Monday, September 20, 2010

Welcome...

I've created this blog to vent my frustrations at religion, I hope you enjoy reading it, but this is more just an out let for my thoughts. The Pope's visit, and this particular BBC Thought for the day tipped me over the edge. I know it's a bit old, but I've only just had the time to get this blog going. I've posted the whole text, as I'm not sure if these are kept indefinitely.

Thought for the Day, 8 September 2010
Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks
"Tonight is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the Festival that celebrates the anniversary of creation, the moment God said "Let there be," and there was.
So it was with a wry smile that I read the headline last week about scientist Stephen Hawking who said: we don't need God to explain creation. The universe created itself.
If this sounds like a new challenge to religion, it isn't. It is one of the oldest of all. For more than 2000 years until relatively recently, there was a much bigger challenge to the idea that God created the universe.
It came from the philosopher Aristotle, who held that there was no creation, because matter is eternal. There never was a beginning to the universe.
It was only in 1964, that Arno Penzias, who as a Jewish child was rescued by the British from Nazi Germany, identified with Robert Wilson the cosmic microwave background radiation that finally established what we now call Big Bang. The universe did have a beginning after all.
But there's something surreal about this whole line of thought. Religion isn't science and science isn't religion. And the best way of seeing this is through Rosh Hashanah itself.
Try this thought experiment. Suppose scientists could determine exactly the moment the universe sprang into existence. Would that change your life? Would it make any difference at all? Would you celebrate? Would you hold an annual holiday to commemorate that moment? Can you even remember the date the human genome was decoded? And that was only ten years ago.
No. Religion and science are different things and we need them both.
Science is about explanation. Religion is about meaning.
There's a view expressed by Epicurus, Nietzsche and Nobel Prize winning physicist Steve Weinberg, that life is meaningless. I don't mean individual lives. We each live, and dream, and pursue our dreams. But on their view, the universe is blind to our existence, indifferent to our suffering. We are born, we live, we die, and it is as if we had never been.
On Rosh Hashanah we dare to believe otherwise: that life does have meaning; that there is a Presence, vaster than the universe yet closer to us than we are to ourselves, who lifts us when we fall, and forgives us when we fail.
Can I prove this? No. But this I know, that the mightiest empires have come and gone. The tiny people whose faith I share is still here, still bearing witness to the living God."
Well, firstly, let's try the thought experiment:
Suppose scientists could determine exactly the moment the universe sprang into existence. Would that change your life? Possibly not, but I'm not religious. It may very well change some religious people's lives (but not all, look at creationists). I don't see that this matters.
Would it make any difference at all? Only in so far as ground breaking science makes a difference to us all.
Would you celebrate? Yes - cracking excuse for a party. Think of the fancy dress options!
Would you hold an annual holiday to commemorate that moment? I would welcome another national holiday. This could be dedicated to a celebration of scientific advance.
Can you even remember the date the human genome was decoded? No. So?

And that was only ten years ago. No. Religion and science are different things and we need them both.

Yes they are different, no we do not need them both.

Ah, yes, and here's this old chestnut "Science is about explanation. Religion is about meaning."

The universe is indeed cold and indifferent to us, but why does that matter? Why does one need religion to bring meaning to one's life? Does that statement mean, that, without religion, my life has no meaning; or, that without having a religion, I can't find what the meaning of my life is? It's a little offensive.

We all see meaning where there is none. For example, this links to a moving circle, two triangles and some lines. Some people find it horrific and harrowing viewing. We may want to see meaning everywhere, but we must understand that wanting there to be meaning all the time is just a psychological product of our mind.

The universe is blind to our existence, indifferent to our suffering. We are born, we live, we die, but it is not as if we had never been. Alan Turing. His life had meaning. He was an atheist, sadly driven to suicide by religious-inspired laws against homosexuality. The fact you are reading this is proof that it is not as if he had never been. Now true, Lord Sacks did say "I don't mean individual lives. We each live, and dream, and pursue our dreams.", but he did follow that up with "We are born, we live, we die, and it is as if we had never been." I'm not sure what he means by "we" here.

If we are to take "we", as a species, then we've been here (give or take) take 200,000 years. What meaning did their lives have back then, before his God? It's not as if they had never been, they are our ancestors, and we wouldn't be here if they weren't. But on an individual level, it's as if they had never been.

"But this I know, that the mightiest empires have come and gone. The tiny people whose faith I share is still here, still bearing witness to the living God." Their religions have gone with them. Granted, yours has survived until now, but does that mean it will survive forever? Look at Zeus and the rest.

Life does have meaning, but we have to make that meaning. Whilst your religion may very well comfort you, from my point of view, they are but silly superstitions, meaningless.

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