Religion, and How to Tell a Human from a Sub-Human
by David Sims
BECAUSE I am an atheist, I don’t agree with the god-idea, and I don’t believe in the existence of any god. However, I concede that religion has a necessary social utility. False hope is still hope, and hope can calm the masses in difficult times. A suitable religion can prevent a certain amount of human mischief that would otherwise occur.
But in religion there is little practical truth. And, contrary to Thomas Aquinas, religion isn’t a science. There is no such thing as “sacred science.” The idea of the sacred and the idea of the scientific are ineluctably at odds with each other. As a method for seeking truth, religion sucks.
How do you know when you are using a method for seeking truth that actually does succeed in finding it? You know that your method for seeking truth really works when it has an historical track record of giving to people powers that they did not have before. Valid methods for truth-seeking do that because useful truths are a subset of all truths, and it is a subset in which people have a particular interest and to which they devote a considerable amount of their time.
Science does that. Religion does not do that.
Science, not religion, has found ways to make a light spring forth and banish darkness. Science, not religion, has found ways to heal injuries and cure the sick. Science, not religion, has steadily gained knowledge about what would otherwise have gone unnoticed because of distance, because of smallness, or for some other reason. Science, not religion, has made it possible for people to communicate quickly across thousands of miles. Science, not religion, has made it possible for men to fly when men had never flown before. Science, not religion, made it possible to send probes to other planets in order to see what had never been seen before.
Although some scientific men have been religious men also, it was their science, not their religion, that made their achievements possible. That should be clear, even though religion’s apologists have for centuries been trying to steal the credit for scientific achievement and give the stolen credit to religion.
Religion has done nothing except tell stories and give people false hopes.
Now, as I said hereabove, there is a place for religion in society nevertheless. Why? Because our species, Homo sapiens, is, despite its Latin binomial, not entirely sapient. Rather, it straddles the border of sapience, with some of its members above the line, and some below. How is that line drawn? The definition that I favor is the ability to understand the exponential function: to appreciate why a problem that was at the one-part-per-million level is a serious threat if it grows to the one-part-in-ten-thousand level, despite the fact that, say, the water still appears to be perfectly clear and nobody has yet gotten sick from drinking it.
Problems that grow exponentially need to be treated before they become obvious, or else it will be too late for treatment. The minds of sub-humans work adequately well with linear concepts, but they work poorly with those involving exponential growth (or decline). And that’s where I separate the human from the sub-human, though both are currently regarded as belonging to the same species.
But there’s another way to separate the two, another way to draw the borderline of sapience, and that is this: A human is able to understand the wisdom of moral circumspection even when the fear of gods, or of punishment in an afterlife, does not influence his thinking. A subhuman cannot, and therefore must have that feeling of threat in order to make him behave, to mind his manners, and so forth. Religion is the most common means of controlling the behavior of subhumans, so that they don’t wreck civilization, and this is the social utility that makes religion valuable — even if its theology is fake, fake, fake.
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