Regular followers of this blogspace are doubtlessly, aware that we have, in various contexts, summoned up the folkloric image of the stork, as the proverbial delivery agent for newborn Homo sapiens. We have highly praised the stork as an impartial delivery agent, who, miraculously, and without benefit of GPS, is flawlessly, accurate and, irrefutably, impartial, in its delivery of newborn, respectively, to their intended recipients, with no regard to their pre-assigned, racial, and ethnic attributes.
We confirm the societal necessity to advise the child, during his early years, of his inherited, and identifying, cultural and ethnic character, but have too often, seen the same done in a rather thoughtless, and ultimately, harmful manner, and a precursor of bias. We have in past writings, recommended that childhood lessons, relative to the specific features of his individual identity should never be framed in exclusive terms of “we” and “they;” the latter is a recipe, for incipient bias, but, rather, in inclusive terms of “us,” viz., as a member of one of many diverse groups, comprising Mankind.
The subject of this essay, relates to the ultra- sensitive, subject of religious faith, randomly, assigned as stated, by the accident of birth, concomitant with the other enumerated, inherited features, Religious belief and related observance is, customarily, installed very early in life, by a parent or close family member, and, later reinforced by the confirming, influence of mainstream, members of society. It has been traditionally, perceived, as synonymous with societal engagement, acceptability and recognized virtue. The salient point is that the belief in religion, viz., a “higher power” is, commonly, a product of early teaching, later ratified by other, like, believers. However, religious faith should be qualitatively, contrasted with empirical knowledge, the latter, being rationally founded in objective life experience.
We have, often, referenced the English philosopher, John Locke, who, famously, championed the empirical theory of knowledge, i.e., that man’s knowledge is exclusively, acquired by his life experience. If this theory is valid, it, ineluctably, follows that religious belief is simply, and admittedly, a matter of subjective “faith,” (assumption) viz., independent of any factual or objective, redeeming confirmation. In fact, the principle that religious belief is, exclusively, a matter of faith is universally, uncontroverted and empirically, incontrovertible. The salient issue for present contextual examination is, has a religious belief, proved to be of use, or harmful, to the beneficial advancement of humankind?
For some time, it been our view that irrational belief in an unprovable, higher power, has coarsened and divided Mankind and has significantly, retarded its Natural, (evolutional) destiny towards wisdom, universal, empathic morality and maturity of perception. The arrival at the latter conclusion, in our case, was not the product of some dramatic epiphany, rather, the mature and invaluable enlightenment, gradually, evolved over decades of reading and serious thought.
In the interest of even-handedness, we would affirm certain positive, anecdotal, features of religion in historical experience. No one could rationally, ignore the existential spiritual and moral support of the Black Church in the lives and destiny of our communities of color. Beginning or about, the 19th of June 1699, until relatively modern times, the lives of our black community were hopelessly, exemplified by cruel, involuntary servitude, encompassing untold suffering and unbearable misery. The” living death” of enslavement was, generally, sanctioned, by the larger, presumably, moral, American society, and, notably, by its religious and ubiquitous, Field Manual, the St, James Bible. At all times, and during the worst privations, institutionally, imposed on the black community, the institution of the traditional Black Church was a vital resource, keeping life and hope alive. Additionally, religious ideation can, as well, provide a measure of soothing balm concerning man’s disturbing, innate awareness of his inevitable, mortality, it can provide needed, hope, at times of serious illness and tragedy, and lastly, with regard to individuals of equivocal morality, it can often provide a deterrence to intended, wrongful action.
Having conceded various positive attributes to religious belief, we would, at this juncture, state our thematic conclusion, derived from personal, decades-long, incisive, deliberations on the subject; that atavistic homage to any superstitious or mythical, ”higher power,” has (a) significantly, retarded the progress of evolution’s gift to Mankind of an advanced brain, while, (b) being proximately, responsible for an unfathomable, record, of tragic and unmerited, human suffering, misery and injustice.
Since the appearance of Early Man, devotion to a higher supernatural being has been virtually, universal, and has, to date, eternally, persisted, despite its historically, demonstrated, malevolent impact upon humankind; specifically, in its unnatural and unhealthy, assault against human reason. We have concluded that such successful past record is attributable to its evolved and institutionally supported, network of religious sycophants and their arrogated franchise, acquired acumen and tactical penchant, for the dissemination to Man of comprehensive, primitive and existential, fear.
Through our research, we have learned that Early Man, fearfully, did homage to the natural phenomena such as the Sun and the Moon, Thunder, Rain and Lightning, based upon his ignorance and fear of incurring the displeasure of the presumed Deities associated with such respective phenomena. Tribal Medicine Men, Shamans, Witch Doctors and other notables, believed, ubiquitously, capable of communing with the relevant Gods, or Spirits, were professionally, charged with inspiring the respective Deities to furnish more rain, less snow, new life, better crops, success in the hunt, ample water, food or protection from earthly danger and non-earthly, magical spirits.
The Sun God, an early common Deity, was perceived as dying, during Autumn, as perceived by the declining state of vegetation, the dearth of animal life, the death of trees (except the “magical” evergreen), the changes in temperature and light. However, it was empirically, observed, that celebration of religious observances, involving the magic evergreen trees, predictably, and consistently, brought about the perennial return to life of the Sun God, as evidenced by the renewed greenery, reappearance of critters like the bunny and the increased sunlight (precursor of the concept of “death and resurrection”).
It may be that the nuance of each society’s, traditionally, communal style of placating its imperious higher being, was perceived, as threatened, by skeptics and non-believers. Whatever the motivation may be, it has eternally, been the case, that believers in a discrete religious dogma, have striven to oblige (by agonizing torture, etc.) other humans to believe exactly, as they do. Countless religious wars have blighted man’s history, such as the several Crusader Wars, the European, “30 Years War,” and the conflict between Northern Ireland (Protestant) and South Ireland (Catholic). Our history books contain a never-ending plethora of all-out bloody wars between cultures, based on divergent religious beliefs, or even, religious practices. An extreme, but instructive, example is seen in Islam’s continuous (sixteen Centuries, long) war between the Shiites and the Sunnis, in the Middle East. The sole motivation for such everlasting and continuing religious warfare is founded in a 7th Century dispute between one group and the other, as to whether the Prophet Mohammad’s proper succession, is to be by a blood relative or by determination in free election. Differences in irrational and culturally created religious belief have historically resulted in bloody, National warfare. At times, it seems difficult to draw a convincingly accurate distinction between ethnic and religious war (ex. India-Pakistan) because religion, far from having, allegedly, been acquired by otherworldly, “inspiration,” has, in reality, emanated from sociological and cultural creativity.
In our view, the transcendent, salient, harm to humankind, indeed, beyond the cruel horrors of religious inquisition, torture, live burning at the cross, irrationally based, warfare, unjust executions, imprisonment and the like, from an anthropological and evolutionary standpoint, has been religion’s mandatory, imposition of strong and excessively, durable, shackles on the human development of reason, and its evolutionary destiny. In our opinion, in the still, ongoing process of evolution, man has not, yet, fully, attained his ultimate, natural potential, for knowledge and wisdom.
Humanity’s advancement and its empirical progress in understanding and perception, has, eternally, been hampered, or indeed, prevented, by the tactical, maintenance and enforcement of irrational religious dogma, the latter, as stated, being the diametrical arch-enemy of reason. There are uncountable, numerous instances of demonstrative travesties, including, that of Socrates, who was put to death by the civic authorities, for wavering in his teaching from State propaganda, the prosecution of Copernicus, the Polish philosopher, who was chastised for his declaration, that the Earth rotates around the Sun (the heliocentric theory), because it was in conflict with established religious dogma, that Man, as alleged, is at the center of the Universe. From Galileo, put to death, for his( earlier), heliocentric theory of the Solar System, to the contemporary, Church treatment of LGBTQ, the Church’s position on stem cell research and the religiously based cruel and thoughtless denial of a Woman’s natural right to abortion, religion has arrested human reason and, thereby, held humanity, securely in the restrictive chains of its perpetuated threats of non-existent, atavistic and primitive fear (Hell, Sin, God’s Wrath, Armageddon, Satan and his emissaries, Repudiation, Excommunication, Death) and thereby, from progress, in its evolutionary, journey for his full potential advancement of wisdom.
The practical dynamics of popular religious belief tends to strip Mankind, of its sense of significant personal agency, and encourage it to think in the fictitious, tactical terms of religion’s, self- invested interest, of “Heaven and Hell;” as superseding Mankind’s, healthful responsibility to look, objectively, into his inner self, for rational improvement, and, as well, to the inhabited Earth and environment. Religious homage tends to strip the individual of the confidence in personal agency and completely eliminates, the mathematics of chance. The healthy, secular mind, by sheer contrast, operates in accordance with personally developed, internal standards, rather than suffering reliance upon external direction. We would dare to speculate that Indulgence in prayer might, signify, in an appropriate setting, an abdication of personal responsibility.
In passing, we are, reluctant but responsibly, obliged, to observe that organized Religion, in reality, is far more “this-worldly” than its professed representations (”a rich man’s chance of admission to Heaven is like a camel’s chance to pass through the eye of a needle”). Its classically, institutional reverence for the” Holy Vow of Poverty,” has the bizarre effect of making the public sight of pure gold leaf on entire steeples, ornamental decorations, gilt iconostases and the theatrically, rich décor and artistic masterpieces of Cathedrals and holy places, a bit confusing.