Sunday, September 18, 2011

Recommended article: BBC News, A Point of View: Can Religion Tell Us More Than Science?

BBC News, A Point of View: Can Religion Tell Us More Than Science? 
Too many atheists miss the point of religion, it's about how we live and not what we believe, writes John Gray.

I don't belong to any religion, but the idea that religion is a relic of primitive thinking strikes me as itself incredibly primitive.

In most religions - polytheism, Hinduism and Buddhism, Daoism and Shinto, many strands of Judaism and some Christian and Muslim traditions - belief has never been particularly important. Practice - ritual, meditation, a way of life - is what counts. What practitioners believe is secondary, if it matters at all.

The idea that religions are essentially creeds, lists of propositions that you have to accept, doesn't come from religion. It's an inheritance from Greek philosophy, which shaped much of western Christianity and led to practitioners trying to defend their way of life as an expression of what they believe.

This is where Frazer and the new atheists today come in. When they attack religion they are assuming that religion is what this western tradition says it is - a body of beliefs that needs to be given a rational justification.

...Evangelical atheists who want to convert the world to unbelief are copying religion at its dogmatic worst. They think human life would be vastly improved if only everyone believed as they do, when a little history shows that trying to get everyone to believe the same thing is a recipe for unending conflict.

We'd all be better off if we stopped believing in belief. Not everyone needs a religion. But if you do, you shouldn't be bothered about finding arguments for joining or practising one. Just go into the church, synagogue, mosque or temple and take it from there.

What we believe doesn't in the end matter very much. What matters is how we live.

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