Tuesday, December 14, 2010

ZenTiger Imagine a world with no religion - Part I

Imagine a world with no religion

The challenge has been made many times before, perhaps most eloquently by John Lennon in his song Imagine. I've always liked the song for its sentiment, although it sounds like the brochure for Marxism and Communism. It's a song that exemplifies "be careful what you wish for" because we've seen some very clear examples (Stalin's Russia, Mao's China and Kim's DPRK) of the nirvana offered by the State in the abolition of property, equality in wages and the attempt to wipe out religion because it is seen as a threat to the state.

Once (after the Beatles split) Lennon reportedly disparaged Paul McCartney's songs as being nothing more than "silly love songs" because John and Yoko were preoccupied by world peace and all that important stuff. So Paul McCartney responded with his hit Silly Love Songs and I think that is a better blueprint for world peace than "Imagine" will ever be. Go have a listen to it.

In another sense, we could have looked at the song Imagine as a preview on Heaven, but his opening verse rules out that interpretation. So apparently, we can all live as saints as long as there are no countries, religion and property. Ironically, two songs later on the Imagine album, John is apologising to Yoko for being a Jealous Guy (great song too BTW). John Lennon, with his blueprint for happiness in Imagine, ends up confessing to his human frailties. Nothing in Imagine addressed the root causes of sin, of which Jealous Guy is an example. Misuse of political power is really just an amplification of personal sin, institutionalized. But I digress.

I'll take LRO's challenge and imagine a world with no religion. I've come up with four main lines of discussion, so I'll deliver this post in 4 parts. Here is part one.

Imagine a world with no religion.

Firstly, what do people mean by "religion". I suspect atheists such as LRO simply want the belief in God to stop. After all, that's the cause behind wars and strife is it not?

Would it stop Greenies making a religion of environmentalism, and demanding population controls, euthanasia, and campaigns against people that don't follow their prescription for life on planet earth? Would this stop communists deciding some citizens are better off in the gulags? Would it stop State controlled economies keeping people in poverty and killing them off by starvation, like North Korea? Would it stop rampant, unfettered capitalism that would see the creation of monopolies and the reduction of people into mere economic expressions of humanity? No, "but it would be a start", is perhaps what they would argue. I suspect the attack on Christianity (in particular) from atheists isn't a start, but merely a continuation of a completely different problem, but I'm not here to discuss that today.

No religion means no philosophy and no independent thought
The definition of religion, at its most basic could be considered "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs." [ref]

People believe in God because they are capable of independent and free thought. They are capable of philosophy. After consideration, many have arrived at the conclusion that the Universe has been created by an intelligent, omnipotent being or force we have called "God". That the Universe exists is more than random, blind chance and more than laws of physics that simply exist and therefore create Universes as a consequence of existing.

This is not the thread to outline the philosophical works that successfully argue for a Creator, it is enough to acknowledge they exist. To stop people reaching a conclusion that there is an entity called "God" I think you'd have to have a world without philosophy, and a world without independent thought.

Even so, the freedom to have incorrect thoughts (if atheists are correct) would have to cease to exist. To kill God, you need to kill philosophy. The God question is not a question science can answer.

I think the best example we can see of a society where such 'independent thought' doesn't interfere with "the natural order" the atheist desires is an ant colony. It would be a boring existence, unless you were the most ardent of Marxists.

The atheists solution to religion is more education. Education about science, because the visible and invisible can supposedly be explained by science. However, I disagree. Science deals with things of this Universe, not outside it. When it tries to move outside it, it becomes as theoretical as God, and only dogmatic insistence that scientific guesswork is more correct than philosophical guesswork on such matters makes the scientist look a little foolish. Many intelligent, well educated people, (and that includes notable scientists) have come to the conclusion that there is some kind of God out there. There need be no conflict between science and God.

To deny God is to deny creative thinking. If there was ever a sign of God, it is perhaps found in humans, who, in his image, are capable of abstract and creative thought. As a dim reflection of God, we can create ideas out of nothing, and then manifest those ideas into the physical world by manipulation of the elements and laws of physics that govern our Universe. Destroy this at your peril.

15 comment(s):

Danyl said...

In North Korea Kim Il-Sung (who died in 1994) is still their 'eternal president'. Newly wed couples lay flowers at the foot of his statues, and celebrate his 'never-ending life'. I don't think they've got the hang of the whole 'imagine there's no religion' concept.

ZenTiger said...

Well that completely unravels my whole argument.

Oh, hang on. Calling a man God. Maybe not.

ZenTiger said...

(Yes, I know Jesus has managed this, but Kim will have to try a bit harder). Then there's the whole "Green Religion" thing, and other forms of Religion that don't explicitly involve God, but instead elevate things to God-like status.

I'm not sure that is the main issue that people like LRO rail against, but I was going to cover this in a different line of discussion, but your comment was good because I'll make sure to address it further than I intended.

But don't let that stop a few comments now. All grist for the mill.

Danyl said...

I think the best critique of 'Imagine' comes from simply watching the music video, in which Lennon invites us to 'imagine there's no possessions' while playing a grand piano inside the music room of his gigantic mansion.

ZenTiger said...

Yep, can't argue with that.

(And I have a feeling discussing the Lennon song might draw more comments than the central topic of the post. I'm so glad I find that funny rather than depressing)

Lex said...

I’m not sure that I understand your assertion here. You make the point that people believe in God because they are capable of independent and free thought. But later you state that to deny God is to deny creative thinking. This reads as a one-to-one relationship. In order to rationalize the existence of God and choose to adopt a belief, one must be able to think. I get that. But surely a denial of God by an individual may come about through exactly the creative thinking that leads others to believe?

Secondly you talk of two things as if they were one (or at least that is the impression I take as a reader). You refer to religion, and you speak of God (in the Christian sense). I’d be interested in how you see your comments applying to the other two religions originating from Judaism – Judaism itself and Islam. Further, how would your comments be applied to the various other belief systems alive around the world today, including the Eastern religions?

Your analogy of an ant colony is interesting. One might use that analogy in another way – that a set of rules, unquestioned, will be adopted and followed. This then leads us to ask whether aspects of our behavior and belief systems are based on norms learned through the environment within which we are raised. A young girl receiving her First Communion may believe in God, but has not yet matured intellectually to a point where she can rationalize it. A child of five may believe in Father Christmas, but only because this belief has been learned through his upbringing, not through philosophy.

Many philosophers are and were atheists - Friedrich Nietzsche is an obvious example. We are free to agree or disagree with the religious criticisms of such thinkers, but to conclude that their denial of the existence of God is also a denial of creative thinking is a nexus I cannot see.

As a small diversion, I appreciate your reference to John Lennon’s “Imagine” and its purpose to segue into your piece, but should point out that Lennon himself commented on the use of the words “no religion too”. The song was about aspects of society that are divisive and contribute to discord. His reference to property played the same role. Lennon would rather have explained that he meant different denominations and different belief systems (the then current “Troubles” in Northern Island and Middle East conflict being examples of discord with a religious relationship), but within the constraints of a tune he used the word “religion”. It was not his intention to suggestion a world entirely free of religious belief systems, but rather a desire for a world in which religious belief systems are not a reason for conflict. We grapple with the same issue to this day.

ZenTiger said...

Great comment [name remains hidden to protect the innocent], but the thing has disappeared or my browser has flipped. I'm between flights at the moment so will address it in full later (assuming it manifests itself).

One quick response to one point:

I’m not sure that I understand your assertion here. You make the point that people believe in God because they are capable of independent and free thought. But later you state that to deny God is to deny creative thinking.

Sorry, I'm doing a John Lennon. Say one thing, mean something entirely else. (this line requires the context of the full comment, hope it comes back)

I merely meant that to deny the possibility of God is to deny philosophy and creative thinking. Part of that creative thinking is to certainly arrive at any conclusion, not just God, so yes, this includes deciding to be an atheist.

Anonymous said...

Good topic, I am trying to find time to address your points with consideration for both the arguments and their proponent.

Let me just say first up, I won't be relying on John lennon as a major source.

Lex said...

Thanks for the clarification (so far). Your response makes sense and resolves that little point.

I hope the rest of my post returns.

Lucia Maria said...

Hi Lex,

Your comment was in the Spam Filter. Sorry about that (it's not us, it's Blogger that puts comments there). I just had to mark it as Not Spam, and back it comes!

Libertyscott said...

My fundamental point is that it doesn't matter whether people personally believe in supernatural entities or not - it is the philosophical belief that human beings have no inherent rights to exist for their own purpose, but they exist as the means to the end of a "grand plan", that has created the rivers of blood in history.

All totalitarianism is inspired by the idea that individuals do not have the fundamental right to exist as a purpose in and of themselves and to pursue their own objectives - they all seek submission to something bigger.

ZenTiger said...

Sorry folks, away for a few days. Will post over the week-end, when I'm back.

If I survive the mossies.

Here's a great method for detecting them. Lights on = apparently hardly any. Lights off (just had a power failure) but laptop screen on, and they start landing on the screen every few seconds in the dozens. I'm going to get eaten alive tonight.

LS - Yes, all religions are not equal, like all political systems are not equal.

Like some political systems, they may be totalitarian or they may be manipulated to becomes so. But that is the same with most things.

As for respecting human life, and individuals not having a fundamental right to exist as a purpose in and of themselves - some religions extend that to the unborn and the recently born, not to mention are focused on the individual in every sense, for the betterment of the individual.

Sometimes, the things we submit to are our desires and wants rather than our needs (physical and spiritual) and it can distract us from seeing that there is something bigger. :-)

ZenTiger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lucia Maria said...


sounds like you need to get yourself a "Mortein odourless mozzie zapper" plug with mat refills!

ZenTiger said...

Usually the adverts are in the sidebar :-)

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