieve salvation and eternal life, belief in the holy trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), belief in the second coming, belief in the day of judgement, the ten commandments, the Golden Rule, and belief in eternal life in either the bliss of heaven or the suffering of hell. Islam and Christianity prove dominantly the greatest misnomer that theistic religions have committed in their astounding misinterpretation of ideas; that is, that God has a personality and that he watches, judges and even cares for them in a personal manner, that he is a supreme being whose judgement determines every cause and effect within the world. At the very least this is a destructive and unhealthy belief that can only lead to an unfulfilled and harmful life for both the synergist and the antagonist. At a mere glance and a tiny measure of thought, we can see that the feud between Christianity and Islam arises in the Christian misinterpretation of taking Jesus as the literal son of God. Just as all living things are the product of nature; Jesus, as are all things, is the offspring of God. 2.4 Not all of religion shares the same stance as Christianity and Islam however. If we look to the next two largest religions, which make up another 20% of the earths population, we see a very different picture.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism are religions based purely on intellectual and philosophical ideas; there is no rigid set of belief, just a long and historical succession of tradition. Hinduism can be traced back to over 5000 years ago and did not spring into existence like the religions of Jesus and Muhammad; it grew slowly out of the beliefs and practices of ancient tribes. Followers of both Hinduism and Buddhism may have absolute freedom in their beliefs and worship; they teach that the entire world is a family that worship the same one truth with varying perceptions. The creed that follows this view is that there can be no division of identity, no blasphemy, no apostasy, no heresy and no eternity of punishment. A Hindus apprehension of God may be unique to the individual as each person is encouraged to discover their own answers in their own personal quest for truth. Despite the popular understanding that Hindus recognise many Gods, they do not. Instead, the many Gods (the most conspicuous of which being Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva and Ganesh) are merely expressions of the one true God, they are neither personal nor judgemental beings, but simply an expression of things like creation and preservation. The one true God is called Brahman and it is simply an unchanging reality that exists throughout and beyond the universe. It is the supreme soul of the world and can be thought of as a combination of pure being, bliss and consciousness. Throughout and amid history the question of the origin of the universe has been more mysterious and conceptual than any other; Hinduism does not bid to supply an answer to this question in the way that fundamental religions have done, they assert the word God not to a supreme being that created the universe but to the beautiful and eternal reality that the universe exists at all. Buddhism on the other hand does not speak of any belief in a God who created and controls humanity; in fact some would argue that Buddhism is not a religion in the usual sense at all,

instead it is a science of the mind that aims to acquaint its followers about how to end suffering and govern fear. It is the practical use of activities, which would usually be considered as religious, in a practical and useful way so that one may train oneself towards the path of liberation. In achieving liberation, or enlightenment as it is commonly known as, one may learn to understand Bodhi. Bodhi is the knowledge of the true nature of all beings, that everything in existence arises in dependence upon many factors, nothing can exist as an independent entity. The essence of Hinduism and Buddhism is not a belief in God, it is about following ethical precepts, gaining wisdom, developing mindfulness and following the path to liberation. It does not deal with impossible truth nor does it seek to control its followers. It simply aspires to lend guidance to those seeking emancipation and peace. 2.5 So, we have examined the worlds four largest religions, which encompass almost 75% of the earths human population, and have found very contrasting viewpoints. Following I shall list these viewpoints so that we may determine which may further the human condition, and also those which may be detrimental to the human condition. The two fundamental religions shall be grouped, followed by the two non-fundamental religions.

Islam and Christianity Obligatory Islamic law Testimony to Allah Obligatory personal communication to Allah (prayer five times a day)

Religious obligation to give 2.5% of your earnings to the poor Gratitude for ones dependence on Allah Total submission to Allah Belief in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Belief in the second coming Belief in the day of judgement The 10 commandments The Golden Rule Belief in eternal afterlife in heaven or hell

Hinduism and Buddhism Complete freedom in doctrine Daily ethics Moral purification The law of cause and effect The path to liberation The yoga practices of love, moral action, meditation and wisdom The path for ethics and concentration Belief that all beings should have happiness Belief that all beings should be free of suffering Belief that all beings should never be separated from bliss Belief that all beings should be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger

I really have tried not to be bias myself here, but these really are the attributes that these religions have to offer. In plain comparison, it is astronomically confounding as to why someone with freedom of choice would choose to follow the path of Islam over Buddhism for example. Of course, most of those who follow these paths do not have freedom of choice at all; they are indoctrinated at an age too youthful to take advantage of what they call their God given free will. 2.6 The axioms of Hinduism and Buddhism clamour with sentiment and fervour, ever expressing the hopes and desires that one may enhance their being. It cannot be said that the beliefs of such religions are not benign to the evolution of our species and that their creeds should not be taken as philosophical importance, if not essential culture. The only thing I could possibly have quarrel with is that while complete freedom in ones beliefs is a welcoming concept, I would argue that ones beliefs remain well within the realms possibility, that they do not conflict with science, and that they in some way can be advocated by either empiricism or rationalism. The problems of religion clearly lay with the fundamentals; obligatory belief and submission to God is detrimental to the human condition. It tells us that we cannot think for ourselves, that we must be scorned and judged and that we have no privacy or rights. It invokes fear and servitude in those who believe, and ultimately disappointment when ones prayers are not answered. Islam conspicuously seems to relish the idea of obligation, even their alms giving is a mandatory practice. We should not need an obligation to give to the poor. Charity should be ingrained into society and into both religious and non-religious ethics. Even the 10

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commandments are filled with citations of control and submission, and need not I go into the Holy Bible and its texts, let alone the Quran. When I think of these texts I am always reminded of a particular quote from Professor Richard Dawkins, it goes as follows; The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully. You may think at first that Dawkins has over stepped the line here, perhaps he has been absolved in a hatred for religion. Well, there is a simple test for this, pick up a copy of the Holy Bible and start reading. I suggest starting right at the beginning, theres some great substance in there. Every adjective used by Dawkins in this quote will be completely and utterly justified within 30 minutes of reading. There is one Christian teaching however that I consider to be greater than any other, the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule simply states, love your brother as yourself, and this is the key. It tells us that we should love every person as we love ourselves, because others are ourselves. We are all one in this experience, each one of us experiencing the same life subjectively and individually. While your human life may end, there is no such thing as death; there is only the transient flux of life. Throughout this book I will explain fully the true meaning of what I have said above and what I say next; Nature exists through possible necessity, everything is a part of Nature, and Nature is a part of everything; there is no individual thing that can exist without the whole of Nature, and for this reason we must all seek the truth as one and without quarrel.

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2.7 Before I sum up, we have to consider one of the most flourishing yet omitted belief systems of all; atheism. A representative of atheism will nearly always tell you that it is not a religion, and I can understand their footing when they say this. Sure, there is not belief in Gods or worship in atheism, in fact it is quite the opposite. But then, Buddhism does not include these beliefs either. If you consider religion as an organized collection of beliefs that refer to humanity, then I think that atheism (or at least science) can be considered just as much of a religion as Buddhism is. Just as Christianity gives respect to God and explains worldly phenomena in regards to the supernatural, science gives respect to the universe and explains worldly phenomena in regards to the natural. Science and atheism show us a rational and structured way to organize our beliefs so that we can rely not on superstition and fear but on testable and accurate information. The fundamental element of atheism is a disbelief in the existence of dieties, a diety being a supernatural or divine being. Now clearly you cannot scientifically disprove something like God (at least we havent been able to yet), but when claiming the existence of something, the claimant is bestowed with the burden of proof for that existence, not the adversarys. The actuality is that in the 21st century the belief in a vindictive personal God is just not rational. There are many engrossing and fascinating questions that deluge upon both philosophy and natural science, some of which we may never know the answers to, the existence of an autonomous supreme being however is not one of them.

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With the disbelief of God, atheism exhibits a certain level of criticism towards religion; in fact this is something that atheism often takes on with pride, and one can understand the position of the atheist. They see the truth as a beauty that should be shared throughout the world, they pride themselves on their truths and are equally shameful of untruths. In summary we can derive that science and atheism can teach us the following:

Science and atheism Organized knowledge of the world based on evidence Rational and considered theories about the universe Rationally applicable information The pursuit of knowledge Explanations of the phenomena of the material universe Reliable and teachable knowledge The disbelief in the existence of supernatural deities Sceptical inquiry Criticism of religion and supernatural claims

If one was to follow a religion in the year 2013 and beyond, such a religion would need to fulfil all of these points except criticism by necessity. A faith based religion just is not satisfactory anymore, we have grown beyond that standard and continue to grow ever higher, and so we must not let ourselves be restricted by archaic beliefs and enigmatic claims. Science and rationalism are what should operate as the basis for such a religion.

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2.8 In review of the belief systems that we have viewed, it is clear that three main trends occur. These are teachings based upon personal development, teachings based upon factual belief, and teachings based on control. In idealizing a religion that we can all follow without altercation and contradiction we must abolish any belief that is based on control and approbate beliefs that we recognize as beneficial to the evolution of humanity. Through rational and appreciative thought we arrive at the following conclusions. We do not need a religion that promotes a God who demands devotion and servitude to all of its followers. We do not need a religion that obliges us to futile practices and pilgrimages in fear of suffering and torment. We do not need a God that marginalises and inhibits equality, and we do not need to be taught beliefs that are devoid of all provable, rational and credible reasoning. What we do need is a religion that promotes and ingrains a doctrine of ethical and moral precepts, a religion that provides its followers with loving guidance towards happiness and liberation. We need a religion that teaches practices of love, morality and wisdom, a religion of sceptical enquiry that questions everything and adapts with further discoveries. We need a view of God that is comprehensible and complies with science and reasoning. We need a religion that is free from obligatory religious law, which does not induce fear in its followers, and that actuates grit, gut, ambition and love. We need a religion that teaches people that we are all one and all equal in this life. We need a religion that we can trust. Composed following is a list of points that would comprise a beneficial doctrine.

An ideal religion should:

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Advocate complete freedom in belief and doctrine so long as they do not contradict science and possibility.

Promote a zealous conduct featuring an innate set of ethical precepts. Promote a belief which states that all life is equal in its magnificence. Advocate meditative practice in an effort to end suffering and to achieve liberation and happiness.

Promote a belief that all beings should be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.

Advocate organized knowledge and rationally applicable information. Accept change and honour cognition. Promote sceptical enquiry so that people may find sense in questioning things in the ultimate quest for knowledge.

Promote a belief that we are all aspects of Nature and so we should love others as we love ourselves.

Promote a belief in an all-encompassing, immanent reality called God, which is synonymous with the universe and nature, and not divinity.

Consider fundamental religions as outdated and invalid belief systems but not criticize.

Promote a belief that through liberation we can fully understand the nature of existence and life and that God is not something that is beyond all comprehension.

Needless to say, if everyone aligned themselves with these principles, the world would no short of instantaneously become a better place. Unfortunately it is not as easy as that; for some reason we still choose to ignore reason for superstition, have we really been so thoroughly indoctrinated that we have lost all of our acumen. I choose to believe not, for me

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it is just a matter of time until we begin to realise that a blanket was once pulled over our eyes. Is only a matter of time until we choose not to live in fear and strive to become our true potentialities. We were given great gifts as human beings, I believe we will soon take a hold of these gifts and become the race we ought to be. What must come first though, is a philosophy, a set of ethics, principles, and perhaps a religion.