Thursday, August 2, 2007

Making Sense of Religion Pt. II -- Redux

Atheist Hussy doesn't quite get what I was after in Pt. II of this series. Her comment to Making Sense of Religion Pt. II missed the point of my post. Her comment in full:

I'd say "I agree!" but that's obvious. :P

Religion is so immoral!

I'll readily admit that I wasn't as clear as I might have been. Let me try again.

Religion has played an important role to the development of human society from before the beginnings of recorded history. Religion continues to be important to the development of culture and human psychology. For all of the absurdity, brutality, and irrationality religion encourages in its practitioners, it is almost certainly also essential to what has enabled homo sapiens has to persist for as long as it has.

If "the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine," as J. B. S. Haldane once remarked, then what does this mean for reason, empirical-mindedness and rationality as survival strategies? Further, considered in that kind of context, then doesn't the irrationality, brutality, and absurdity of religion are acknowledged, then don't the antics of our fundamentalists look a good deal less irrational and absurd? And who knows? Maybe the brutality that religion often begets is a kindness in the grand scheme of things.

A fundamentalist is a walking, talking refution made flesh of the assertion that reason, rationality, and empirical-mindedness necessarily confer some kind of innate advantage over those infected with religion.

Sometimes listening to atheists complain about religion -- see especially Scientia Natura -- reminds me of nothing so much as someone complaining about how poorly they have been treated by their significant other for so many years. The questions arise, naturally enough: why did you stay in this abusive relationship for so long? What were you getting out of it? If you weren't getting anything, you would have left a long time ago.

As ought to be plain, condemnations of religion while spiritually uplifting and even an effective tonic against mild depression don't interest me. The psychology of religion, however, gets me going. It is a minor amusement that many atheists, for all of their self-professed rationality and empirical-mindedness don't see how accusations of irrationality and anti-empiricism are hardly effective against a foe who prides himself on his irrationality and anti-empiricism.

The fact that fundamentalists survive, and even prosper, calls into question the value of Truth and truthfulness. They don't appear to need either.

That is the perplexity I was trying to suss out in my other post.

* * *

The criticism of religion as irrational will only be effective IF the irrationality that religion exhibits is harmful or morally reprehensible in some way.

My big point above is that fundamentalists for all their irrationality and cognitive dissonances don't appear to be obviously worse off. And even if they are, the irrationality and cognitive dissonances intrinsic to religion have been a part of humanity since before recorded history. Religion (in some form) may be the oldest human social institution.

What do the irrationality and cognitive dissonances intrinsic to religion have to tell us about reason, rationality, and empirical-mindedness?

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