Tribute To Bertrand Russell

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Tribute To Bertrand Russell

Postby Amir » Wed Aug 30, 2006 8:26 pm



Bertrand Russell was one of the great philosophers and free thinkers of the 20th Century. Professor Russell made various contributions to the field, but the one that I am more interested in was his contribution in relation to religion. I therefore will focus mainly on those works.

My own convictions and deductions were reached at a time that I was not familiar yet with Russell, and so he had no influence upon my early conclusion that religion is nothing but superstition. However, reading his work after I was already an atheist was pleasant, in that he expressed more eloquently many of the same thoughts that I had independently conceived.

I must admit that I am not in complete agreement with all of his points, as one can hardly ever be with any other person, lest the initial person is reduced to a mere carbon copy. In fact, there are numerous points of contention. I will not spend any effort here, though, explaining the various disagreements I have with Russell, as that is not the purpose of my writing this piece. Instead, I will mainly focus on the thoughts which we both share.

I will make one mention here in what I perceive as his and my own main dichotomy of thought. That is, he has a certain optimism about humanity and the potential for humanity to reach a certain utopia “if only” certain criteria are fulfilled. His criteria are not realistic, and I further do not believe that even if achieved, that humanity would ever reach the utopia of complete peace and cooperation which Russell believes is possible. Such a state of existence, I think, is almost impossible. I will not dwell further upon this point, and will leave this now to return to the pulp of the matter.

Russell wrote many articles and essays, and gave various speeches throughout his lifetime that pertained to religious ideas. In tribute to him, as well as in order to better propagate those ideas to the general reader, I will subdivide this thread into various parts based upon those essays. The vast majority of the thoughts presented here will be Russell’s. I will nonetheless interject some of my own thoughts in there to expand upon certain specifics which I personally deem more important. The cake is his; I will only add the frosting.

In fact, I am not posting his actual essays and speeches, but only parts of them, sometimes paraphrased, which I view as their highlights. The reader is free to view the entirety of Russell’s actual essays, as they have been repeatedly published in various textbooks attributed to him.

As one would expect, given his background and the environment in which he lived (Western), his criticism of religion unfolded specifically as a criticism of Christianity. He does mention that his ideas apply just as well to all of the other major religions, but as he is most familiar with Christianity and its obvious role in his world, it is the religion which bears the wrath of his criticism, though it is not necessarily the most evil of all religions. I am sure that if Russell had been an Iranian, Turk, Arab, or Berber instead of an Englishman, his thoughts would have been directed at Islam, except with stronger ammunition.

For the nearsighted person, his arguments would be given various weight depending upon the specific religion which he would attack. For one who realizes the disservice that religion in general and in its various forms has done to mankind throughout the millennia, the specific religion which he demolishes is not important. What is important is the enlightenment and wisdom inherent in his logic which can be the weapon of any reasonable person which wishes to combat the nightmare and parasite of humanity: religion in general.

For sake of continuity, I ask that no replies be posted to this thread until the thread is completed.

The direct quotes from Russell will be in bold.

And so, in no particular order I give you a few of the many works of Professor Bertrand Russell:
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A Free Man's Worship

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:07 pm

Part 1

A Free Man’s Worship

Sub-Part I

To Dr. Faustus in his study Mephistopheles told the history of the Creation, saying:

"The endless praises of the choirs of angels had begun to grow wearisome; for, after all, did he not deserve their praise? Had he not given them endless joy? Would it not be more amusing to obtain undeserved praise, to be worshipped by beings whom he tortured? He smiled inwardly, and resolved that the great drama should be performed.

For countless ages the hot nebula whirled aimlessly through space. At length it began to take shape, the central mass threw off planets, the planets cooled, boiling seas and burning mountains heaved and tossed, from black masses of cloud hot sheets of rain deluged the barely solid crust. And now the first germ of life grew in the depths of the ocean, and developed rapidly in the fructifying warmth into vast forest trees, huge ferns springing from the damp mould, sea monsters breeding, fighting, devouring, and passing away. And from the monsters, as the play unfolded itself, Man was born, with the power of thought, the knowledge of good and evil, and the cruel thirst for worship.

And Man saw that all is passing in this mad, monstrous world, that all is struggling to snatch, at any cost, a few brief moments of life before Death's inexorable decree. And Man said: 'There is a hidden purpose, could we but fathom it, and the purpose is good; for we must reverence something, and in the visible world there is nothing worthy of reverence.'

And Man stood aside from the struggle, resolving that God intended harmony to come out of chaos by human efforts. And when he followed the instincts which God had transmitted to him from his ancestry of beasts of prey, he called it Sin, and asked God to forgive him. But he doubted whether he could be justly forgiven, until he invented a divine Plan by which God's wrath was to have been appeased. And seeing the present was bad, he made it yet worse, that thereby the future might be better. And he gave God thanks for the strength that enabled him to forgo even the joys that were possible.

And God smiled; and when he saw that Man had become perfect in renunciation and worship, he sent another sun through the sky, which crashed into Man's sun; and all returned again to nebula.”

It is in such a world which man truly lives, far removed from the Genesis story portrayed by Judeo-Christianity.

” Such, in outline, but even more purposeless, more void of meaning, is the world which Science presents for our belief. Amid such a world, if anywhere, our ideals henceforward must find a home. That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labors of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins -- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.”

The world therefore is what it is, and our beliefs do not change it. Nonetheless, we must find a place for ourselves and make a niche in reality. In the end, there is only death, and nothing will transcend death, even if we wish it otherwise. Once we accept this fact, then we may structure our lives in order to optimize our current existence, however short it is, upon whatever small and insignificant collection of gaseous, liquid, and solid coalescent matter which have come together to form a planet we call earth.

” How, in such an alien and inhuman world, can so powerless a creature as Man preserve his aspirations untarnished? A strange mystery it is that Nature, omnipotent but blind, in the revolutions of her secular hurryings through the abysses of space, has brought forth at last a child, subject still to her power, but gifted with sight, with knowledge of good and evil, with the capacity of judging all the works of his unthinking Mother.”

The idea is that nature itself is not conscious, but simply exists. In its existence, it has by circumstance and in a way by accident created and destroyed various entities, one of which is life. It is the essence of nature, that “blindly” ie without design, has caused the modification and constant turnover of matter, intermingled in which happens to also be life. The wording here and the idea seems clearly to have Hume’s influence upon it. David Hume, in his Dialogues, very eloquently delineates the logic by which the claim for “intelligent design” is obviously flawed, and how it is nature’s blind and random workings that shape the universe, and specifically life – but that’s a whole other discussion. Yes, about a century prior to Darwin, Hume (and some other earlier scholars) had understood that a process of “evolutionary progression” from a state of disarray to order was logically responsible for the development of life, and no intelligent being played a role in it. It is well known that Russell had a profound admiration for Hume, and no doubt Hume’s voice is echoed in this part of Russell’s essay.

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A Free Man's Worship

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:14 pm

Part 1

A Free Man’s Worship

Sub-Part 2

“The savage, like ourselves, feels the oppression of his impotence before the powers of Nature; but having in himself nothing that he respects more than Power, he is willing to prostrate himself before his gods, without inquiring whether they are worthy of his worship. Pathetic and very terrible is the long history of cruelty and torture, of degradation and human sacrifice, endured in the hope of placating the jealous gods…”

And so, in his wanton fear of nature, man will bow to his own created Gods, which represent nature, in order to appease that which at many times must appear to be filled with wrath. To appease nature’s wrath, the savage man, understanding only power, will carry out great cruelty and torture on others because he believes that his Gods wish it so. The blind cruelty of nature – which without the existence of man to understand it is truly neither cruel nor compassionate, is perceived by the savage as what must be emulated. In appeasing his God - the personification of nature – the savage carries out fantastic acts of cruelty, which he has observed nature (or what he perceives as God) carrying out.

“But gradually, as morality grows bolder, the claim of the ideal world begins to be felt; and worship, if it is not to cease, must be given to gods of another kind than those created by the savage…
… But others, not content with an answer so repugnant to the moral sense, will adopt the position which we have become accustomed to regard as specially religious, maintaining that, in some hidden manner, the world of fact is really harmonious with the world of ideals. Thus Man creates God, all-powerful and all-good, the mystic unity of what is and what should be.”

As humanity’s moral sense evolved, it attempted to reconcile the cruelty of nature with what it conceived of what God “ought” to be. As morality dictates, God ought to be good, fitting the ideal which man desires. So, worship of pure power and cruelty of many of the ancient Gods evolved into worship of an all-powerful but also all-good God. Reconciling this ideal notion of God, based on morality, and the world as it is, or facts, becomes quite problematic however. And that’s precisely what Russell eludes to next.

“But the world of fact, after all, is not good; and, in submitting our judgment to it, there is an element of slavishness from which our thoughts must be purged. For in all things it is well to exalt the dignity of Man, by freeing him as far as possible from the tyranny of non-human Power. When we have realized that Power is largely bad, that man, with his knowledge of good and evil, is but a helpless atom in a world which has no such knowledge, the choice is again presented to us: Shall we worship Force, or shall we worship Goodness? Shall our God exist and be evil, or shall he be recognized as the creation of our own conscience?”

By examining the world and seeing that it is not filled with goodness, the benevolent God becomes questionable. We must either accept that good and evil exist blindly, without a plan, and are really only pertinent in the context of the intelligence of man, or we must concede that the God that created the world is not good, but evil, which drives us back from the moral ideal and back into the world of the savage.

”… to recognize that the non-human world is unworthy of our worship, it becomes possible at last so to transform and refashion the unconscious universe…
… In this way mind asserts its subtle mastery over the thoughtless forces of Nature. The more evil the material with which it deals, the more thwarting to untrained desire, the greater is its achievement in inducing the reluctant rock to yield up its hidden treasures, the prouder its victory in compelling the opposing forces to swell the pageant of its triumph. Of all the arts, Tragedy is the proudest, the most triumphant; for it builds its shining citadel in the very centre of the enemy's country…

… Victory, in this struggle with the powers of darkness, is the true baptism into the glorious company of heroes, the true initiation into the overmastering beauty of human existence. From that awful encounter of the soul with the outer world, enunciation, wisdom, and charity are born; and with their birth a new life begins. To take into the inmost shrine of the soul the irresistible forces whose puppets we seem to be -- Death and change, the irrevocableness of the past, and the powerlessness of Man before the blind hurry of the universe from vanity to vanity -- to feel these things and know them is to conquer them.”

By recognizing the futility in worshiping the unconscious universe, and by abandoning the attempt to reconcile this flawed world with our notion of the ideal, or God, we will take the first step. The first step of recognizing the flaws of the world and setting out to fix as many of them as we can. This way mastery of nature will be accomplished, so far as is possible. The satisfaction reached by overcoming the evils of nature will be of the highest order.

To conquer our fears, which always stem from nature, we must conquer nature. Nature, to the extent that it will be conquered, will be conquered by science, not by a superstitious belief in the personification of nature, or God.

” The life of Man, viewed outwardly, is but a small thing in comparison with the forces of Nature. The slave is doomed to worship Time and Fate and Death, because they are greater than anything he finds in himself, and because all his thoughts are of things which they devour. But, great as they are, to think of them greatly, to feel their passionless splendor, is greater still. And such thought makes us free men; we no longer bow before the inevitable in Oriental subjection, but we absorb it, and make it a part of ourselves. To abandon the struggle for private happiness, to expel all eagerness of temporary desire, to burn with passion for eternal things -- this is emancipation, and this is the free man's worship.”

By mystifying nature, making it extraordinary, and intertwining it with the concept of God, it becomes unnecessarily grand; grander than ourselves. Once the realization is reached that such things are not part of a grand scheme, they lose their mystique. At that moment, man himself becomes significantly elevated. Form his new perspective, then, man may truly appreciate nature and life. Not from a position of fear and misunderstanding, but from the vantage point of being more powerful than many aspects of nature. At that moment, nature and life become beautiful, as it is better appreciated instead of feared. Man becomes emancipated, and it is this emancipation, as Russell says, that is “the free man’s worship.”
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Why I Am Not a Christian

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:18 pm

Part 2

Why I Am Not a Christian

Sub-Part 1

Or a Moslem, or a Jew, or a Hindu, or a …

This was an original lecture, delivered at the Battersea Town Hall under the auspices of the South London Branch of the National Secular Society, England in 1927.

This is one of my favorite pieces of Russell, and is deemed by many as one of his most prominent works.

” I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.”

The term “good Christian” or “good Moslem” etc is often misrepresented and misunderstood in modern society. What is now implied is quite different than what was implied in the past, and the definition has become more loose. Furthermore, the many members (vast majority) of a religion refer to themselves as “good Christian” or “good Moslem” etc without an understanding of what is that commitment. They only understand it to mean “believer in the good,” without knowing what else is implied. This is more so the case with Islam than it is with Christianity. Most Moslems accept Islam, without a good comprehension of its true teachings. Thus, over a billion people believe in Allah without truly knowing what Allah supposedly stands for or what he really demands of them. And the minority that do understand continue to be Moslems because they have redefined their morality and ethics to fit within the teachings of Islam, which are floridly lacking in morality. They therefore redefine what is good and evil in order to fit their lives into what is preached by Islam, instead of examining Islam to see if it fits within the good life. Backwards thinking, imposed by a backward religion.

” What is a Christian?

…there are two different items which are quite essential to anyone calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature -- namely, that you must believe in God and immortality…Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ…I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men…”

So the stage is set as to what must be refuted, in the least, to show why one would denounce Christianity, or Islam, if Jesus is substituted with Mohammad. Russell points out why he considers Jesus to not be the best and wisest, though he considers him to be of relatively high moral character as a whole. My refutation of Mohammad is much simpler, in that not only was he not the best and wisest, but actually far below an average person’s level of morality. Though Jesus’ flaws can be highlighted with close scrutiny, Mohammad’s flaws cannot be hidden from even the most inattentive viewer. The difference with Mohammad and Jesus is that Jesus had a few flaws among a vast ethos, while Mohammad had the faintest of ethos among a vastness of overwhelming flaws. By “flaws” I am speaking of moral and character flaws of course.

“The Existence Of God

You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. This is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the Freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist.”

For the most part, religion in its early form simply maintained the existence of God to be a matter of fact, since it was revealed to Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Paul, Mohammad, etc. It was true, because they said so. After a while, however, some very pesky “thinking” human beings began to question such blind faith by resorting to a very nasty little tool called “reason.” Using reason, such infidels began challenging religious teachings as untrue. For every action there is a reaction.

So others who would not, should not, and absolutely could not relinquish their faith in religion and God, because they were deeply entrenched with it all their lives got into the game of now using “reason” to show that God’s existence is a logical conclusion even if the world had not been privy to the revelations that were handed by God to such aforementioned historical figures. The Church naturally ate up this stuff like candy, and couldn’t get enough of it. At a time when reason began to open men’s eyes, the Church was all too eager to also attempt to use it to show its legitimacy. It wished to fight fire with fire.

This phenomenon gave birth to “natural religion.” Natural religion is the implication that God exists not just because we have been told he exists, but because his existence is the natural conclusion of reason and logic. Thus the term “natural religion.”

Russell goes on to highlight the main arguments for natural religion, and why they fail:

” A. The First Cause Argument

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God….

…Who made me? cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question, Who made God? That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause…”

This simple argument illustrates one of the obvious shortcomings of natural religion. It is so simple that it is obvious to a child. I remember when I was only 7 years old when I first contemplated this question, even though at the time I had no doubt about God’s existence, simply because it was what I was told. This question naturally occurred to me when I heard adults describe that everything must come from something, and the ultimate “something” was God. So who made God, I wondered. I could never get a straight answer from anyone, and I later understood why. Because using this logic to deduce the existence of God is paradoxical, as it leads into an infinite regression. No matter how far this regression is taken, one is never any closer to the answer.

“There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.”

At this point with the current knowledge we possess it is impossible to make any deductions about ultimate causes. It is pure fallacy to invoke the argument of the First Cause to show God’s existence. Even a child can see through that, as I did.

That’s one down…

”B. The Natural-Law Argument

Then there is a very common argument from Natural Law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for any explanation of the law of gravitation…

…where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find that they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards to a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes the whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a law-giver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which way you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and, being a mere description of what they in fact do…”

Natural laws, or laws of nature are only descriptions of behavior based upon man’s observations. There is a very important distinction between natural law and human law, the latter being a true law, dictated by an actual lawgiver. The lawgiver (man) decrees what ought to be done. The law may or may not always be obeyed by other humans. On the other hand, an observation of nature’s behavior does not a law make. It is only descriptive, and is viewed by humans erroneously as a law because reproducibility is recognized. Reproducibility of natural occurrences does not equate to design, intelligence, or a lawgiver.

The argument of natural law is in a parallel way related to the argument of first cause. In the first cause argument, an attempt is made to explain the existence of the universe as it is traced back to an initial creator. In the natural law argument, an attempt is made to explain the reason for the behavior of the universe. Both arguments end with the answer God, which they then turn around and use for the alleged logical existence of God. Both arguments reach infinite regression paradoxes, and are thus subject to the same fallacy.

” …you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were you are then faced with the question, Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others? If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there was a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate law-giver…”

For even if one attributes the natural laws as actual laws decreed by an intelligent God in an attempt to explain the reason for such behavior (deemed by us humans as natural laws), then the next question is raised: Why did God decree such laws and natural behavior? If no reason is offered, then acceptance that natural laws can exist without any other reason - ie God - must be entertained. If a reason is offered to explain God’s decree of such laws, then God is overruled by yet another reason, and thus loses his importance in the explanation of the “why” question to the nature of the universe. In this way, the natural law is similarly flawed by an infinite regression paradox, in which God is just an intermediary and thus unnecessary for the explanation of the inquiry, if ever an explanation will be found.

That’s two down…

”C. The Argument From Design

The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire's remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them, but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it.”

Man’s egocentricity has led him to believe that this universe was created simply with mankind in mind. That the universe is the home that God built so that man could live in it. I suppose early man with his most primitive or almost non-existent knowledge of the world cannot be much faulted for believing this. But ever since the renaissance, or at least in the modern world, such a notion becomes suspect to the point of absurdity. As more and more evidence has been accumulated thanks to science, man’s role in the universe has been revealed as less and less significance.

On a scale of size and distance, man’s earth is insignificant in its place in the vastness of the universe. On a scale of time, his absence from the universe for such a huge time period prior to existing on earth makes it highly improbable that the whole universe was created with mankind in mind. The almost unimaginable vastness of the universe and the incredible length of time that it has existed since man arrived on the scene seems like an awful waste of space, and an awful waste of time.

Furthermore, the almost infinite flaws, whether functional or moral, also deem the hand of an intelligent being at work to be highly improbable. Blindness and unconsciousness appear a better fit to the model of the universe than does intelligent design.

These arguments so far are presented from purely a logical consideration, without even the knowledge that has been gained within the last two centuries in the field of biology: the process of evolution. The evolutionary model has gained more and more strength with the passage of time, and no intelligent or educated modern person holds it to be simply a “theory” in the sense that we only suspect evolution to be true but cannot be absolutely certain of it.

I suppose “absolute certainty” is a tricky and elusive concept, as it can be challenged in regard to almost everything. I further suppose that “absolute certainty,” since unattainable, is irrelevant. What is relevant are only “degrees of certainty.” It is not absolute truth which is the aim, since it is always beyond reach, but approximations to the truth. An idea may not fit observation well, and thus be rendered to be far from the truth. However, an idea that fits more and more observations, fits within or conjunctive to another resilient idea, and time shows little or no inconsistency in it is a good approximation of the truth.

The theory of evolution over time has shown itself to be less just a theory per say, and a closer and closer approximation of the truth. Its opponents may be haunted by it and try to debate it till the cows come home, but the time for seriously debating this issue is long dead. There is not a shred of evidence which disproves it, and a mountain of evidence to support it. From a practical standpoint, it is the truth.

The universe was not designed by a God in order to fit humans within it. Humans, and all other creatures in it evolved and exist as they currently do in order to fit the world around them. The argument from design is flawed philosophically and logically. It is also flawed evidently, as is shown by the evidence for the process of evolution. Darwin put the final nail on that coffin once and for all – thank you Charles.

That’s three down…

”D. The Moral Arguments For Deity

You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother's knee. That illustrates what the psycho-analysts so much emphasize -- the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.”

The fourth argument, that of the moral argument, was introduced by Kant. Which takes us on a side note. Many intelligent and often logical individuals take the side of defending and upholding religion, though this has been more true in the past than in the present. Why is that?

I have for long believed that it is because of the environment to which they were exposed, especially in the early years. Religion and belief in God was imprinted upon them at a very plastic age, a time when belief systems are etched onto the impressionable youth as a tattoo upon the skin. That youth may mature into a functional, intelligent, and otherwise logical adult. However, it will be very difficult to remove this early belief system, as it has found a permanent home within that person’s brain. Belief systems are very important to people, and to shake and disprove them can be close to impossible, or at least extremely distressing. It can be done, but with great effort and pain, similar to a tattoo removal.

The later in life this is attempted, the less likely for it to be successful. That’s because the later in life a person is, the more set in his or her way, the more comfortable he or she is with his or her beliefs, and the more resistant to change he or she will be. That’s why the education and exposure of our youth is so important. Don’t even bother convincing the old, for most of them are beyond help. It is too late for most of them. The youth are what’s important, if ever a more enlightened world is to be conceived, free from religion. The youth are what’s important, if ever a more enlightened Iran is to be conceived, free from Islam.

Back to Russell…

“Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say that there would be no right and wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are then in this situation: is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God who made this world, or could take up the line that some of the Gnostics took up -- a line which I often thought was a very plausible one -- that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the Devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.”

The moral argument is one I am more used to encountering in the world of the pseudo-intellectual modern epoch of the theist. Russell does an excellent job of refuting it in the above argument.

In essence, God is invoked as the ultimate guide to what’s wrong and what’s right, without whom, it is said, such a distinction is impossible and meaningless. That right and wrong cannot exist without God.

If God created morality simply so that humans will abide by it, then it is not an end worthwhile in and of itself, and becomes only an arbitrary rule that a creator made, based on a whim. As such, it loses its appeal as a desirable end. Furthermore, God himself falls outside the realm of morality, and cannot himself be seen as “good.” God would lose any benevolence, love, etc. This is a path that theists absolutely cannot commit to traveling, because God is thereby reduced to a neutral entity devoid of goodness, decreeing arbitrary rules simply for amusement.

The alternative approach is to say that God’s wish is to show humans the difference between right and wrong and guide them to lead a moral life because morality and goodness are the desired ends. If morality and goodness are the desired ends, and if God himself is good, this suggests that goodness and morality must exist independently of God. If morality exists independently of God, then it must be seceded that either God is not a requirement for morality, or that goodness and morality were created by another God, trapping the theist again in an infinite regression paradox. Alternatively, one may take the initial approach that God himself is not bound by morality, that he invented it simply to have certain rules, that he himself is not good, and that since morality is an arbitrary concept for God, that it is therefore only an arbitrary concept for us.

And so falls the moral argument in favor of God’s existence.

That’s four down…and out.

Four main attempts at using reason to explain God’s existence. Four arguments that are flawed, and easily shot down. All are destroyed by logic. All are philosophically unsound. Three yield infinite regression paradoxes, leaving the poor theist spinning in circles, chasing his own tail until dizzy. One (that of design) is not only logically unsound but also contrary to every bit of scientific evidence in the field of biology that has accumulated in the last two centuries.

Four arguments, four demolished houses of cards.

“The Argument For The Remedying Of Injustice

Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of the universe that we know there is a great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth, and so they say that there must be a God, and that there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, ‘After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here then the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.’”

This is really just another subset of the moral argument. Furthermore, it is not based upon even an attempt at reason, but upon wishful thinking. No real attempt at logic is therefore necessary to dismiss it.

This is an argument for how humans, because of injustice, wish the world to be. They wish for continuation after death into an unknown world, in which they hope, justice will finally be served. It is what offers comfort to the overwhelming majority who have suffered at the hands of the wicked.

This is why I believe religion is for the weak. It always has been so. It made its initial appeal to the weak and oppressed. There are more weak people in the world than we would like to admit, and it is that weakness, wishfulness, and helplessness that partially drives people to religion, among other things.

” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about is not really what moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.”

We come back to the idea that people are religious because that is what they were taught as children, and had it imprinted onto their brain. It will take something close to brain surgery to get out that nonsense, because they have grown quite attached to that nonsense, and that nonsense gives them comfort. A dirty, flea infested, germ ridden security blanket with holes, that the primitive insecure child inside the theist simply refuses to abandon. So this blanket gets handed down, from generation to generation as a family heirloom which commemorates the ignorance of ancestors from thousands of years ago.

” Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people's desire for a belief in God.”

In a word, “fear.” Fear is a great motivator. Fear, in its many forms, plays another major role in religion; but more on that later.

I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Why I Am Not a Christian

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:21 pm

Part 2

Why I Am Not a Christian

Sub-Part 2

“The Character Of Christ

I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said: "Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also"…

Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, "Judge not lest ye be judged." That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and they none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, "Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away"…

He says, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor." That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practiced. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, I am not by way of doing so, and it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.”

Christ (or at least the figure of Christ, whether or not he actually existed and whether or not he was a real individual or the representation of the thoughts of many different individuals) shows a relatively high moral character. He had a high ethical standard, and that much must be admitted.

What is a travesty is that what is preached is not practiced by the overwhelming number of Christians. Vengeance is rendered, judgement is passed, charity is ignored, and greed is embraced by those that otherwise call themselves “Christian.”

The point is that whatever potential ethical benefits are theoretically offered by religion are blatantly overlooked by the pious, and whatever limited moral improvement religion would have on men’s lives is in practice non-existent.

So it is apparent that the religious followers are not truly motivated by morality and goodness as they claim, but by other factors. Some of those factors have already been discussed in the prior paragraphs.

That the followers of a religion fall short of some of the moral guidelines of that religion merely attests to the ineffectiveness of that religion in acting as a moral guide. However, that the leaders (or clergy) of a religion fall short of those guidelines attests to far more. It highlights the charade and façade that is the pillar of almost every religion. The failure of the religious leaders, who have in history time and again proven to be more devious and more immoral than the common man is testimony to the moral failings of religion and its hypocritical nature.

”Defects In Christ's Teaching

…and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically, it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as he appears in the Gospels…”

There are many who doubt even the existence of Christ historically. What is portrayed as the “teachings of Christ” may indeed be a compilation of various figures’ thoughts and preaching. The historical accuracy of Christ himself is quite shady, and certainly the debate is a valid one. Nevertheless, in confronting Christianity, it will suffice for one to simply refute or accept what is portrayed in the Gospels by the figure of Christ, irrespective of Christ’s actual existence.

”… one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought his second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance: "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come." Then he says: "There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into his kingdom"; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that he believed his second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of his earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of his moral teaching. When he said, "Take no thought for the morrow," and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count.”

Could a figure with such a delusional notion of the immediate future concerning himself be so wise, or truly be divine?

As far as Islam goes, it becomes even easier to criticize Mohammad’s wisdom and his link to divinity when one considers the nonsense that he preached. There are more examples of this regarding Mohammad than I care to list here, but as one example, he once said “During sex, if the mother reaches her climax first then the child will look like her, but if the father reaches his climax first, then the child will look like him.” There are countless such accounts that make the wisdom of Mohammad and his access to divine knowledge highly suspect. Is this the wise man whom every Muslim must emulate?

“The Moral Problem

Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that he believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person that is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to his preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance, find that attitude in Socrates…

You will find that in the Gospels Christ said: "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell." That was said to people who did not like His preaching…

I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of this sort into the world…

Then Christ says, "The Son of Man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"; and he goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often…

He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world, and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take him as his chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that…”

“Christ is love…God is love…etc etc etc.” Impossible. One who is love does not inflict such infinite, everlasting punishment. What’s more, one who is divine, so powerful and so benevolent cannot possibly be so vain as to inflict this type of punishment simply because his subjects did not believe his existence or his magnanimity.

God’s love is in direct conflict with his system of rewards and punishments.

If anything, Mohammad was even more preoccupied with punishment and hell than Christ. In the Quran, almost everything leads to hell. Very little affords one salvation from hell. There is a sadism inherent in Islam that is second to none, and it is a direct result of the sadistic nature of Mohammad and his gang.

The absurdity of Islam is far greater even than that of Christianity, as is evident by Mohammad’s teachings and his great divide from morality. A tremendous call is made by Mohammad to violence that one finds lacking in the Christian Gospels. Imposition, domination, and violent propagation of Islam are encouraged by Mohammad himself. A convenient and curious norm of morality is introduced by Mohammad that seems to benefit the male gender, and specifically men of authority and influence such as Mohammad.

It seems as though morality was remolded by Mohammad in a way that it would benefit himself the most. An entire religion and its moral code was devised by an individual simply to call his own devious behavior righteous. Unfortunately, the ramifications of this plan and movement proved too great and spread by conquest like wildfire under the machinery that Mohammad created. I doubt that even he had any idea how large would grow this monster he had fashioned simply out of convenience to fit his own lifestyle.

”The Emotional Factor

As I said before, I do not think that the real reason that people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds.

One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it.”

If logic and reason were the dictating forces in culture, then religion would not exist. Reason always sides with the skeptics of religion, and religion did not gain its great membership by holding intellectual debates and argumentation. Religion’s main ally is the dark side of emotion.

But there are those that say that even if reason shows religion to be false, we nonetheless need religion because of another benefit: leading men to virtue. History, however, shows quite a different result of religion than finding virtue and morality.

” That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called Ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.”

The most modern example: Iran. Cruelty, wickedness, corruption, sadism, injustice, oppression, and tyranny have always been proportional to the religious fervor of a nation. I am sure that a mathematical formula depicting such conditions as a function of religion can be easily found and described in an equation.

Furthermore, such a mathematical relationship can also easily be viewed as a “law” by those who would observe the world and describe their observed relationships in terms of “natural law.” Such a natural law is of course – according to the theist – the consequence of a lawgiver, or God. Therefore, God ordained the law that cruelty and injustice should be a function of religiosity, which seems very curious in its counter productiveness. This was another example of the “natural law argument” revisited.

” You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress of humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or ever mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.”

The same could be said about Islam, except that in contemporary times Islam is an even bigger obstacle towards the moral progress of the world. Our own Qom is an even more dangerous spawning pool of degeneracy and opposition to morality than was Rome in the Middle Ages.

”How The Churches Have Retarded Progress

There are a great many ways in which at the present moment the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. ‘What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.’”

In an attempt to set guidelines and dictate the kind of lives that people should lead, religion developed dogmas which, in an attempt to empower them, it linked with divinity and God. Such dogmas then become more authoritative and will be less likely to be broken if given to us by a higher power. At least, so thought the early religious leaders.

The down side of this policy is that the dogma then becomes stringent and unchangeable. For if it is changeable, then it must not have been the ultimate truth from the beginning. Therefore, the religious leaders are trapped in a cage of their own making, which precludes change as the human condition evolves, matures, and has differing needs. To change the dogmas of religion, which were supposedly handed down by God is the same as either holding God to be in error or admitting the falsity of that religion. These are not easy concessions for a Church to make.

Evidently every religious entity is incredibly resistant to change and will fight it tooth and nail. It will sooner burn, stone, hang, or torture thousands or millions who challenge it than concede one of its dogmas. That is exactly what it has done, whether that dogma was Christian or Moslem. That is how religion has been a major opposing force to human progression.

Thus was born the narrow path of morality that religion defined, outside of which all others must be condemned and must suffer.

Religion’s definition of morality is not linked to human happiness, but to unchanging laws which it claims were given by a lawgiver. Yet, human happiness is what I believe to be the main defining feature of morality. Morality is hidden in the desire to maximize human happiness as a whole, and is guided by empathy towards other members of the human race.

“Fear, The Foundation Of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand-in-hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by the help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.”

Fear is a major motivator of religion. It is the fear that the masses feel that forces them to concede their livelihood, humanity, self-respect, and intellect to the religious ruling classes. It is fear that allows those clergy to rule the unsuspecting masses with ease. First they surrender their reason. Then they surrender their desires. Then they surrender their possessions. Then they surrender their sanity. Finally, they surrender their humanity.

Fear is a major player of religion. Russell implies one sort of fear: fear of the unknown, fear of nature, fear of death. That is what drives man to religion.

I believe that fear in another form must also be mentioned. That is, not just the natural fears that drive men to religion, but the type of secondary and artificial fear that is in turn created by religion itself in order to draw more people to itself and to keep its current members under control: The fear of God; the fear of punishment; the fear of damnation.

This is a fear that I deem artificial in the sense that it was not initially inherent in man, but later created by religion. This fear I call “religious cold terrorism.” It instills terror in the subjects: terror of God and terror of hell. The subject is then ruled by terrorism, which is cold since no direct action is implemented since God and hell don’t actually exist.

This is to be distinguished from “religious hot terrorism” which is a real action or threat of a real action taken by those in religious authority or religious following against others who do not adhere to the dictums of religion. It is violence or threat of violence, coercive control, exile, banishment, social separation and its many other forms which a person perpetrates against another in the name of religion.

“Religious cold terrorism” is the threat against one’s afterlife, which although does not exist, is nonetheless terrifying for the many who do believe it. “Religious hot terrorism” is the threat against one’s current life or well being, a subset of which is the Islamic terrorism rampant in the world today. Both are forms of terror, used by those in religious authority against those who might oppose them. Both use fear to overcome reason and sanity.

”What We Must Do

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of a God is a conception derived from the ancient oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.”

In practice religion has three domains: the domain of Divinity – or God, the domain of the intermediary – or clergy, and the domain of the recipients – or common men.

The first is highly suspect, and in all probability according to both evidence and logic is fictitious. In practicality, only the second and third are real and matter at all.

The second, that of the clergy, is predominated by a class that is motivated by the personal benefits that such a system affords them; the position of respect, wealth, influence, dominance, and power that the tool of religion facilitates. Theirs is a position envied by the common charlatans and con artists. Religion, in the hands of the clergy, has been the ultimate and oldest con practiced on mankind, going back thousands of years. So religion has a different meaning and importance in this domain of the intermediary clergy, and its motivation in the hands of the clergy is of a completely different nature.

The third, that of the common man, exists for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it exists because of the intermediary clergy, without which their parasitic aspirations could not be fulfilled. Second, it exists because of certain primitive yet powerful qualities inherent in man: desperate helplessness, gullible ignorance, fictitious confabulation, delusions of grandeur, unyielding tradition, blind obedience, and overwhelming fear. If these are not the seven deadly sins of mankind, I don’t know what are.

For far too long has humanity been the slave of a creature of its own making. For far too long has mankind allowed this fictitious creature to rule it, limit it, and impede its advancement. For far too long has the vindictive nature of this fictitious creature spilled over to human practice. For far too long have his arbitrary and primitive rules been allowed to blind the better judgement of men, their compassion, and their pursuit of happiness. For far too long has this fictitious creature brought misery, oppression, and tyranny. For far too long has this fictitious creature been allowed to divert men to superstition and ignorance.

The Age of Faith will one day be dead. We must do whatever we can to hasten that death and put God in his rightful place next to Zeus, Poseidon, Marduk, Anahita, Odin, and Thor.

The Age of Reason is upon us.
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Why I Am a Rationalist

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:24 pm

Part 3

Why I Am A Rationalist

“I am, in this age when there are a great many appeals to unreason, an unrepentant Rationalist. I have been a Rationalist ever since I can remember, and I do not propose to cease to be so whatever appeals to unreason may be made. We have listened to a speech, by which I think we were all much moved, about the pioneers in the past who have done what they could to promote the cause of freedom of thought. I suppose it is for me to speak about the great need of continuing this work in our own day, and about how much there is that remains for all who sympathize with its objects to accomplish. We are not yet, and I suppose men and women never will be, completely rational. Perhaps, if we were, we should not have all the pleasures that we have at present; but I think complete rationality is so distant a prospect that we need not be much alarmed by it, and the nearest approach that we are likely to get is sure to be all to the good. I certainly find that there is a very great deal of irrationality still about in the world.”

Does that sound a bit pessimistic regarding the intellect of the world? Does it really?

The human race has much to boast about. It is the only species on this earth to create civilization. Its advancement has been no doubt because of great intellectual prowess. However, consider how many people have lived, and how many of them had any real contribution. The human advancement has been due to contribution from less than one percent of all that ever lived. The rest? Most are just content to have a mundane existence, eating simply to stay alive, carrying on from day to day. I do not mean to degrade or trivialize that existence, but simply to show that serious intellectual evaluation and rationality is not a part of most people’s lives.

Since rationality and thought are unfortunately not a part of life for the vast majority of humans, this world continues to be swayed by the occasional lunatics that step in and seize the void that exists in people’s heads.

If rationality was the predominating force in most human heads, Moses would not be able to convince people that he went up a mountain, spoke to a burning bush (which makes one wonder what Moses himself must have been burning and smoking), and come down with a list of “Commandments.”

If rationality ruled lives, Jesus would not be able to convince people that he was the son of God, he had a kingdom above the clouds, and that he would be resurrected.

If rationality was prevalent, Mohammad would not convince others that if they did whatever he said, including assassinating, waging Jihad, pillaging and murdering that they would go to heaven.

If rationality was dominant, Hitler would not persuade others to kill 6 million Jews.

If rationality was present, Osama bin Laden would not convince 19 youths to highjack planes and crash them into buildings.

If rationality was eminent, Persians would not bow 5 times a day, speaking the tongue of foreign barbarians, and honoring and mourning the invaders that once destroyed their country.

If rationality was appealing, ungrateful Iranians would not flood the streets, cursing the king that made their country great and hailing a foreign bloodthirsty clergyman to come in and set the country back 1400 years.

Rationality obviously has yet to find a place among the majority of humans. The majority which are irrational suffer at their own hands, for it is this irrationality that leads them down a doomed path over and over. What’s more unfortunate is that the minority that are rational are often also dragged down that path in the flood of the movement, as the momentum is in the hands of the irrational majority who are often too stupid to know what they are doing.

The irrational nature of man is religion’s best friend. Religion whispers in his ear “believe what I tell you, not because there is any reason for what I say, not because there is any evidence whatsoever, but because you must have faith.” The rationality of man should prompt him to ask the question: “But why should I have faith? Why should I believe?” Fortunately for religion, rationality is easily suppressed by that gentle whisper.

”… we ought not to believe, and we ought not to try to cause others to believe, any proposition for which there is no evidence whatever. That seems a modest proposition, and if you can stick to that you will be fairly sure that you are not going to become a sort of ossified endowed church. We ought not to commit ourselves to dogmatic negations any more than to dogmatic affirmations; we ought merely to say that there are a great many propositions about which men and women feel pretty certain, but, concerning which they have no right to feel certain, and it is our business as Rationalists to try to make them see that those things are not certain…”

Nothing ought to be dogmatic. No idea ought to be presented that is incapable of change and modification. No idea ought to be presented that cannot be abandoned, if later evidence is presented to its contrary.

However, as more and more evidence accumulates to support an idea, that idea can be viewed more and more favorably.

It follows that a concept for which no evidence is presented ought not be accepted any more than a fairy tail. There is and has never been any favorable evidence to the existence of God. So why is it that God is accepted, yet Little Red Riding Hood is seen as fictional?

” You may or may not know that some little time ago, under the auspices of the National Secular Society, I delivered a lecture on " Why I am Not a Christian.” Now, it appears that I did not know why it is that I am not a Christian; and here is a book which will tell you why I am not -- by Mr. H. G. Wood, who is a somewhat eminent member of the Society of Friends, a body for which I have the greatest respect. His book is called Why Mr. Bertrand Russell is Not a Christian. It seems that the reasons are not those which I thought they were. He says in one sentence: "The main reason why he is not a Christian is that he simply does not know what religion is." One might say that Mr. Wood is not an Agnostic because he does not know what Agnosticism is. After all, I had all the benefits of a Christian education, and he did not have the benefits of an Agnostic education; so that possibly the argument might be considered two-edged.”

It seems that “Why I am Not a Christian” sent many unsettling shock waves in the world at that time, as it still does now. Many Christians felt very threatened, as they do now; rightly so. Some have even dedicated a considerable effort to refute Russell. As might be expected, such attempts were never based on rationality; only a weak endeavor at the illusion of rationality.

“We have to realize that the attitude of Rationalism, which I defined as that of not believing a proposition or causing others to believe it unless there is at least some reason for supposing it to be true, is by no means widespread. Take the matter of education, concerning which Professor Graham Wallas spoke. In most countries of the world a great many extremely dubious propositions are taught to the young with great emphasis, and the young grow up accepting those extremely dubious propositions.

… I think that any virtue that you may believe in should be one that you can support from the very first without appealing to anything that you do not yourself believe. Education will have to be quite enormously transformed if that view is accepted…”

Education is the key to advancement. Another reason why religion has been so successful is because for a very long time in history education was in the undeserving hands of the theologians, who monopolized access to young minds. In medieval times, Christian clergy were the privileged few to be taught the skills of reading and writing. Anyone who wished to be educated had to pass through the Christian filtration process.

Even now, the aftereffects of such blunder in the field of education can be seen in the multitude of Christian schools which run rampant in the West, polluting the humble desire for education by mixing it with Theology. “Let me teach you how to read and write….but first, let me tell you about a friend of mine, called Jesus” is the premise that many a young unsuspecting child is faced with when simply trying to get a basic education. Fortunately, through the efforts of many trailblazers that would not compromise with such a travesty in the public education system, this Christian educational pollution is now limited to private teaching institutions. Unfortunately, because of the victimization of parents from generation after generation, many children are placed in such a dysfunctional private education, due to their parents’ choice. A choice that they actually themselves don’t have, because they in turn had such views imposed upon them by their parents, and their parents before them, tracing back to an age of ignorance.

Similarly, in Islam education was linked with Theology. In Persian, the common word for school is “Madrase.” The Madrase is the Arabic name for school; specifically a religious school. Even now, we hear of Pakistani, Saudi, and other Madrases as the brainwashing and Jihadi grounds of terrorists. Instead of being taught mathematics, literature, poetry, physics, or biology, the inopportune children of such countries (Iran included presently) have to waste their valuable time and effort memorizing the silly babble of an illiterate pedophile pirate that lived in a completely ignorant and uneducated era and location.

In the past, and even in the present, education is presented within the framework of a religion. It is no wonder that religion has such a stranglehold on humanity.

A secular education is absolutely essential to advancement, free thought, and emancipation from medieval superstition.

It is very unfortunate that under the IR, Iran’s education system among other things has been pulled backwards. Religion is introduced into every aspect of education. What’s more, history is falsified in order to present a more bleak outlook on Iran’s ancient and “pagan” civilization, while the atrocities of Arab Taazis committed against Iran and Iranians is hidden. With such an educational model, more and more Iranians are becoming less Iranian and more Taazi. A shakedown is currently underway by Taazi President Ahmadinejad to wipe out any trace of secularism from Iranian universities and replace it completely with an Islamic education. The Madrases of Iran are being more and more transformed into the original Taazi Madrases that the name implies.

“I think that we ought to do all that we can to bring before the world the importance of the attitude that we are not going to believe a thing unless there is some reason to think that it is true. I know that that is thought to be very shocking. It is supposed that there are a lot of things that you ought to believe because good people believe them, and not because there is any reason for them. I do not take that view. I think anything that is worth believing must have some positive ground in its favor.”

In a sense, that is the definition of rationality. To only believe that for which evidence exists. To use logic to derive conclusions which use prepositions which are based upon the evidence.

“You will always find a number of clever people engaged in perversions of anything that comes up -- engaged in saying that the latest results of science prove that the people who always opposed science are after all in the right. That is where there is always humbug. Anybody who tells you that the latest results of science prove something, he himself not being a scientist, you may be pretty sure is talking nonsense.”

Theists just love to point out that science shows sometimes that some of its previous notions were incorrect in light of new research. They use this to imply that science is flawed. They believe that to be a weakness of science. On the contrary, I believe that to be a strength of science. The fact that nothing is held as dogmatic and everything is potentially discardable frees science in a way that a dogmatic entity such as religion can never be.

Within science, nothing is sacred. Nothing is accepted without evidence. Nothing is above scrutiny. Nothing is unchangeable. Nothing is above dissolution, provided that new evidence is presented.

Can the same be said regarding religion and God?
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:27 pm

Part 4

Has Religion Made
Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Sub-Part 1

“My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others.”

In a humorous yet real way Russell points out that religion’s positive contribution to civilization has been close to zero. It is amazing that so many people think otherwise. It is implied by such people that Western civilization is entangled with Christianity, or that Persian civilization is entangled with Islam. This is absolute nonsense. Christianity developed within Western civilization, and polluted it from inside. Similarly, Islam invaded Persian civilization and polluted it from inside. From that point on, these religions tagged on to their respective civilizations and attempted to fool everyone into thinking that without them, such civilizations could not exist.

This is similar to a tapeworm claiming that without it, its human host could not exist. Western and Persian civilizations do not exist because of Christianity and Islam; they exist despite of them. The roots of western civilization go back to the pre-Christian Romans, the Greeks before them, and to a smaller degree the Persians and Assyrians before them. Western civilization was around long before Christianity showed up, and was doing quite well; in many ways better than what happened to it after Christianity’s appearance. Persian civilization in all its glory and splendor existed for thousands of years prior to Islam, and no doubt was in every way better than what happened to it after Islam showed up.

Consider the points in human history when it took a considerable step forward to the betterment of civilization. When were those times, and what were the circumstances? Who were the people that brought about such upgrades to civilization? In what aspect did humanity progress?

A simple review of history will show the following considerable steps:

1. 9th Millennium BC: agriculture first appears in Mesopotamia

2. 8th Millennium BC: the first settlements appear in Mesopotamia

3. 7th Millennium BC: the first art and pottery appear in Mesopotamia

4. 6th Millennium BC: the wheel and plough are invented in Mesopotamia

5. 5th Millennium BC: the first cities appear: Kish and Susa

6. 4th Millennium BC: the first writings, in form of cuneiform appear in Susa and Uruk

7. 3rd Millennium BC: city states (Polis) emerge, and metallurgy is implemented: Bronze Age

8. 2nd Millennium BC: kingdoms become organized, and metallurgy is mastered: Iron Age

9. 1st Millennium BC: empires begin to emerge; law and commerce take real form. In Greece, India, Persia, China philosophy and mathematics are explored. A first real attempt is made to understand the world. Significant progress is made in human understanding, though still primitive

10. 1st Millennium AD: Christianity and Islam take hold. Birth of the Middle Ages (or Dark Ages); religion takes a strong hold on human lives. Islam is spread by the sword; Crusades are launched

11. 11th to 14th Centuries AD: more of the same; Religion, superstition, ignorance are at an all time high both in Europe and Asia; some advancement is made by Persians in math, literature, science, medicine, which Arabs and Islam will later take credit for

12. 15th to 16th Centuries AD: beginning of Christian Inquisitions; beginning of the Renaissance, or revival; revival from what? Why a re-awakening? Why was everyone asleep?

14. 17th to 18th Centuries AD: formulation of scientific principles; significant advancement in the fields of mathematics, physics, astronomy, and art. The Inquisition was all the while in bitter opposition of the above, and every inch was taken by fighting tooth and nail with the religious authorities

15. 19th to 21st Centuries AD: religion on the retreat; exponential advancement in physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, medicine, transportation, communication, and computer technology; improvement of quality of life and an almost doubling of the life expectancy

Looking back, one can hardly find any positive contributions by religion. On the contrary, it appears that religion closed the eyes and minds of men for many centuries, retarding progress. When some eventually awakened, religion did all that it could to stop such thinkers from advancing humanity by using its power of inquisition, persecution, censure, and coercion to halt its critics and heretics. Fortunately, it did not have the intended effect.

”As soon as absolute truth is supposed to be contained in the sayings of a certain man, there is a body of experts to interpret his sayings, and these experts infallibly acquire power, since they hold the key to truth. Like any other privileged caste, they use their power for their own advantage. They are, however, in one respect worse than any other privileged caste, since it is their business to expound an unchanging truth, revealed once for all in utter perfection, so that they become necessarily opponents of all intellectual and moral progress. The church opposed Galileo and Darwin; in our own day it opposes Freud. In the days of its greatest power it went further in its opposition to the intellectual life. Pope Gregory the Great wrote to a certain bishop a letter beginning: ‘A report has reached us which we cannot mention without a blush, that thou expoundest grammar to certain friends.’”

The “domain of the intermediary,” or clergy appears whenever a belief is advertised, or a new religion forms. I have already expanded upon this domain in Part 2, so I won’t say much more about it other than the following. In all classes that exist and ever existed, none is the more vicious and malignant than this class of people. Their whole existence, their entire job, their entire position of authority is based on a lie. It is they that propagate the lie, and they do it out of purely selfish and self-preserving motives. For if the lie is discovered by the masses, their position will be dissolved and there will be no reason for their existence. Truly, the clergy are the worst parasites of a society.

It has been and still remains their job to block any sort of progress. For the more ignorant men are, the more of them will believe the clergy’s fairy tales. They stood in the way of the Renaissance, and threatened the scientists of the time with violence, torture, and incarceration because as the truth was surfacing at the hands of the scientists, it contradicted the mythology that religious institutions had been teaching all along.

This was one of religion’s great contributions to civilization: subjecting men such as Galileo to their Inquisition.

”… The churches, as everyone knows, opposed the abolition of slavery as long as they dared, and with a few well-advertised exceptions they oppose at the present day every movement toward economic justice…”

Slavery flourished and was perfected at the hands of both the Arab Islamists during the Middle Ages and the Christian Colonialists during the post-Renaissance era. Both religions accepted it with open arms and embraced it. In the Old Testament, there are even passages discussing laws and protocols in regard to slaves, clearly implying that the Hebrew God accepts slavery as a part of humanity and does not condemn it but sets up rules that define it within society. How a religion that advertises itself on the premise of “equality” can condone and embrace slavery is at first shocking. But the initial shock subsides, once one considers that such calls for “equality” are only advertising tools for religions, and the real purpose and role of religion and religious leaders is remembered. Then shock is replaced with a chilling understanding of reality.

Slavery was a very convenient method of economic advancement. It brought in money, and lots of it. It offered economic prosperity to the cultures and nations that indulged in it. As an institution that stood to prosper along with the society that embraced it, the church stood to benefit from slavery. It was yet another entity that so frequently links the religious authorities with the only entity they love more than God: money.

Money seems to always be related to religion. God can do anything, but somehow when it comes to money, he needs a little help. Churches need money; and they always need a little more. Considering such religions’ call to relinquish the material world in lieu of the Kingdom of Heaven, it is again surprising that churches preoccupy themselves so much with money. Yet again, that surprise fades once religion’s core is examined instead of its shell.

Religious leaders are more shrewd than they are given credit. They know, and have always known that power comes on top of three other pillars: mind control, force, and money. Mind control is their specialty, so that’s already in their grasp. Force is something that they have repeatedly resorted to when mind control did not work on certain people. Then comes money. Money is needed to secure force at times. Money is needed to fund the advertising and propaganda machine of religion. Money is needed to build their magnificent Cathedrals and Mosques which are architectural marvels, adorned with precious metals designed to captivate the beholder and give him the sense of awe that he will associate with God. Money is needed to put political pressure upon their adversaries and force them to yield at times when force is unwise. But more importantly, money is needed so that the bishops, priests, akhounds, and mullahs can eat; and eat well they do.

Religious authorities have always been quick to stake a claim in economic matters, and are understandably very reluctant to release that claim. During the Middle Ages, at times the Pope was wealthier and more powerful than European kings. Currently, leaders of the Christian Right are doing very well for themselves, and Iranian Mullahs and their families have embezzled trillions of dollars of Iran’s oil revenues and are each multi-billionaires.

An almost feudal system existed in Iran until the twentieth century, whereby huge allocations of land were owned by Mullahs under the guise of belonging to the religious institutions and Mosques. When Shah did away with that during his White Revolution and land reform allocating wealth to the peasant class, he made a very bitter enemy in the Mullahs.

Where is this kingdom to which Christianity and Islam always refer? Is it really in heaven as they say, or is it right here on earth, as they show by action?

”… We sometimes hear talk to the effect that Christianity improved the status of women. This is one of the grossest perversions of history that it is possible to make. Women cannot enjoy a tolerable position in society where it is considered of the utmost importance that they should not infringe a very rigid moral code. Monks have always regarded Woman primarily as the temptress; they have thought of her mainly as the inspirer of impure lusts…”

Judeo-Christianity, and to an even larger extent Islam have been an obstacle to the equalization of the two genders. Women are seen as sources of sin, as they entice lust in men. How primitive, to blame women because of men’s “impure thoughts.” This attitude of viewing the natural and essential human function of sex as a sin has caused an unnecessary drive to censor and suppress it. By suppressing it as such, a frustration mounts that drives some to pathologic behavior.

The male chauvinism that results from viewing sex as a sin and taboo subsequently causes oppression of women. An example is the sentence of stoning a woman for such a trivial act as adultery. This was of course born of Judaism first, even though it is currently only practiced in Islam. The idea was not originally Islamic; Mohammad only copied it from Judaism.

In Judeo-Christianity, Eve is the one that tempts Adam to eat the apple and brings about disaster on humanity. She is the culprit behind the original sin.

In Islam, clearly the worth of a woman is defined as half of that of man. A man is permitted to take multiple wives, but a wife is not allowed multiple husbands (as is also the case with some Christian sects as well). According to Mohammad, hell is predominated by women. He says, according to Bukhari, "and I looked at Hell and saw that the majority of its inhabitants were women."

How is a woman to be emancipated within religion, when religion views her as the source of sin, with contempt, with less worth than man? Where is woman’s dignity within religion, when in many ways she is viewed almost as an object that man owns, that must be hidden behind a veil and kept chaste?

Once more, religion’s insincere call for “equality” is overshadowed by its own hypocrisy.

“The conception of Sin which is bound up with Christian ethics is one that does an extraordinary amount of harm, since it affords people an outlet for their sadism which they believe to be legitimate, and even noble…

…they hold it good that sinners should be punished….

…The usual Christian argument is that the suffering in the world is a purification for sin and is therefore a good thing. This argument is, of course, only a rationalization of sadism; but in any case it is a very poor argument. I would invite any Christian to accompany me to the children's ward of a hospital, to watch the suffering that is there being endured, and then to persist in the assertion that those children are so morally abandoned as to deserve what they are suffering. In order to bring himself to say this, a man must destroy in himself all feelings of mercy and compassion. He must, in short, make himself as cruel as the God in whom he believes. No man who believes that all is for the best in this suffering world can keep his ethical values unimpaired, since he is always having to find excuses for pain and misery…”

The religious idea of sin has been a source of great misery for many, as it has psychologically impaired the self-esteem and worth of many a faithful believer. Using such a psychological weapon against the common man, religion has destroyed his humanity and burdened him with unnecessary guilt over many concepts that are not linked with morality and are artificially labeled as immoral due to chauvinistic ideas from an ancient and ignorant age.

Religion destroys man’s self-esteem, soon thereafter rushing in to fill the mental void it created. It is a typical tactic of mind control. Destroy the person that exists by degrading him, and when he cracks rush in to offer salvation. Religion has mind control down to an art form. It has had thousands of years to practice.

The other benefit of “sin” in religion is that it justifies the perpetration of violence and sadism by the deprived religious authorities. Sin must be punished by God, and his “intermediaries” here on earth are more than happy to deal what they call “moral justice.” Here enters one of the aspects of power that religion depends upon: force and violence. Whether it be punishment for sin, intervention to prevent sin, or saving one’s soul from sin, all are used in various contexts to justify violence against others for which the particular religion has a distaste. Here is the “hot religious terrorism” that I discussed earlier in Part 2. Many an innocent person was burned at the stake because of sin, and continues to be stoned or hanged for having committed a religious sin.

“The objections to religion are of two sorts -- intellectual and moral. The intellectual objection is that there is no reason to suppose any religion true; the moral objection is that religious precepts date from a time when men were more cruel than they are and therefore tend to perpetuate inhumanities which the moral conscience of the age would otherwise outgrow.
To take the intellectual objection first: there is a certain tendency in our practical age to consider that it does not much matter whether religious teaching is true or not, since the important question is whether it is useful. One question cannot, however, well be decided without the other. If we believe the Christian religion, our notions of what is good will be different from what they will be if we do not believe it. Therefore, to Christians, the effects of Christianity may seem good, while to unbelievers they may seem bad. Moreover, the attitude that one ought to believe such and such a proposition, independently of the question whether there is evidence in its favor, is an attitude which produces hostility to evidence and causes us to close our minds to every fact that does not suit our prejudices.
A certain kind of scientific candor is a very important quality, and it is one which can hardly exist in a man who imagines that there are things which it is his duty to believe. We cannot, therefore, really decide whether religion does good without investigating the question whether religion is true…”

Though theology claims to have cornered the market on morality and stakes a higher claim to it than non-believers, in reality it has led to moral decay. Its definitions of morality stem from a rigid line dating to an archaic time. It is unable to adapt its concept of morality as human civilization advances and civility progresses. Instead, it deems such actual moral progression artificially as immoral, thereby retarding moral advancement.

This has been another one of religion’s many contributions to civilization: impeding moral evolution.

The intellectual objection to religion stems from the fact that there has never been any real intellectual plea to compel the belief in religions. No proof has ever been offered. No rational argument in its favor has ever been found to be sound. On the contrary, there is much observational evidence and rational argument against it. This leads the impartial rational mind to conclude that religion is false.

The question becomes, does it really matter that it is false? What does the truth of the matter have to do with its potential usefulness? The answer is “everything.”

A premise which is false will sooner or later come into conflict with other truths. Then a difficult situation arises, and difficult choices must be made. Will that false dogmatic premise be re-examined, modified, or abandoned because of the conflict, allowing the newly discovered truths to be upheld? Or will the false dogma be embraced and defended at all cost, even if that cost means ignoring, abandoning, or persecuting those new found truths? What will be the result of the second choice? It would mean opposing new discoveries that would ordinarily lead to advancement and enlightenment.

Does this problem seem only hypothetical and removed? It is certainly not. In fact, this problem has already occurred centuries ago, and is an ongoing process. Religion has repeatedly declared many scientific discoveries as heretical and condemned them in its attempt to persecute anything that would contradict its own teachings. This has been the history of science since the Renaissance. Every new scientific discovery that has shed doubt on religion has been opposed by the churches and an effort made by them to destroy it. Only after such discoveries gained overwhelming momentum did the churches retreat on certain aspects. Even now, such an overwhelmingly proven truthful concept as evolution is opposed by the church, though the genie is already out of the bottle and creationism has all but been destroyed.

This has been another one of religion’s many contributions to civilization: suppression of truthful scientific discoveries.

I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

Naqshe Rostam
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Has Religion Made Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:30 pm

Part 4

Has Religion Made
Useful Contributions to Civilization?

Sub-Part 2

Now let’s divert to another point, that of religious contribution to the societal fabric.

” The Christian emphasis on the individual soul has had a profound influence upon the ethics of Christian communities…

The natural impulse of the vigorous person of decent character is to attempt to do good, but if he is deprived of all political power and of all opportunity to influence events, he will be deflected from his natural course and will decide that the important thing is to be good. This is what happened to the early Christians; it led to a conception of personal holiness as something quite independent of beneficent action, since holiness had to be something that could be achieved by people who were impotent in action. Social virtue came therefore to be excluded from Christian ethics. To this day conventional Christians think an adulterer more wicked than a politician who takes bribes, although the latter probably does a thousand times as much harm…”

As I said before, religion appeals to the weak and has its roots in weakness. Only after it has gained enough momentum by having a large following (of the poor, uneducated, and deprived) does it gain enough power to pull itself out of weakness and impose itself by power. Even then, its doctrine is designed to appeal to the weak.

Islam's and Christianity’s appeal to the weak placed them early on in the predicament of having a following comprised of men without power. Those without power cannot “do” any good, so instead they can only try to “be” good. Thus individualism took precedence over the greater good of a society. Co-operation was replaced with isolationism. Their ethics reflect this point. Better to achieve individual salvation than to carry out an act that improves the happiness and well being of a society. Better to lock oneself in a monastery, closet, or basement and pray for salvation than to go out and attempt to solve society’s problems via collaboration with others.

”The most virtuous man was the man who retired from the world; the only men of action who were regarded as saints were those who wasted the lives and substance of their subjects in fighting the Turks, like St. Louis. The church would never regard a man as a saint because he reformed the finances, or the criminal law, or the judiciary. Such mere contributions to human welfare would be regarded as of no importance…”

Advancement of society is unimportant to religion. Men who make such contributions are ignored, while those that propagate the religious message (missionaries, preachers, etc) and those that oppose that religion’s enemies are of utmost importance.

” With this separation between the social and the moral person there went an increasing separation between soul and body, which has survived in Christian metaphysics and in the systems derived from Descartes. One may say, broadly speaking, that the body represents the social and public part of a man, whereas the soul represents the private part. In emphasizing the soul, Christian ethics has made itself completely individualistic. I think it is clear that the net result of all the centuries of Christianity has been to make men more egotistic, more shut up in themselves, than nature made them;...”

This explains religion’s desire to promote the idea of dualism. It is referred as “dualism” because it implies the dual nature of body and soul. The soul is separated from the body in religion because this idea would be conducive to removal of emphasis from this world in favor of individual salvation in an afterlife. Of course, emphasis must be shifted away from the material world in a religion that is for the weak and impotent that have no talent or power to make contributions to society. A soul plays no role in a society, which is even more appealing for the intellectually lazy and those whose level of talent is found wanting. It is an easy escape, to shut out the world and focus on internal prayer while life goes on outside thanks to those that have the courage to face the world and improve it through thought, ingenuity, and co-operation.

When, in the history of civilization, has advancement been made by those that isolate themselves and pray? When did individual salvation and redemption of the soul ever contribute anything to a society or civilization?

”…for the impulses that naturally take a man outside the walls of his ego are those of sex, parenthood, and patriotism or herd instinct. Sex the church did everything it could to decry and degrade; family affection was decried by Christ himself and the bulk of his followers; and patriotism could find no place among the subject populations of the Roman Empire…

…He says also that He has come to set a man at variance against his father, the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and that he that loveth father and mother more than Him is not worthy of Him (Matt. x, 35-37). All this means the breakup of the biological family tie for the sake of creed -- an attitude which had a great deal to do with the intolerance that came into the world with the spread of Christianity.”

I have said this independently of Russell in the past. As no God exists for me, what I hold dearest personally by order is family, country (Iran), science, and history. I start with the closest and dearest, and extend my interest to larger nuclei of the world, all the while reaching out to civilization.

Yet, religion has been an enemy of all of these points of interest. It demands that God and its dogmas be held as more important and superior to one’s own circle of family and close friends. It would ask that they be forsaken if the path of God ever demanded it. It would ask for their sacrifice in the name of God, if ever that sacrifice was asked. God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar for him, and though it is circumvented, God wants to test and know that man would carry out that sacrifice for him. Such a God is not conducive to the love of a family.

Patriotism, or love of a society immediately outside one’s family is also a hindrance to religion. The love of country is diluted and deemed secondary to God if one accepts such a God. Religion has erroneously been used by unthinking sovereigns to unite an empire with disastrous results. It works in the short-term, but backfires in the long term. Constantine used it to unite the Roman Empire, and the Saffavids used it to unite Iran under Shia Islam. Both strategies worked for a while, but eventually grew so out of proportion that the primary appeal of patriotism was deemed secondary to the religious fervor, leading to state disintegration much later in the case of Rome, and an undermining of nationalism and national success in the later part of the 20th century in the case of Iran. Since the revolution, Iran itself has been secondary and only the tool of achieving a grater Islam. To the pious, Iran’s existence is unimportant, so long as Islam flourishes. To the truly pious, Iran’s existence is indeed not only unimportant, but an obstacle to their true desires: a pan-Shiite conglomeration that has lost its national identity to the point that only Islam is seen as a focus of identity. Once unmasked, religion is easily identified as a true enemy of patriotism.

Love for science is the same as love of knowledge, advancement, and enlightenment. Anyone who is not polluted with the deviance of religion ought to love and appreciate science; not just scientists. I do not need to expand much about how religion has been a bitter enemy of science, for it must be clear by now. In short, science is the tool by which we get closer and closer in our quest for the truth in various subjects. As religion is based on a lie, the closer we get to the truth the more such a quest will be in conflict with religion.

Love for history is the desire to know the past and to learn from it. It also means taking pride for the accomplishments of our ancestors, and using it as a motivation to achieve even greater accomplishments in our time. This is not limited to the descendants of just a few nations. For almost every nation and culture has something for which to be proud, and something to cherish in its contribution to humanity. Religion of course, being mythology, takes away from the character of historical accuracy and fact. It mixes in its own fairy tales with history, polluting it with its falsity. Furthermore, it purposely and shamelessly attempts to alter history in order to paint a more favorable image of itself. It does a great disservice to history, and can only be seen as its enemy.

Religion is therefore the enemy of what I deem as the important pillars of myself, and by extension important pillars of humanity. Love of family, love of country (and taken to the next level, humanity in general), love of science, and love of history. These pillars are the sequential methods of outreach to society and lead to its betterment.

This has been another one of religion’s many contributions to civilization: suppressing an outreach to society and discouragement of societal co-operation.

” The Spaniards in Mexico and Peru used to baptize Indian infants and then immediately dash their brains out: by this means they secured that these infants went to Heaven. No orthodox Christian can find any logical reason for condemning their action, although all nowadays do so. In countless ways the doctrine of personal immortality in its Christian form has had disastrous effects upon morals, and the metaphysical separation of soul and body has had disastrous effects upon philosophy.”

The doctrine of dualism, or separation of the soul from the body has done a great disservice to morality. The body is trivialized, labeled as unimportant and secondary while focus is shifted entirely upon the soul and the afterlife. This way, immoral acts perpetrated against the body by religious followers are justified by the greater concern regarding redemption of the soul, whether that be the soul of the victim or of the perpetrator. So, torture, hanging, stoning, burning, and murder at the hands of the Inquisitors, Witch Trial prosecutors, and Mullahs is justified because the soul is identified as separate from and more important than the body of the victim.

This has been another one of religion’s many contributions to civilization: sadism and moral deviance justified by the need to save the soul.

Which brings us to another point: intolerance.

” The intolerance that spread over the world with the advent of Christianity is one of the most curious features, due, I think, to the Jewish belief in righteousness and in the exclusive reality of the Jewish God. Why the Jews should have had these peculiarities I do not know. They seem to have developed during the captivity as a reaction against the attempt to absorb the Jews into alien populations.”

The Jews were subjected to extreme cultural hardship. Empire after empire conquered and oppressed them, with the exception of the Persians. The Jews resorted to a powerful tool to help them survive this onslaught of conquerors and preserve their tribal identity. That tool was religion. Specifically, they resorted to a novel religious idea: monotheism. With monotheism came the idea that one God must be accepted, and only one God must be accepted, to the point that all other Gods must be fiercely opposed. Had the Jews been in a position of power at the time, it would not have been surprising if religious persecution would have started with them. But as events would have it, they were at the time always on the defensive, fighting for mere survival, and their position of weakness (from which all religions initially develop) did not command the authority to persecute others. The seeds and the idea were there, but the means were not. That job would be reserved for the Christians and the Moslems, for they would soon wield much power.

” However that may be, the Jews, and more especially the prophets, invented emphasis upon personal righteousness and the idea that it is wicked to tolerate any religion except one. These two ideas have had an extraordinarily disastrous effect upon Occidental history. The church made much of the persecution of Christians by the Roman State before the time of Constantine. This persecution, however, was slight and intermittent and wholly political. At all times, from the age of Constantine to the end of the seventeenth century, Christians were far more fiercely persecuted by other Christians than they ever were by the Roman emperors.”

The limited period and occurrence of Christian persecution at the hands of the Romans has been completely overshadowed by the overwhelming persecution that was committed by the Christians themselves from the fourth century onward. Similarly, the brief time that Moslems were persecuted initially by the Meccans is absolutely dwarfed by the unimaginable persecution that they committed from the seventh century onward. Yet, both religions make an entire production of the almost negligible persecution they received during their initial years, which they hope will draw attention away from their own tremendous atrocities committed over a millennium and a half. Furthermore, such false portrayals of their own suffering and persecution is an appeal to the common man whom they hope will be sympathetic to their cause.

” Before the rise of Christianity this persecuting attitude was unknown to the ancient world except among the Jews. If you read, for example, Herodotus, you find a bland and tolerant account of the habits of the foreign nations he visited. Sometimes, it is true, a peculiarly barbarous custom may shock him, but in general he is hospitable to foreign gods and foreign customs. He is not anxious to prove that people who call Zeus by some other name will suffer eternal punishment and ought to be put to death in order that their punishment may begin as soon as possible. This attitude has been reserved for Christians.”

An important point to consider is the distinction between polytheism and monotheism, for the answer to this curious intolerance lies in its understanding.

Prior to Judaism, every culture’s religion was polytheistic. It would be a fair assertion to say that man’s natural instinct towards religion is to be driven to polytheism. This makes sense, since religion is essentially the tool that man uses to formulate answers to his universal questions. The initial drive to religion occurred when man gained the intellect to be curious enough to ask “why” without yet having the intellect to find the answer, or more importantly, the methodology to set about to find that answer. Religion filled that gap for him. Religion became the one-stop destination for all who wished to satisfy their curiosity about the world.

Why is there lightning? Because Zeus sends down bolts which he holds in his hands. Why are there sea storms? Because Poseidon, ruler of the sea, wishes it so. Why is there war? Because Ares incites men to violence. And so on. Notably, not only are the various aspects of nature explained by invoking various Gods, but man is also given a chance to affect those forces by appealing to the individual Gods. Prayer and sacrifice to Poseidon may appease him enough to allow one safe passage across the Mediterranean. Invention of polytheism and multiple Gods satisfied answers to the multiple questions regarding man’s world. From native Americans, to Europeans, to Egyptians, to Middle Easterners, to Far Easterners all had their multiple Gods except the Jews.

Inherent to polytheism is the notion of belief in multiple Gods, and therefore tolerance of multiple Gods. If the Greeks believed in their multitude of Gods on Olympus, there was no reason to doubt that others existed in Egypt or Persia. The more the merrier. In fact, the Egyptians, Greeks, and Persians had a curiosity regarding the others’ Gods, and many accepted foreign Gods to supplement their own. Certain Gods such as Aphrodite and Artemis even transcended cultures and were a part of the pantheon of multiple cultures.

The fundamental aspect of polytheism was therefore one of non-exclusivity, and tolerance by proxy. This is the reason that religious wars were unheard of in the ancient world, and religious persecution was non-existent in polytheistic nations. The persecution that existed was only political, not religious. Although these polytheistic religions were nonetheless false and had their drawbacks, they were far less malignant than the subsequent monotheistic religions.

Then enters the novel monotheism of the Jews. One may hypothesize that monotheism was invented to meet the dire need of the Jews at that time: a unique national identity. Faced with cultural annihilation form multiple overlords, they needed cultural salvation. Polytheism could not solve that problem, because belief in multiple Jewish Gods would not preclude belief also in other foreign Gods. Those foreign Gods may be in conflict with their own – as nations at war always believed to be the case – and foreign Gods may prove to be more powerful than their own. What could save their identity was a single God; one uniquely theirs that would not even allow recognition of any foreign Gods. Furthermore, such a God would be portrayed as one that had chosen the Israelites as its chosen people, thereby favoring their success forever. Conveniently, the Israelites would be the chosen people to be the intermediaries of God’s message to the rest of humanity. Suddenly, as the only existing God’s chosen people, Jews gained the position of utmost importance in the world in their own view, and secured an identity which according to their religion no-one can surpass. In a way this religious manipulation succeeded since the Jews were able to survive the many cultural threats to their identity.

Unfortunately, the by product of monotheism was intolerance. As only a single God is the fundamental premise of any monotheistic religion, its essence dictates that all other Gods be rejected. Since all other Gods are rejected, and seen as detracting the one true God of monotheists, intolerance for such Gods and all other religions becomes the result. An obsession develops from suppressing all other Gods and religions, and a pathology emerges that compels religious persecution, the common theme of every monotheistic religion. “No God but God” drives the monotheist’s urge to intolerance.

In a world dominated by monotheism, most take pride in their belief in a single God. It is most curious why such a belief would be seen as superior to belief in a multitude of Gods. History and reason show how monotheism actually demands a more narrow view of freedom. They show how monotheism has systematically oppressed the polytheistic religions to the point of extinction. They also show how once the polytheists were destroyed, monotheism turned on itself and waged a war upon itself that is still ongoing.

How then, is monotheism superior to polytheism? It is certainly not. Polytheism is also false, in that those multitudes of Gods also don’t exist, and for its falsehood it ought to be rejected. However, it had the benefit of causing far less harm than the monotheistic religions of the world, which are the cradles of intolerance and fascism.

” It is true that the modern Christian is less robust, but that is not thanks to Christianity; it is thanks to the generations of freethinkers, who from the Renaissance to the present day, have made Christians ashamed of many of their traditional beliefs. It is amusing to hear the modern Christian telling you how mild and rationalistic Christianity really is and ignoring the fact that all its mildness and rationalism is due to the teaching of men who in their own day were persecuted by all orthodox Christians. Nobody nowadays believes that the world was created in 4004 b.c.; but not so very long ago skepticism on this point was thought an abominable crime…

…It is no credit to the orthodox that they do not now believe all the absurdities that were believed 150 years ago. The gradual emasculation of the Christian doctrine has been effected in spite of the most vigorous resistance, and solely as the result of the onslaughts of freethinkers.

It is indeed amazing to hear theists boast of the advancement in their religion. For example, some take pride that Christianity no longer accepts slavery as a norm. Others cite Christianity’s abandonment of many archaic ideas, noting a moral and intellectual evolution. No doubt, some progression within Christianity is noted, but then the question of the history of such progression must also be delineated.

What little progression occurred was not from within Christianity’s orthodoxy, but from without. Every new advancement meant persecution and ostracism of the ones that proposed such advancement. The Church always opposed any change, and fought it tooth and nail. Only when too much ground had been lost, and public opinion had swayed too far to be regained did the churches make slow concessions. Such advancement came at the expense of schisms and new Christian sect formations. Such advancements came with the rejection of the Christianity of that time by many free thinkers.

Islam is even worse when it comes to advancement. That’s because since its creation, hardly any advancement has been made. New sects have also been formed, some more belligerent such as Shia, and some slightly more mystical and tolerant such as Sufi. But for the most part Islam remains in the same dark hole that it started from. Much of the doctrine of Islam is so stringent that not much room is allowed for any evolution in its doctrine. Most of its barbarism and intolerance is interlinked, so that almost all of it must be discarded before a more reasonable religion emerges. Such a religion would be so removed from Islam that it could no longer be seen as a version of Islam. It is for this reason that Islam has not changed in 1400 years, and can never change.

It is evident from the above discussion that religion has made no noteworthy contribution to civilization. On almost every turn, religion has actually opposed civilization’s advancement. Religion is the parasite that has attached itself to humanity and will not easily relinquish its hold on its host.

” The knowledge exists by which universal happiness can be secured; the chief obstacle to its utilization for that purpose is the teaching of religion. Religion prevents our children from having a rational education; religion prevents us from removing the fundamental causes of war; religion prevents us from teaching the ethic of scientific co-operation in place of the old fierce doctrines of sin and punishment. It is possible that mankind is on the threshold of a golden age; but, if so, it will be necessary first to slay the dragon that guards the door, and this dragon is religion.”
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Nature and Man

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:32 pm

Part 5

Nature and Man

Sub-Part 1

“Man is a part of nature, not something contrasted with nature.”

This is the main premise of the article. Upon close examination of the world, one finds that man exists as just one other part within that whole, not as a special entity separate from it in any way.

This may seem obvious to most, but actually theism teaches otherwise. Man’s existence within the world is described as a unique feature of creation. That man was specifically created by God for a different purpose; one far higher and nobler than the purpose behind everything else. Therefore, within theology man’s place is essentially separate from that of every other creature and every other object.

Part of that uniqueness of man as described by theology rests within the belief that man has a distinctive feature: the soul. The soul is what gives man an added dimension outside of the physical universe, making him exist outside of nature as well. This is a major point of deviation between theism and materialism.

“What we call our “thoughts” seem to depend upon the organization of tracks in the brain…”

This is quite evident to all that look at the issue objectively. In biology and medicine, much is learned when there are pathologic deviations from the norm. Within diseases and malfunctions, the normal biological pathways become highlighted. The same is true when considering brain function.

I will now go on a tangent from Russell’s article in order to develop the notion of the soul. In order to accept the notion that thoughts depend solely on the brain, the illogical nature of the soul must be explained. Russell’s article did not delve the notion of the soul, which I think would give a better foundation for denying its role or existence.

The Soul

Alterations to the brain, whether physical or biochemical, have profound effects upon the individual’s cognition, thoughts, behavior, and consciousness. Consider stroke victims as an example. Depending upon the location and extent of a stroke, a person loses the capacity for certain types of analytical thinking. This is how the frontal lobe was identified as the source for restraint / ethics. Strokes that occurred in the frontal lobe caused the victims to lose the ability to act within socially accepted confines. The same is true with head trauma patients that lose certain cognitive abilities, depending on which part of the brain was affected.

Drugs, alcohol, and many medications also act upon the brain in a fashion that alters the person’s thought pattern. Certainly then, the brain is affected by physical or biochemical factors, specific to the chemical or physical alteration. Within such pathology, the normal physiologic function of the brain becomes obvious. Without a doubt, it is the brain that is responsible for cognition, emotion, and consciousness.

To separate the brain from consciousness via an elusive entity deemed the soul presents several conundrums.

The frontal lobe controls higher judgement. Consider what happens to a person that had a stroke in the frontal lobe and now acts immorally and unethically (which actually does occur frequently with these patients). What happened to his soul? Did his soul, his very being now degenerate into evil? Is he now a different person on a spiritual level? Will he be judged differently by God since his stroke? How could he? He had no control over getting a stroke, so why should he be faulted for that by God? After his death, does his soul remain how it was (without restraint and morality) as in the latter part of his life, or does it revert to the way that it was prior to the stroke (assuming he was a person of moral character)?

If one answers that the person’s soul does not change even if that person’s brain is injured and he behaves differently, then another dilemma arises. If his thoughts and actions do not reflect the status of his soul, then where is the connection between the soul and the physical world? If his soul remains “good” even though his physical body is committing evil, then what relevance do souls have to the lives of human beings?

Now consider some paradoxes that arise when one considers birth and the soul. When is the soul created and fused with a body? Most theologians would hold fast that it is created at the moment of conception. In fact, they are forced into that assertion, because embryologic development is a continuum. It would be very difficult to pinpoint a moment in gestation to assign to the moment of soul insertion. Therefore, the only conceivable answer would be to assign it to the moment of conception, as is done.

When is the moment of conception? Most biologists would agree it is the moment when the sperm enters the egg, fusing with its nucleus and forming a zygote. When that happens, two cells essentially become one. It is the moment that most theists believe that a soul is fused to the entity. I suppose that if one believes in a soul, this would be the most likely moment to assert that belief.

Now consider the unusual circumstance of identical twins. Twinning occurs a few days after conception, whereby a cell divides from the original group of cells and forms an entirely new individual. What happens with respect to the soul? Does the original soul also divide into two? It must, lest one twin remains soul-less. If so, that implies that soul formation may be linked to cell division. The possibility then arises that tumors have souls, since tumors result from an individual’s aberrant cell division. Certainly, tumors and conjoined twins share an identical biological pathway. How can one have a soul, and another not?

Next consider the viewpoint of the soul in relation to all life. Most theists would agree that not every living being has a soul. Certainly none would contend that an amoeba, a bacteria, or algae has a soul. This is in fact one of the defining features of the monotheistic religions: that man is special in the world because of his soul. To hold that all living creatures have souls would undermine a fundamental principle of theism, bringing the whole thing crashing down.

To claim that only man has a soul was an easier assertion by those that lived thousands of years ago and were not aware of man’s closely related but now extinct cousins. Cousins such as homo neanderthalis, homo erectus, homo habilis, etc. To claim that such closely related creatures to man had no soul forces one to re-examine the association of a soul to a living being.

What defines the presence of a soul? Is it consciousness? Is it intelligence? Is it genetic make-up?

If it is consciousness (or self-awareness), then the case can be made that such closely related cousins of man were conscious (as evident from their behavior through the eyes of archaeology), and thus they cannot be denied a soul. The same answer applies in regard to intelligence.

Also, in light of consciousness and intelligence as criteria for the presence of a soul examples can be given to refute them. Certain individuals may be severely mentally handicapped. Do they lack souls? The intelligence of some may even be so compromised that self-awareness may not exist. Do they lack souls?

What about genetic make-up? Is it that the slight (almost minuscule) genetic difference between such species defines the presence or absence of a soul? If so, then it may be argued that the almost infinitesimal genetic differences between humans themselves can result in the absence or presence of a soul. Do certain ethnic groups then lack a soul?

The biggest problem in pinpointing when a creature does or does not have a soul lies with the fact that life is a continuum. The various creatures are all interrelated much more closely than is at first apparent, even though the continuum may appear broken to the unaided viewer because most species are now extinct.

Continuity is present within the different aspects that one looks to when attempting to define the presence of a soul. Looking at development and gestation, since the process is continuous, soul assignment is placed at fertilization. Looking at consciousness and intelligence, they are both a continuum when viewed across the various humans and across the various sub-species, species, and genus. Furthermore, a paradox emerges if consciousness is a prerequisite for a soul when one considers that a zygote at the moment of conception lacks consciousness. Looking at DNA, the various life forms’ genetic make-ups are also a continuum.

Considering such a continuum, drawing a line which differentiates the presence from the absence of a soul becomes impossible, and therefore futile. Within this futility lies the only logical answer: the inexistence of the soul.

Numerous rhetorical questions were posed here regarding the soul, especially considering special circumstances. It is within special circumstances that often solutions to more general questions (such as the existence of the soul) are obtained. The answers to the questions posed serve to delineate the overall illogical nature of the soul.

I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Nature and Man

Postby Amir » Fri Dec 15, 2006 7:34 pm

Part 5

Nature and Man

Sub-Part 2

Now back to Russell…

“We also cannot suppose that an individual’s thinking survives bodily death, since that destroys the organization of the brain…”

From the above explanation that I gave regarding the illogical nature of the soul, it follows that the only link to thoughts is the brain, and nothing but the brain. If that brain is destroyed, as happens with death, then there is nowhere that would hold those thoughts, and they are also destroyed.

“God and immortality, the central dogmas of the Christian religion, find no support in science…”

Certainly, there is no support in science for immortality. But even outside of the realm of science, within the realm of philosophy the idea of immortality is illogical.

What is immortality? It is the continuation of one’s existence even after bodily death. That can only mean the continuation of one’s thoughts, identity, memories, etc. For it is those thoughts and memories that define a person as that person. Since those thoughts and memories are linked only physically to the brain, the death of the brain translates into the death of those thoughts, and therefore immortality becomes an illusion.

Immortality is of course at the center of religious dogma. Without it, the codes that are dictated in order to achieve a better spiritual status in the afterlife become meaningless. The promised rewards and punishments become meaningless. An interaction with God after death becomes meaningless.

“If we were not afraid of death, I do not believe the idea of immortality would have ever arisen. Fear is the basis of religious dogma, as of so much else in human life.”

The fear of death was one of the foundations for the invention of immortality and religion. Such an invention has served to soothe the fearful and mindless into imagining a continuation of their inevitably short lives. This fantasy may be soothing to some, but it is a fantasy nonetheless. The way which it does harm other than simply being false is that it devalues the short but real life in this world. Belief in a grand afterlife takes away the focus that ought to be given to this one; the only one that exists. Injustices are overlooked and unnecessary hardships endured with the hope that they will be remedied in the afterlife. Many lives are cut short, in eager anticipation of an afterlife that will never arrive.

“The philosophy of nature is one thing. The philosophy of value is quite another. Nothing but harm can come of confusing them. What we think as good, what we like, has no bearing on what is…

…nor can we be compelled to admire anything because it is a ‘law of nature.’ Undoubtedly, we are a part of nature…

In the world of values, nature in itself is neutral, neither good nor bad, deserving of neither admiration nor censure…”

There is a mistake that is commonly committed. That is, using a value system (or morals) to define nature within it, or alternatively using nature to define a set of morals within it. Both attempts are wrong.

Some claim knowledge to a higher moral code, and then try to define much of existence within it. An inclination to many natural behaviors (such as sex and other pleasures) are deemed immoral and opposed. All of nature itself is seen as a subordinate to this higher value system. A value system is defined which is artificial in that it is not derived from society as a whole. In truth, it is derived from a few ignorant religious leaders from an archaic time. What’s worse, the value system is inflexible. This is erroneous and harmful.

On the contrary, a few may subscribe to the idea that since nothing exists outside of nature, the laws of nature are the only ones worthwhile. Within the biological law of “survival of the fittest” emerges the false moral law of the same. This too is erroneous and harmful.

Human values need not be based solely on what has worked in a mindless, heartless world. Nature is blind and deaf, and does not see or hear the sufferings of its accidental children. Humans, on the other hand, are neither blind nor deaf. Furthermore, to claim that nature has no moral sense and therefore humans need no moral sense is false because humans are a product of nature itself and do not exist outside of it.

What happens within the world outside of human control is neither good nor evil. There is no consciousness behind it, and such events simply occur. Nature is not concerned with good and evil. It is not concerned with anything. It is only when humans are brought into the equation that good and evil take meaning, since humans have higher intelligence. This intelligence also embeds a set of moral values within humans. This value system is irrelevant to nature, but is important to humans nonetheless and there is no reason to do away with it simply because nature cares nothing for it.

“It is we who create value and our desires which confer value. In this realm we are kings, and we debase our kingship if we bow down to nature. It is for us to determine the good life, not for nature – not even for nature personified as God.”
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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The Good Life

Postby Amir » Wed Jan 03, 2007 12:25 pm

Part 6

The Good Life

“I cannot prove that my view of the good life is right; I can only state my view and hope that as many as possible will agree. My view is this: The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge.”

The word love can be somewhat vague and arbitrary in what is envisioned at its mention. Russell next gives an explanation of the word as it encompasses the good life.

“Love as an emotion – which is what I am speaking about, for love on principle does not seem to me genuine – moves between two poles: on one side, pure delight in contemplation; on the other pure benevolence.”

Russell briefly hits upon a point, but does not develop it any further here, perhaps assuming that the reader grasps what is implied. The point being that love based on principle alone is non-genuine and therefore rubbish. Where does one find the idea for love on principle alone, undeserved, and imposed? Within Christianity. Christianity imposes the idea that all must love all others. A love that arises from mandate cannot be in any form genuine, and therefore only a false charade. For love to be genuine, it must arise spontaneously and without coercion.

Now for the explanation of the word love as given by Russell. It is a range of delight to benevolence. Delight is invoked when an inanimate object or concept is concerned, such as a tasty treat, music, or beauty of an object. Delight in this sense can be a combination or range of both pleasure and admiration.

On the other extreme of love is benevolence. It entails simply the desire for the welfare of others, without any personal enjoyment. An example would be helping the needy. The most powerful example is that of parental well-wishing. Certainly, parental affection can have pleasure associated with it, but it is just as strong in cases when no enjoyment is present, such as caring for a sick child.

“For want of a better word, I shall call this emotion ‘benevolence.’ But I want to make it clear that I am speaking of an emotion, not a principle, and that I do not include it in a feeling of superiority such as is sometimes associated with the word. The word sympathy expresses part of what I mean but leaves out the element of activity that I wish to include.”

I believe that empathy (or sympathy) entails the key feature to morality. Russell agrees, subcategorizing it within benevolence. The difference he delineates is taking the feeling of sympathy and translating it into action, thereby resulting in benevolence. Benevolence subsequently falls within the realm of love, which in turn is one of the two components of the good life.

“Love at its fullest is an indissoluble combination of the two elements, delight and well-wishing…

A person who wishes to be loved wishes to be the object of a love containing both elements, except in cases of extreme weakness such as severe illness or infancy. In these cases benevolence is all that is desired. Conversely, in cases of extreme strength, admiration is more desired than benevolence.”

Therefore, in most cases there is a combination of the two components of love in various degrees. It is in extreme cases of weakness and of strength that only one aspect is exclusively desired, which are reflections of the two extreme aspects of love.

“There are many in whom we cannot feel delight, because they are disgusting…Not to mention human beings, there are fleas and bugs and lice…”

Obviously, the delightful aspect of love cannot apply to all beings in the world. So in delight, there are exclusions. What about benevolence?

“Benevolence is easier to extend widely, but even benevolence has its limitations.”

The best example to demonstrate this is in the case of two competing individuals. Two competing athletes, or two individuals competing for the same job cannot possibly wish the very best for the other. Overall, benevolence may be widespread (though not as widespread as it could be) but is impossible to be universal. Nor is there a need for it to be completely universal.

Russell does not expand upon this point enough, as I think the opportunity here presents itself. The point being that although love is important and a foundation of happiness, when it is imposed as a universal requirement by all for all it loses its importance and relevance. It becomes devoid of its intended value, and can serve to undermine the intended effect. That is exactly what happens to love in the hands of Christians. Such a universality is proclaimed to the idea of love, that it becomes artificial, hollow, and devoid of significance. Blind love for all in theory translates to love for none in practice.

Now, for the second part of the good life as is defined by Russell: knowledge.

“When I speak of knowledge as an ingredient of the good life, I am not thinking of ethical knowledge but of scientific knowledge and knowledge of particular facts. I do not think there is, strictly speaking, such a thing as ethical knowledge.”

I certainly agree with Russell’s explanation of knowledge, and with its role in the good life. However, simple scientific knowledge and of facts may not be as broad an aspect of the good life as I envision it. Here I will take a detour from Russell in order to better define the good life.

First, perspective must be gained as to how Russell is viewing the good life. He is not viewing it through the eyes of a single individual, but as that of every individual within society. Otherwise, the good life would be defined as the one that permits that single individual with the most comfortable, luxurious, pampered, and powerful position. That is indeed the position that Nietzsche took. That happiness is the feeling of empowerment. But through Russell’s eyes, the good life is not just the focus of a single individual, but the big picture of society.

It is only within such a framework that the concept of scientific knowledge and of facts have any relevance. The broad knowledge base that society processes is only important within the context of society itself. The knowledge of a single individual usually is not of benefit to himself specifically. The knowledge of pharmaceuticals that a chemist possesses is of significant importance to his society, not necessarily to himself. It is therefore the summary knowledge base that a society (or mankind) has accumulated that Russell must be eluding to, not the knowledge of a single individual.

My own view of the good life is more broad than Russell’s, in that a higher level of individualism must be interjected. To achieve this individualism, certainly the aspects of love and knowledge are included. However, on an individual basis knowledge alone is dry and boring. Knowledge is a raw material, but it is wisdom that allows one to properly use and apply that knowledge. If given the choice between the two, I would pick the latter over the former. For armed with knowledge alone, an individual can go no further. However, armed with wisdom, one may soon gain that knowledge and go beyond. Knowledge alone is stagnant. Wisdom puts knowledge into motion.

I believe the good life must have a wider blend of individual fulfillment included as well as societal fulfillment. There are two extreme goals, one of love (as is Russell’s), and the other is power (as is Nietzsche’s). One emphasizes societal improvement, and the other self improvement. A balance between the two must be reached for the good life as I see it. Love alone (or even with knowledge, as Russell states) is not enough, and neither is power alone enough.

According to Russell, in a sense knowledge is power, in that it gives one the tool to carry out the benevolent act for those that one loves. However, that seems to me a different power; the kind that allows beneficence. That type of power is extremely important, but is not all inclusive. There is another power that every individual yearns for, that is related only to the individual, and only for the sake of that individual. Most would say that this power I speak of is the power that a person wields over other men. That is not the kind of power to which I am eluding. Although most yearn that kind of power, history has shown that most that posses it do so for only short periods of time, and at great expense to themselves and to those they love. That type of power does not facilitate the good life; it suffocates it.

The power I speak of is the power of wisdom.

So now I am obligated to better define wisdom as contrasted to knowledge. Knowledge is a volume of facts, data, and the conclusions drawn from such data. Wisdom is the ability and method by which such conclusions are reached. Wisdom is pure reason and logic, unimpeded by either bias or emotion. Wisdom is pattern recognition and imagination. Wisdom is a process, not an end point as is knowledge.

Data and facts may be accumulated by anyone. However, there are very few that are capable of drawing proper conclusions from them. The growth of knowledge requires wisdom. As such, within the realm of individualism and self-fulfillment, a requirement for the good life must also be wisdom. For individuals, wisdom carries with it a quality that allows those that posses it a better understanding of life, and thus a better appreciation for it. Wisdom, and the desire to acquire it, is what drives us.

For Russell, the good life entails love and knowledge. For me, it entails love and wisdom, which is only slightly different.

With that explanation of knowledge and wisdom presented, I will now turn to the latter part of Russell’s statement; that ethical knowledge does not exist.

“All moral rules must be tested by examining whether they tend to realize ends that we desire. I say ends that we desire, not ends that we ought to desire. What we ‘ought’ to desire is merely what someone else wishes us to desire.”

Moral rules are man-made rules. When this concept is firmly grasped, and morality is appropriately divorced from theology, then morality can be better understood and used beneficially.

The purpose of moral rules is to enforce and promote behaviors that are viewed positively, and to circumvent and discourage behaviors that are viewed negatively by society. This has always been the case, and will always remain the case. A system of rewards and punishments are implemented in order to influence the members of society to behave in a particular way that is desirable. What we “ought” to desire has certain rewards attached to it that make that end more desirable due to the attachments. Similarly, what we “ought not” desire has certain punishments attached to it that make that end undesirable due to its attachments. Desire is thereby molded by society from the moment of birth until death itself.

Society’s guidance to certain behaviors and an avoidance of others is itself guided by conducts that are deemed right or wrong. Right conduct is that which a large section of mankind desires, and wrong conduct is that which is undesirable to a large section of mankind. It follows that right conduct is that which brings happiness to a large section of mankind, and wrong conduct is that which brings misery to a large section of mankind. Empathy, the ability to imagine the pleasure or misery of another, is the glue that interconnects humanity and facilitates the desire for mankind’s happiness and lack of misery.

The simple drive behind ethics is societal preference. Since moral rules are man-made and have meaning only within humanity, and since their purpose is to guide desire, ethical knowledge as an independent entity is meaningless. To proclaim ethical knowledge requires an invention that falsely and artificially separates morality from humanity, creating an independent entity that otherwise could not exist, and in reality does not exist. That invention, of course, is religion.

“When I said that the good life consists of love guided by knowledge, the desire which prompted me was the desire to live such a life as far as possible, and to see others living it; and the logical content of the statement is that, in a community where men live in this way, more desires will be satisfied than in one where there is less love or less knowledge. I do not mean that such a life is ‘virtuous’ or that its opposite is ‘sinful,’ for these are conceptions which seem to me to have no scientific justification.
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Moral Rules

Postby Amir » Wed Jan 31, 2007 7:27 pm

Part 7

Moral Rules

“The practical need of morals arises from the conflict of desires…”

Desires are indeed central to morality. Many different desires may be present in a person, and it is their occasional conflict that gives rise to a need to curtail some for the sake of others. Morality therefore arose out of a need to better categorize and control man’s desires, driving a divide into acceptable and non-acceptable behavior.

“It is a method of enabling men to live together in a community in spite of the possibility that their desires may conflict. There is the method of criminal law, which aims at a merely external harmony by attaching disagreeable consequences…

But there is another method, more fundamental, and far more satisfactory when it succeeds. That is to alter men’s characters and desires in such a way that as to minimize occasions of conflict by making the success of one man’s desires as far as possible consistent with that of another’s. That is why love is better than hate…”

It is evident that there are two points of moral intervention. In the first, attaching criminal punishments that are designed to make that action unattractive discourages the immoral action. The weakness of this approach lies in its discouragement of acting out a desire instead of seeking to alter the root of that desire. This is the objective of the second form of moral intervention: altering the root desires.

Theoretically it would appear that the second method would be more successful than the first. That’s because in the first, the immoral desire will be present but hidden out of feat of societal reprisal. If and when the opportunity presents itself, and the individual feels that he can fulfill that desire with minimal risk of being discovered, he may choose to act upon it. However, in the second approach the core desire will be altered, and there will be no drive to carry out the unacceptable act.

The drawback, of course, is that the second approach is far more difficult to institute than is the first. It requires an almost novel approach to education and child rearing, and demands far more love, patience, and enlightenment from caregivers. At the present time, I am afraid that such requirements are gravely lacking in this world.

What I find very interesting in Russell’s phrase “that is why love is better than hate” is the logical context with which it is framed. The beauty in it is that it does not appeal to our duty to love, to the fundamental righteousness of love, or a supreme being’s mandate for us to love. It shows that via love society will function better than without it, and will lead to the success and happiness of more members of society. Love is therefore logically superior to hate, if success and happiness are the objectives to life.

“If we were right in saying that the good life is inspired by love and guided by knowledge, it is clear that the moral code of any community is not ultimate and self-sufficient but must be examined with a view to seeing whether wisdom and benevolence would have decreed. Moral codes have not always been faultless.”

This point delineates the major dichotomy of morality as a religious code is contrasted with a secular code. Religious authorities would have us believe that the moral code is fundamental, as decreed by a God. In such a context, a code thus derived is not open to alteration. By nature, it must remain unchanged regardless of time, place, or race. It is universal, and must have been so from the beginning. As such, the churches of each respective religion fight viciously against deviation from their codes. The problem arises when humanity makes enough progress that it realizes the fallacies of such immature codes. That maturation is inherent within an ever progressive civilization.

In contrast, within a secular system no particular moral code is upheld rigidly and without question. Morality is placed back in the hands of man, as it rightly should have always been placed. The moral code thereby becomes open to examination based upon evidence. That which contributes to the success and happiness of society is adopted within that code, while the opposite is abandoned. In this way, the moral code can be put to the test of science. This is a novel and remarkable approach to morality. I see it as the most logical approach to a moral code.

“The Aztecs considered it their painful duty to eat human flesh for fear the light of the sun should grow dim…But surely our modern codes of morals contain nothing analogous to these savage practices? Surely we only forbid things which are really harmful, or at any rate so abominable that no decent person could defend them? I am not so sure.

Currently morality is a curious blend of utilitarianism and superstition, but the superstitious part has the stronger hold, as is natural, since superstition is the origin of moral rules. Originally, certain acts were thought displeasing to the Gods and were forbidden by law because the divine wrath was apt to descend upon the community, not merely upon the guilty individuals. Hence arose the concept of sin as that which is displeasing to God. No reason can be assigned as to why certain acts should be thus displeasing…”

At times, the faultiness of moral codes have stemmed from an error of knowledge, as is demonstrated by the acts of the Aztecs. Their belief that their cruel acts were necessary in order for the sun to continue to shine demonstrates error of knowledge. This error of knowledge has occurred repeatedly in the history of mankind, especially as it pertains to religion. Knowledge derived from superstitious beliefs instead of science has been repeatedly shown to be overtly false and has led men down the path of erroneous decrees which have proven cruel and unnecessary far too often.

As religion and superstition are born of fear, the knowledge and moral codes that they have produced are also tainted by fear. As is inherent to human nature, fear causes a reaction that is instinctively defensive and commonly hostile. Therefore, fear causes hostility. It is this hostility that has produced innumerable acts of cruelty manifested by the enforcement of religious moral codes.

The other aspect of using God as the code giver is that reason and justification for those codes are circumvented. Human logic and sensibility are substituted by a supreme code-giver, and the laws are not held to human account.

“It is evident that a man with a scientific outlook on life cannot let himself be intimidated by texts of Scripture or by the teaching of the church. He will not be content to say ‘such-and-such an act is sinful, and that ends the matter.’ He will inquire whether it does any harm or whether, on the contrary, the belief that it is sinful does any harm…

But the defenders of traditional morality are seldom people with warm hearts, as may be seen from the love of militarism displayed by church dignitaries. One is tempted to think that they value morals as affording a legitimate outlet for their desire to inflict pain; the sinner is fair game, and therefore away with tolerance!”

Here is another example of the never-ending rivalry between religion and science. Within science is the basic principle to question everything, and to seek the reason behind everything. On the contrary, the principal religious foundation is to attribute every explanation to God, thereby ending the journey to enlightenment. Even with the moral code, God is given as the final answer and further questioning is abruptly halted. On the other hand, a true man of science will never accept such a superficial and childish answer. He will inquire deeper, until he reaches a moral code which is beneficial to mankind; not one that torments it.

Unfortunately, torment has been the end result of the religious moral code. Such a code has been instrumental for the justification of infliction of torment and cruelty by religious authorities. As Russell indirectly points out, one may wonder whether those that are attracted to a religious calling are sadists that find religious condonation of cruelty as the primary attraction.

“In all stages of education the influence of superstition is disastrous. A certain percentage of children have the habit of thinking; one of the aims of education is to cure them of this habit…

Education has the most profound effect upon a young mind. Granted, religious teaching and superstition does not qualify to most contemporary reasonable people as education, but it is nonetheless a form of education as is implied by the word. A curriculum may be utterly flawed, as are all religious teachings, but its effect is no less potent. It shapes the belief system of a child early on, to the point that the child’s discomfort with relinquishing it in later life is much stronger than the appeal of reason.

It is therefore incumbent upon the religious authorities to impinge the young minds of children with half-baked, baseless beliefs. Should a child venture into the forbidden world of thought and analysis, it will be quickly pulled back to the religious world of make-believe. Done enough times, such a practice is guaranteed to enslave the mind of even the most inquisitive child.

It is the education of young minds that the clergy have a stranglehold upon, whereby the perpetual lies continue to be propagated. That stranglehold may be direct, as in direct religious instruction by clergy to children, or indirect, as in maintaining control over the caregivers and instructors of those children.

“Clergymen almost necessarily fail in two ways as teachers of morals. They condemn acts which do no harm and they condone acts which do great harm…

So long as clergymen continue to condone cruelty and condemn innocent pleasure, they can only do harm as guardians of the morals of the young.”

For some reason the monotheistic religions seem to be awfully preoccupied with restraining sexuality. Of those, Islamic preoccupation is most noteworthy. It is a most curious phenomenon.

The reason for this preoccupation stems, I think, from an archaic male desire to oppress and control the female. Notice that it is almost always a restriction of female sexuality rather than male sexuality. There are even restrictions on the female’s appearance, in a way that suggests that the male is viewing her as his property, whether that male be the female’s father, brother, husband, or other male figure. Out of this archaic desire to own and oppress the female arose the concept of family honor as it pertained to the females of the family. Note that in most cases of dishonor, it is the males that feel wronged rather than the females themselves (except in cases of rape, of course). Even worse, it is usually the female who often receives the brunt of the wrath of the family’s males.

It is clear that there is no logical basis for the suppression of sexuality as is often done within religious creed. It stems from possessiveness, control, and an archaic grasp at a concept of family honor which itself arises from the same. This is not to say that a child should be taught no restrictions on sexual activity, but that it should be taught an entirely different set of restrictions. Namely, sexual education should focus on birth control and disease prevention as well as emotional and psychological guidance. Such an education’s aim is to inform the individual against the possible harm of unchecked sexual activity.

This is quite contrary to the religious edict of labeling sex as a sin, and preventing any sort of sexual education on birth control and disease prevention. The result is that sexual activity is in fact not significantly altered but made secret. Even worse, emotionally the individual is guilt ridden and physically at risk of disease and unwanted pregnancy because of a religiously imposed ignorance regarding such matters.

This is an example of how religious superstition causes more harm than good with its moral intervention. Now, if one accepts that the aim of morality is to bring about the greatest happiness, comfort, and success to humanity while preventing pain and suffering, then it becomes evident that religious morality is not morality at all. In fact, it is the very antithesis of morality.
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Salvation: Individual and Social

Postby Amir » Sat Apr 07, 2007 10:11 am

Part 8

Salvation: Individual and Social

“One of the defects of traditional religion is in its individualism, and this defect belongs also to the morality associated with it. Traditionally, the religious life was, as it were, a duologue, between the soul and God. To obey the will of God was virtue, and this was possible for the individual quite regardless of the state of the community…

Christianity arose in the Roman Empire among populations, wholly destitute of political power, whose national states had been destroyed and merged in a vast impersonal aggregate. During the first three centuries of the Christian Era the individuals who adopted Christianity could not alter the social or political institutions under which they lived, although they were profoundly convinced of their badness.

In these circumstances, it was natural that they should adopt the belief that an individual may be perfect in an imperfect world.”

This points to the retreat of the weak to their respective religions. It is a historical fact that whenever a society’s circumstance and outlook is dimmest, its reception to religion is highest. Out of desperation, powerlessness, depression, disillusionment, and pessimism the members of that society turn to an inner fantasy. It is not dissimilar also to the way the same society may turn to drug abuse. In that way, drugs and religion serve the same purpose, and the expression “religion is the opiate of the masses” takes on an almost literally accurate meaning.

Much the same way that Christianity arose in a disillusioned Roman Empire, Islam arose in a disillusioned Arabian Peninsula.

Those who wielded power were of course corrupt and tyrannical, which led to the wide welcome of such religions that promised to deliver the masses out of their destitution. At first, however, such religions were themselves powerless and the only way they could deliver their promises was to create a world of fantasy: the soul, God, the afterlife.

Morality was dictated to be that which was in accordance with God’s will, and that was the end of the matter. Why God should choose a particular set of dictums as his will and define them to be “the good” was never explained. One was sufficiently deemed to be of moral character if one followed those pre-determined rules of God, without any true meaning being given to morality itself. Morality was explained as the simple desire of another, namely God, and therefore in the context of religion it remains ambiguous to this day. Within religion, it remains empty and devoid of any reason or deeper explanation.

Another important distinguishing factor is that religious morality focuses on the individual, whereas secular morality is bound to the larger society. Through meditation, prayer, and faith a religious person can claim to have abided by religious morality and expects individual salvation. For the secularist, such concepts are meaningless, and morality and salvation are only applicable when society is involved.

Consider the Christian hermitage or monastery, which are synonymous. Incidentally, both words are Greek. Hermitage is derived from the Greek “erimos,” meaning desert. It implies the deserted, solitary lifestyle. Monastery is derived from the Greek word “monazo,” meaning solitary life, derived from “monos,” or solitary, and “zoei,” or life.

Considering the words that describe the behavior of the most pious of Christians, it is no surprise to realize the complete emphasis that religions place on individual salvation and morality.

It is without doubt that the emphasis of religion is upon individual salvation in lieu of social salvation. Whether individual salvation is even attainable is not even at the core of the current discussion. Certainly, there are some real elements to individual salvation, although a secularist’s definition of such a concept is quite different than that of the religious person’s. For the religious person, individual salvation involves redemption in the eyes of his God, which all evidence points to being a mere illusion. For the remainder of the discussion, the important distinction is not even whether individual salvation is attainable or not, but whether individual or social salvation is the most logical goal in the pursuit of the good life.

“The good life, as we conceive it, demands a multitude of social conditions and cannot be realized without them…The important point is that, in all that differentiates between a good life and a bad one, the world is a unity, and the man who pretends to live independently is a conscious or unconscious parasite.”

“The idea of individual salvation, with which the early Christians consoled themselves for their political subjection, becomes impossible as soon as we escape form a very narrow conception of the good life. In the Orthodox Christian conception, the good life is the virtuous life, and virtue consists in obedience to the will of God, and the will of God is revealed to each individual through the voice of conscience. This whole conception is that of men subject to an alien despotism. The good life involves much besides virtue – intelligence, for instance. And conscience is a most fallacious guide, since it consists of vague reminiscences of precepts heard in early youth, so that it is never wiser than its possessor’s nurse or mother. To live a good life in the fullest sense, a man must have a good education, friends, love, children (if he desires them), a sufficient income to keep him from want or grave anxiety, good health, and work that is not uninteresting. All these things, in varying degrees, depend upon the community and are helped or hindered by political events. The good life must be lived in a good society and is not fully possible otherwise.”

It becomes quickly apparent that unless one plans to live out his days in a monastery or hermitage, the road to individual salvation is only attainable through social salvation. Without the latter the former cannot exist, except in the form of a world of fantasy that is created just for that purpose. Individual salvation as dictated by religion demands isolationism. Individual salvation as offered by secularism is achievable via a network of social well-being.

Therefore, since individual secular salvation is achievable only via a broader social salvation, the primary goal of all individuals in a society ought to be social salvation.

Spirituality does the exact opposite. It invites salvation on an individual level, and only thorough an outreach to the spirit world, which includes God. Such an outreach does not concern itself with the improvement of society as a whole. As social salvation is ignored and diverted, so too ultimate individual salvation is thwarted. What is left is an illusion of personal salvation, through false hopes and empty promises of an afterlife.

The religious person’s “good life” becomes contingent upon the “good afterlife,” which may or may not exist, and reason places doubt upon its existence. However, the secularist’s “good life” is exactly that which it describes: “the good life.”
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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The Theologian's Nightmare

Postby Amir » Wed May 23, 2007 3:42 pm

Part 9

The Theologian’s Nightmare

The following article of Russell’s is a short skit, demonstrating one point: the arrogance and ignorance of man as to the vastness of the universe and his role in it. Since it is a skit, it must be presented in its entirety, and I will contemplate no further discussion other than what is already contained within this short piece.

Here is the text to “The Theologian’s Nightmare:”

The eminent theologian Dr. Thaddeus dreamt that he died and pursued his course toward heaven. His studies had prepared him and he had no difficulty in finding the way. He knocked at the door of heaven, and was met with a closer scrutiny than he expected. "I ask admission," he said, "because I was a good man and devoted my life to the glory of God." "Man?" said the janitor, "What is that? And how could such a funny creature as you do anything to promote the glory of God?" Dr. Thaddeus was astonished. "You surely cannot be ignorant of man. You must be aware that man is the supreme work of the Creator." "As to that," said the janitor, "I am sorry to hurt your feelings, but what you're saying is news to me. I doubt if anybody up here has ever heard of this thing you call 'man.' However, since you seem distressed, you shall have a chance of consulting our librarian."

The librarian, a globular being with a thousand eyes and one mouth, bent some of his eyes upon Dr. Thaddeus. "What is this?" he asked the janitor. "This," replied the janitor, "says that it is a member of a species called 'man,' which lives in a place called 'Earth.' It has some odd notion that the Creator takes a special interest in this place and this species. I thought perhaps you could enlighten it." "Well," said the librarian kindly to the theologian, "perhaps you can tall me where this place is that you call 'Earth.'" "Oh," said the theologian, "it's part of the Solar System." "And what is the Solar System?" asked the librarian. "Oh," said the theologian, somewhat disconcerted, "my province was Sacred Knowledge, but the question that you are asking belongs to profane knowledge. However, I have learnt enough from my astronomical friends to be able to tell you that the Solar System is part of the Milky Way." "And what is the Milky Way?" asked the librarian. "Oh, the Milky Way is one of the Galaxies, of which, I am told, there are some hundred million." "Well, well," said the librarian, "you could hardly expect me to remember one out of so many. But I do remember to have heard the word galaxy' before. In fact, I believe that one of our sub-librarians specializes in galaxies. Let us send for him and see whether he can help."

After no very long time, the galactic sub-librarian made his appearance. In shape, he was a dodecahedron. It was clear that at one time his surface had been bright, but the dust of the shelves had rendered him dim and opaque. The librarian explained to him that Dr. Thaddeus, in endeavoring to account for his origin, had mentioned galaxies, and it was hoped that information could be obtained from the galactic section of the library. "Well," said the sub-librarian, "I suppose it might become possible in time, but as there are a hundred million galaxies, and each has a volume to itself, it takes some time to find any particular volume. Which is it that this odd molecule desires?" "It is the one called 'The Milky Way,'" Dr. Thaddeus falteringly replied. "All right," said the sub- librarian, "I will find it if I can."

Some three weeks later, he returned, explaining that the extraordinarily efficient card index in the galactic section of the library had enabled him to locate the galaxy as number QX 321,762. "We have employed," he said, "all the five thousand clerks in the galactic section on this search. Perhaps you would like to see the clerk who is specially concerned with the galaxy in question?" The clerk was sent for and turned out to be an octahedron with an eye in each face and a mouth in one of them. He was surprised and dazed to find himself in such a glittering region, away from the shadowy limbo of his shelves. Pulling himself together, he asked, rather shyly, "What is it you wish to know about my galaxy?" Dr. Thaddeus spoke up: "What I want is to know about the Solar System, a collection of heavenly bodies revolving about one of the stars in your galaxy. The star about which they revolve is called 'the Sun.'" "Humph," said the librarian of the Milky Way, "it was hard enough to hit upon the right galaxy, but to hit upon the right star in the galaxy is far more difficult. I know that there are about three hundred billion stars in the galaxy, but I have no knowledge, myself, that would distinguish one of them from another. I believe, however, that at one time a list of the whole three hundred billion was demanded by the Administration and that it is still stored in the basement. If you think it worth while, I will engage special labor from the Other Place to search for this particular star."

It was agreed that, since the question had arisen and since Dr. Thaddeus was evidently suffering some distress, this might be the wisest course.

Several years later, a very weary and dispirited tetrahedron presented himself before the galactic sub-librarian. "I have," he said, "at last discovered the particular star concerning which inquiries have been made, but I am quite at a loss to imagine why it has aroused any special interest. It closely resembles a great many other stars in the same galaxy. It is of average size and temperature, and is surrounded by very much smaller bodies called 'planets.' After minute investigation, I discovered that some, at least, of these planets have parasites, and I think that this thing which has been making inquiries must be one of them."

At this point, Dr. Thaddeus burst out in a passionate and indignant lament: "Why, oh why, did the Creator conceal from us poor inhabitants of Earth that it was not we who prompted Him to create the Heavens? Throughout my long life, I have served Him diligently, believing that He would notice my service and reward me with Eternal Bliss. And now, it seems that He was not even aware that I existed. You tell me that I am an infinitesimal animalcule on a tiny body revolving round an insignificant member of a collection of three hundred billion stars, which is only one of many millions of such collections. I cannot bear it, and can no longer adore my Creator." "Very well," said the janitor, "then you can go to the Other Place."

Here the theologian awoke. "The power of Satan over our sleeping imagination is terrifying," he muttered.
I am Dariush the Great King, King of Kings, King of countries containing all kinds of men, King in this great earth far and wide, son of Hystaspes, an Achaemenian, a Persian, son of a Persian, an Aryan, having Aryan lineage

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Re: Tribute To Bertrand Russell

Postby Nicholas Ginex » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:34 pm

Amir, thank you for an informative article. I have heard a lot about Bertrand Russell and by providing a Tribute to Bertrand Russell, I learned how a true philosopher presents ideas that makes us question and rethink what has been taught to us.

I went directly to read the tribute to Russell because of my lack of knowledge about him. I will comment on some of your philosophical views later.

Upon reading Part 1, A Free Man’s Worship, I agree with you that Bertrand expressed his thoughts in an eloquent manner. He gave a very short synopsis in one paragraph how man was born beginning with hot matter whirling aimlessly through space. It was brilliant how he described how the planets took shape, how our planet was deluged with rain that formed the oceans, and after the emergence of plants and trees, it was through a period of monsters that man emerged with the power of thought to conceive good and evil.

Bertrand then paints a negative view that the human genius is destined to extinction as all of Man’s achievements will inevitably be buried beneath the debris of the universe in ruins. This was his way of introducing Man’s need to invent God and the concept of eternal life in a spiritual world he envisions as Heaven. It is in Sub-Part 2 of Part 1 that Bertrand introduces a power that Man is willing to prostrate himself to - God, or many Gods.

Here, Bertrand provides Man with questions where he begins to recognize if his God is a force of good and evil or is He merely a creation of his own conscience? This is a good segue for Man to begin to have more faith in his own ability to reason based upon science and reality rather than place his faith in a God. It is Man’s challenge to conquer his fears and overcome belief in a spiritual world by attaining wisdom and a new life is born.

Amir, less is more, in terms of comprehension and retainability. So. I will stop at this point and rather than comment of the other Parts of the Bertrand Russell Tribute, I will simply read them. Again, I thank you for your introducing me to Bertrand. I finally got a taste of how this great philosopher thinks. It was, so far, a satisfying experience.


PS: By the way, have you read my paper, Everything Has a Beginning – Even the Universe? I would like to know what you think of it. It resides on, ... -universe/
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