First and foremost: Sorry for the title. It just slipped out.
I wanted to share a few lines from a chapter in a book that I’ve begun writing and hopefully get some feedback. It’s a work in progress to say the least and I hope to have at least a rough draft done sometime in the next year. Which, means that I'll probably be trying to get it published right around the time of the rapture in 2012 but hey nobody's perfect.
I think this will be part of either a chapter or a section entitled “Victory.”
I hope you enjoy.
In contrast to the author and religious critic Christopher Hitchens, I would not say religion poisons everything. I would rather say if affects everything and at worst it infects everything. The pestilence that was the Dark Ages was equally brightened by the era in the middle east under the fledgling religion of Islam where (thankfully) the knowledge of the Greeks and Romans resided and was expanded upon to produce algebra, the concept of zero, and the early echoes of the scientific method among other things.
This vast organism we call humanity still bears the genetic, or rather memetic scars from religion’s infectious, helpful, deadly, and beautiful past. This legacy continues today but I like many others have come to the conclusion that eventually a vaccination will be needed to protect against the bad and retain the good attributed to religion.
One may ask why this is so? If there are benefits to religion why must its’ influence be eliminated?
My answer is: For the same reason you would remove an appendix.
The appendix is a vestigial organ attached to the lower intestine which harbors bacteria beneficial to the digestion of hard to digest food such as raw meet and tough plant matter. In humans however, the biological need for the appendix has been lessened by the rise of agriculture in the last ten to fifteen thousand years or so. Because of the relatively short time that agriculture has existed on an evolutionary time scale biology has been unable to cope with the change and so much has it’s usefulness been degrade that it has actually become more of a problem than a boon to human biology in general. Even though in less developed communities, the appendix seems to have retained some of it‘s original function, when the appendix becomes infected it becomes a risk to that person‘s life. There is the possibility that a person's body may be able to fight off the infection however, considering the fact that before appendectomies were common place, 1 in every 20 people who died, died because of an inflamed appendix. The potential risks to keeping an appendix that is inflamed when removing the organ is now an extremely common and relatively safe procedure, far outweighs the benefits of keeping such an organ. Like the appendix, religion is neither good nor evil it simply is, and I believe that the same general principal can be and indeed should be applied to religion.
Whatever function religion served in the past it has proven to be a divisive and potentially detrimental cultural institution when it comes into contact with more secular societies and principals. A fact made ever more prevalent by the actions of the hijackers on 9/11/2001, the London underground bombings on 7/7/2005, the continued use of suicide bombings by Muslim extremists throughout the world, the Archdiocese of Washington threatening to stop all charitable activities if the city council legalized Gay marriage, the public exposure of the blatant worldwide cover-up of pedophilia by the Catholic church over the past decade, and the resurgence of forcefully political Christianity in the United States and elsewhere. Unfortunately, as knowledge of the human condition, technology, and secular society advance, the roles of religion will be increasingly replaced, contradicted, and proven to be flawed or simply false by facts, evidence, and the rise (hopefully adaptive) secular institutions and the conflict will grow. As this relentless advance continues, religion's role in secular society will become less of a boon and more of a hindrance to the advancement of society and in all likely hood become a risk to all of the freedoms that secular culture has come to embrace. And with ever increasing amounts of information and modern technology demanded and provided by this relentless advance, the technology itself becomes more pervasive and readily available and accessible to everyone and anyone. It’s only a matter of time before virtually any semi-intelligent person can develop a weapon of capable of devastating ever increasing areas of the earth in their basement and with ease teach less intelligent mindless converts to do the same.
Thus I would argue that in an attempt to fix the problem before it becomes more lethal or potentially fatal to human civilization, but in developing this (for lack of a better word) cure for religious influence in human civilization, care must be taken so that the cure itself does not become a new disease itself. There is such a thing as fundamentalist atheism; those of us who follow the closest things to leaders of the secular community without so much as thought and/or would not only deny what is plainly visible to all who can see – that religion does have benefits to human civilization – but would seek it’s utter destruction regardless of it’s consequences or loss of knowledge that could be obtained through it‘s study. We (as atheist and secular activists) should not be so callas in simply attacking religion but we should begin the long, complicated, and extremely delicate task of surgically removing religion from arenas in which it does not belong while allowing as much of it’s beneficial characteristics to remain as possible. In most cases, this does not and will not require the use of the hammer and chisel that are face to face confrontation through protests or purposefully inflammatory books, articles, billboards, and videos but the use of the scalpel that is education, philosophy, reason, facts, and evidence.
I’ll leave you with these two quotes from one of my favorite books, which happens to be over 2400 years old and holds relevance in this cultural conflict between reason, faith, and evidence today.
“In the practical art of war, the best thing of all is to take the enemy's country whole and intact; to shatter and destroy it is not so good. So, too, it is better to recapture an army entire than to destroy it, to capture a regiment, a detachment or a company entire than to destroy them.”
“Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation my be succeeded by content. But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.
~ Sun Tzu's The Art of War