Religious Intolerance

Curtis Eaves comments on the posting about Saudi textbooks preaching hatred of Christianity and the West: "There are schools (hopefully only private) in the US which teach that Christianity is the only true religion; or, for example, that the only way to heaven is by accepting Jesus Christ as one's savior. All others are lost. Why do we focus on "All religions other than Islam are false" in Saudi Arabia? It is inherent in religion that a "true believer" believes his religion to be the only true religion, and others are false.

Science is the thought paradigm which has given humanity the most. Is is because of science that we have the food production and disease control to support billions of humans. In crude terms, science is the study of "what works". However, science is modest, difficult to learn, and it's conclusions are only approximations. Science does not offer heaven. As I see the world, in the West, about 500 years ago, scientific thought nudged ahead of religion dogma, whereas, in the Arab countries, it went the other way. Science rescued the West from the arbitrariness and superstitions of priests (in the broad sense). A terrifying prospect to me is that religious thought in the US is on the rise and could again trump science. We see bits of this possibility, for example, in our president.

Religious thought leads on to warm, cogent, simple statements like the earth is flat, the sun rotates about the earth, we live in Euclidean space, life begins at conception, homosexuality exist only in humans, marriage is between one man and one woman. Though compelling in some uninformed sense, these statements are total nonsense. In fact the distinction between nonsense and knowledge is locally subtle. Only in the large does the scientific thought paradigm prevail over religion. For example, science has recently put men on the moon. What has religion been able to demonstrate? The bottom line is that organized religion is dangerous. Usually the founding precepts of a religion are pretty good. But by the time a priest (in the broad sense) has the opportunity to differentiate his flock and impose his arbitrariness and superstitions, the precepts are lost and ugliness begins to emerge. Religious wars may follow.
The sound refutation of religion (Islam and Christianity included) is science. Unfortunately, scientist are cowed by religion and do not put forth science as a belief system for living".

RH: This takes us back to the old argument about science v religion. Science does not explain the great mystery of life. Religion has made unsuccessful attempts to do so. What is happening at Stanford Memorial Church suggests that a new religious synthesis is arising. To succeed, it will have to come to terms with science. Contemporary religion is not as naive as Curtis suggests. For me, putting a man on the moon was a pointless exercise.

Jon Kofas writes: "I am in general agreement with Curtis Eaves' comments that the nature of religion is not to tolerate views that challenge its own values and world-view, though there are certainly exceptions to the rule. While the entire world remained under a religious-based societal structure and value system, Europe during the Renaissance gradually freed scientific pursuits from religion, relegating it to the domain of individual morality, personal faith, and a field worthy of study on its own without influencing empirical fields like medicine in the aftermath of the Black Death. As I have stated previously, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that human beings crave religion for a variety of reasons, including biological. Moreover, science is a form of religion based on an epistemology of empiricism and mathematics, rather than speculative thought and "spiritual intuition" which is the foundation of religion. Wasn't Isaac Newton just as fascinated with religion and the supernatural as with SCIENCE?

The real problem today, and in the past, is not the inherent nature of Islam, Judaism, Christianity or any other faith, but how religion is used by governments to send a signal to the world at the very least, and at worst how to punish or reward people who support or oppose a regime and its policies. This has been the case since the ancient times among different civilizations. There are many Americans, including Ronald Reagan's young son Ron, who feel that George Bush has been using religion for political purposes. Are Bush's references to religion, especially his claim to Bob Woodward that he takes orders from a power higher than his biological father, representative of a pluralistic society, or are they intended to cater to a narrow segment of our society? Politicized religion, a cheap weapon of political opportunists, has always had deleterious effects on society and does nothing to promote the noble and constructive sentiments that are found in all religions. From the noble Florentine Giovanni Pico della Mirandola to the Jesuit-educated Voltaire and the brilliant Bertrand Russell, western philosophers have admonished society about the intolerance of religion and its negative consequences. In these difficult times of U.S. foreign policy, different political and community leaders here and in the Middle East, from Iran to Israel to Saudi Arabia and the U.S., have used religion opportunistically to demonize the enemy, but that does not mean that religion cannot also be used to promote positive traits in human beings, in society, and in the world. People are religion!!!"

RH: Lucretius: Tantum religio poiuit suadere malorum. The use of religion by people like Stalin is an important subject. Churches give them a national network of bully pulpits.

Ronald Hilton -