Superstition Is Not Religion
OUR PRESENT nuclear dilemma is an indication of the failure of fundamentalist religions to provide us with an explanation of good and evil which will enable us to preserve the human race. The human species is like a herd of lemmings headed for a suicidal Armageddon while superstitious people hasten us on by praying for the end of the world, for the “rapture” or for “class war.”
It is startling for most people to realize but fundamentalist religions make no claim that they will preserve the biological existence of the human race. On the contrary, they actually pray for the “day of judgment” when the majority of the human race will be exterminated. How could a world view which prays for the extermination of the human race possibly be a good basis for a moral system intended to preserve the human race?
Are fundamentalist religions ethical guides for human survival or dangerous superstitions that will lead to our destruction?
Are fundamentalist religions ethical guides for human survival or dangerous superstitions that will lead to our destruction? Have fundamentalist religions promoted peace and cooperation between Moslems, Jews, and Christians or did they actually instigate the Inquisition, the Crusades, the Thirty Years War and cause the senseless murder of thousands of innocent children?
Ironically, a true religion would not have to use force or threats because a true religion like a true science is simply a true description of man’s relationship and responsibility to the universe and would help any man who followed it. It would be ridiculous to suggest that you would have to force someone to do something that is for his own benefit. Only a false religion, (a superstition), would have to resort to force or threats. You would not have to force people to accept a true religion any more than you would have to force them to drive cars rather than horse drawn carriages.
Paradoxically, the use of force in a religious war is actually an indication of a lack of faith, not an assertion of it. Because if a person truly believed that an all powerful “holy ghost” was controlling everything and the fate of the universe was not alterable by nor dependent upon man, the true believer would never bother to use force, especially if he thought the all powerful “holy ghost” had ordered him to turn the other cheek. Wars fought over things, like fundamentalist religion, which people don’t really believe in anyway, are the height, the epitome of human folly. Can you imagine the absurdity of the human race being exterminated in a conflict over something they don’t really believe in anyway?
If the human race actually does destroy itself, it is of only academic interest what we died fighting for or against. Since all abstract standards of value by whatever name — religion, justice, freedom — are merely human qualities and human creations, without human life they mean nothing at all. Human concepts or inventions are only a manifestation of what we are, and without us, they are no more important than an empty icon, a hollow imitation, a picture of life. The most brilliant physics, the most compassionate religion, the most efficient politics has no more value than a stone tied to a stick compared to the sacred divinity of the race of man that created it. If the human race exists and improves, they can all be created again but without the human race, the universe is an empty void, an empty anarchy without purpose or meaning. Is there any book, any idea, any religion that is worth more than the existence and improvement of the human race? No! We created all these things. How can they possibly be of more value than we who created them?
It is not necessary that we all agree to be Christians, atheists, or communists. It is only necessary that we recognize the deity that we have in common with all men; the life within our mortal bodies.
Our physical science has advanced, but our moral science has not. The reason we are on the verge of nuclear suicide is because our scientific advance gave us power, but our failure to advance in a religious moral sense did not give us the ability to control our actions for our own benefit. This exposes us to terrible dangers. We have the science and power of a modern nuclear age but the moral understanding of an ignorant savage of 2000 years ago. Mankind is like a five-year-old child playing with a loaded gun.
Perhaps in light of our present situation, we should seriously reexamine fundamentalist religion to see if it is actually a religion at all — or is it, rather, superstition? If it is superstition, it is a threat to our survival, rather than an aid in securing it.
Religion like science, is merely man’s attempt to understand the world around him, and to manipulate phenomena in the environment for his own benefit. Obviously a religion or a science that was not true would not help him gain control over his surroundings. Anything that interfered with human understanding would reduce our ability to control the environment and ultimately reduce the probability of human survival.
Superstition is not religion any more than darkness is light. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary “Superstition is a belief or practice resulting from ignorance and a false conception of causation.” Religion is an understanding of man’s relationship to the universe. Superstition is the exact opposite of religion because it interferes with that understanding. Superstition, far from being a good thing that helps man, is actually an evil thing that harms mankind.
Is the Fundamentalist Biblical account of original sin and Adam and Eve a viable basis for an ethical code that explains good and evil in such a way as to promote human cooperation and survival? Consider the following dialogue from my book, Socrates Meets Jesus:
If God is all powerful, why did he allow Satan to come to the garden and tempt Eve? If God did not want him to eat the fruit, why did he put the tree in the garden in the first place? If God did not want man to make sexual love, why did he equip man with the organs necessary for it? If God did not want man to commit the original sin, why did he give man a desire for knowledge, experience, adventure, and carnal love?
God put the tree in the garden and allowed Satan to come there because he wanted to test mankind.
But God created everything that went into this combination, situation or environment. When he created each of the elements or ingredients in the situation, he know exactly how each would react with the others in any circumstance; because he was all knowing. He intended for each element to be exactly as it was because he was all powerful and could not make a mistake. It is as though a scientist or physician combined several ingredients into a medicine, which, although harmless in themselves, when combined become a deadly poison; and then after administering it to a patient, disavowed any responsibility for his death. In just this way, God combined many things; an innocent man, a tree of knowledge, a beautiful garden and an angel. It is absurd for God to punish man after creating him. It is as though Homer wrote an ode about a pig and then whipped and lashed the pages or cast them on an eternal unconsuming fire, because he disliked the qualities of the animal. Or that a master sculptor made a perfect statue of a pig and then lashed it for all eternity because he disliked the traits of the animal.
If the doctrine of original sin is false, so is salvation. Turning the other cheek or giving all you have to the poor may not be the God-given ethical code that fundamentalists repute it to be. Turning the other cheek would allow criminals to prevail and giving all you have to the poor would encourage the least capable members of the human race to have more children. In fact, following Jesus Christ’s admonitions would create exactly the kind of Lysenkoist democratic tyranny and dysgenic disaster that we see in our inner cities today. Ask yourself this question: Would less “favored races” or less “favored” socio-biologic classes be any threat to the human family if we had a religion based on evolutionary ethics rather than on Jesus?
Dysgenic suicide and nuclear suicide are only possible in a society that refuses to accept the moral responsibility for its actions. Now the imminent prospect of our dysgenic decline, and extinction under the Lysenkoist democratic tyrannies marvelously concentrates the mind and forces us to accept our moral responsibility for our own destiny. The imminent prospect of nuclear self-destruction doesn’t leave us another 2000 years to wait for Godot. Having acquired the technological and scientific power of a God, we must accept the moral responsibility of a God that goes with that power.
We must finally accept the moral responsibility for our own destiny and recognize that we are the consciousness of the universe; that we are the focus and fulcrum and center of the universe through which everything is seen and understood and done: That we are indeed God in the process of evolving into existence.
If man is responsible for the destiny of man and the universe, then the purpose of human action should be to increase man’s knowledge about, and power over, the universe. That means avoiding superstition especially when it masquerades as fundamentalist religion.
Has fundamentalist religion increased the probability of human survival by expanding man’s understanding of and control over the universe around him or has it obstructed it? An honest examination shows that the history of fundamentalist religion has been one continued centuries-long Scopes monkey trial. In astronomy, medicine, and biology, fundamentalist religion has been the single greatest obstacle to advancement. Fundamentalist religion is guilty of crimes against humanity because, by obstructing the advancement of knowledge, fundamentalist religion has actually jeopardized the health, the well-being, and the very survival of the human race.
For a thousand years, doctors were prevented from examining the human body to determine the source and the cure of disease because fundamentalist religionists believed that the examination and dissection of the human body was blasphemous.
For a thousand years, doctors were prevented from examining the human body to determine the source and the cure of disease because fundamentalist religionists believed that the examination and dissection of the human body was blasphemous. How many millions of innocent people suffered and died in agony because of that? In fact, countless millions of people would still die horrible deaths today except that some courageous scientists risked their lives and dissected and examined the human body in spite of the threats of fundamentalist religionists. These courageous scientists thereby found cures for much of the suffering and disease that afflicted the human race. Imagine the irony when sick people today turn to fundamental religionists for help. If not for the delays and obstacles put in the way of scientists and doctors in the past by these same fundamental religionists, the disease they suffer from might well have been cured centuries ago.
Fundamental religionists have not merely jeopardized the health, well-being, and survival of a few individuals, but of the whole human race. Let it be noted that as long as a man is confined to the earth, we are subject, as other life forms are, to the periodic extinctions that have occurred in biological history. This all changed when man landed on the moon because this proved that man has the potential ability to colonize other planets and thereby to exist forever independent of the solar system in which he was born. This was the greatest achievement in the history of man because for the first time in history we have the potential of immortality. Even if the earth itself is destroyed, our children may continue to exist forever on another planet. This immortality — the greatest achievement in the history of man — was obstructed and almost prevented by fundamental religionists.
Let us never forget that the courageous scientists Galileo and Bruno, who made the moon mission possible and thereby gave man the potential of immortality, were respectively tortured and burned alive by the fundamental religionists.
Imagine the height of irony when the astronauts read from the Bible when they landed on the moon.
Imagine the height of irony when the astronauts read from the Bible when they landed on the moon. The very people who had compiled the knowledge necessary for them to get there had been tortured and burned alive by fundamental religionists because of that very book. If the astronauts had died on the mission to the moon, the blame would be on fundamental religionists for retarding and obstructing the collection of knowledge necessary to make their mission a success.
Imagine the ingratitude to Bruno, who gave his very life so that the astronauts might live. Remarkably, the astronauts revered the Bible which would have destroyed them, and which did destroy their savior, Bruno. If they wish to revere those who had truly served mankind, they should worship the astronomer Bruno, the true messiah, if there ever was one, for in fact, he gave his life to improve human knowledge and in fact, gave his life to save the lives of the astronauts and to potentially give immortality to all the children of tomorrow.
In effect then, Bruno is a shining example and fitting symbol of all courageous scientists throughout history who gave their lives in their commitment to giving knowledge, ability, and immortality to all the children of tomorrow.
The instance of the astronauts reading from the Bible is a prime example of how physical science has advanced while moral science has not.
Today, all of mankind stands figuratively in the same position as the astronauts. The astronauts were in dire jeopardy when they were floating in space and we are in dire jeopardy in the nuclear dilemma yet we both revere the Bible even while its fundamentalist proponents have prayed and worked for our destruction. If the human race is destroyed, the blame will be on fundamentalist religion which blinded us and prevented us from developing a modern moral system that could save the human race, just as 400 years ago it prevented man from gaining knowledge of the true astronomical relationship between earth and the sun. Bruno’s honest astronomy saved the astronauts and only an honest morality can save the human race. Remember, good and evil are not myths, but biological laws which are prerequisites for human survival.
It is impossible for man to survive in the world or on a space mission if he bases his beliefs and actions on falsehood. If you can fly to the moon on the basis of biblical Ptolemaic astronomy, you can run the earth by a 2,000-year-old morality. An impartial extraterrestrial looking down on this planet would view the continuation of 2,000-year-old morality in modern society as an absolutely extraordinary anachronism. Man’s moral system is literally 2,000 years old. Have we learned nothing new in 2,000 years? Imagine what our world would be like today if our knowledge of chemistry, medicine, and physics had stopped advancing 2,000 years ago. Our physical science, which explains the nature of the physical universe around us continues to advance, but religion, which explains something much more important — our own relationship to the universe itself and our relationship and responsibility to one another — stopped advancing 2,000 years ago. What good does it do us to have enough understanding of the physical laws of the universe so that we can stack bricks to make a mile-high skyscraper or go to the moon, if we use this same science to destroy ourselves in a nuclear war?
A true religion is not superstition any more than darkness is light. A true religion is a tool to help man understand and direct his relationship and responsibility to the universe around him. If we examine our experience in physical science, we find clearly that our first advances in the realm of physical science were merely crudely sharpened stones, axes, and spears. So it is hardly surprising that our first moral or religious systems were inefficient. In a figurative, metaphorical sense, our 2,000-year-old moral systems are like crudely sharpened stones. But that does not mean that we should abandon all moral or religious ideas any more than we abandoned all tools because our first axes and spears were inefficient.
The attempt of the atheists to destroy religion is ridiculous. They assume that religion and superstition are synonymous. They are actually opposites. They likewise assume that religion and science are opposites. Actually, religion and science are strikingly similar because they are both attempts, however imperfect, to help man understand the world around him.
We should not think in terms of destroying a false religion, but rather of creating a true one.
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An excerpt; to be continued
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