(A simple question – in light of COVID19 pandemic on the loose on a global scale, when was the last time you saw religion or religious miracle workers healed an infected patient? In the end, it is modern science, medical advances and a good dose of common sense that prevailed. Image source: Facebook)
Well, I am not sure if there is a term called an agnostic atheist when it comes to religion & beliefs. Anyway, when one talks about religion or their beliefs, it has always been my personal contention that it should be something personal – just between you and the Al-Mighty and such beliefs should not be forced onto others.
So don’t mistake this post as a preaching type post. Consider this as my point of view on my personal journey in relation to religion.
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General Types of Believers
Before we go further, let’s be clear on the various group of believers out there when it comes to believing a Supreme God:-
An atheist doesn’t believe in a god or divine being. The word originates with the Greek atheos, which is built from the roots a- “without” + theos “a god”.
An agnostic neither believes nor disbelieves in a god or religious doctrine. Agnostics assert that it’s impossible for human beings to know anything about how the universe was created and if divine beings exist. Agnosticism was coined by biologist T.H. Huxley and comes from the Greek agnostos, which means “unknown or unknowable.”
A theist believes in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation
A deist believes in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation.
What Matters More, Substance Or Form?
(A very interesting interview of Professor Richard Dawkins by Al-Jazeera’s Mehdi Hasan especially the section of the winged horse. You have to see Professor Richard Dawkins’ shock reaction which forced him to utter the question – does a 21st-century man still believes in this nonsense?)
Personally I don’t believe in form i.e. the rituals, the dos & don’ts when conducting prayers, what to wear for prayers, etc unless there is a rationale and perhaps scientific reasons behind such rituals.
Simple things like washing your legs before entering a temple – it makes a lot of sense as no one wish to walk in a clean place with a dirty foot. Yes, I am pro-science, pro-rationale thinking and have always drawn positively to talks related to religion in relation to science and history
I believe more in the substance of the religion especially in relation to morality (like the concept of dharma in Hinduism & Buddhism).
The mantra “do to others what you want them to do to you” will NEVER get old and outdated. I do believe in the law of Karma which incidentally sounds rather Newtonian – remember “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.
Over the years, I have completely embraced some elements like dharma and yoga. I have cast a shadow of doubts on rituals, process and other cosmetic change.
Read Also: Religion 101: Upholding Dharma As Way of Positive Life
And I have hated people who try to be more religious than others, emphasising on form than substance and say one thing but do another. Far too often, you will find this kind of people often has skeletons in their closets.
Morality should come from within and as what some have said, from some form of modern morality and not because SOMEONE is watching you all the time. The same echoed by Professor Richard Dawkins who is also English ethologist, evolutionary biologist, and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, and was the University of Oxford’s Professor for Public Understanding of Science
“Do you really mean to tell me the only reason you try to be good is to gain God’s approval and reward, or to avoid his disapproval and punishment?
That’s not morality, that’s just sucking up, apple-polishing, looking over your shoulder at the great surveillance camera in the sky, or the still small wiretap inside your head, monitoring your every move, even your every base though.”
And in recent time, I found the blind faith and a religion that does not evolve with modern times is not only dangerous to be abused by fundamentalists and extremists but also adds the enforcement of conformity and silence the need to have an open mind. It also acts unfairly and favours someone and discriminate others.
The Next Religion is No Religion?
(A very interesting TV show especially one that has Morgan Freeman in it – after all, he played a very cool, intelligent, happy and with a great sense of humour God in 2 movies)
There is an article in the National Geographic which was published in conjunction with the National Geographic Channel’s The Story of God with Morgan Freeman which takes the viewers on a trip around the world to explore different cultures and religions on the ultimate quest to uncover the meaning of life, God, and all the questions in between. Image source: National Geographic
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The interesting part of The Story of God program is that Morgan Freeman himself is not a true believer of an entity of the Supreme God although when it comes to playing the role of God, he basically killed it in Bruce Almighty.
There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand.
The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.
There are a few theories about why people become atheists in large numbers. Some demographers attribute it to financial security, which would explain why European countries with a stronger social safety net are more secular than the United States, where poverty is more common and a medical emergency can bankrupt even the insured.
Atheism is also tied to education, measured by academic achievement (atheists in many places tend to have college degrees) or general knowledge of the panoply of beliefs around the world (hence theories that Internet access spurs atheism).
There’s some evidence that official state religions drive people away from faith entirely, which could help explain why the U.S. is more religious than most Western nations that technically have a state religion, even if it is rarely observed. The U.S. is also home to a number of homegrown churches—Scientology, Mormonism—that might scoop up those who are disenchanted with older faiths.
And another as reported in Guardian last year:-
Fifty-two percent of the public say they do not belong to any religion, compared with 31% in 1983 when the BSA survey began tracking religious belief. The number of people identifying as Christian has fallen from 66% to 38% over the same period.
“Britain is becoming more secular not because adults are losing their religion but because older people with an attachment to the C of E and other Christian denominations are gradually being replaced in the population by younger unaffiliated people,” says the report.
“To put it another way, religious decline in Britain is generational; people tend to be less religious than their parents, and on average their children are even less religious than they are.”
Non-religious parents successfully transmit their lack of faith to their children, but two religious parents have only a 50/50 chance of passing on their faith, the report says.
The non-religious are increasingly atheist. One in four members of the public stated: “I do not believe in God,” compared with one in 10 in 1998. The figures challenge theories that people are “believing but not belonging” – in other words, that faith has become private rather than institutional – the report says.
Religion And Science
(Does how religion is structured and enforced determines how ones mix religion in light of modern science and matured global society?)
Now as a pro-science, pro-rationale thinker, I often seek to understand where and why religion clashes with scientific rational thinking. How this is different from other religions in the world? I often consider religion and science akin to oil and water.
Christianity is a creation-centric religion. This is why it had to oppose modern science which, too, is creation-centric. The latter has taken strong positions on how life began, how the day became night, and how our beings are energised.
This is what compelled science and religion to go on a collision course in the western world. From the 16th century onwards, they were like two monster trucks driving in opposite directions on a one-way street.
Hinduism was spared all this. It worships divine heroes who step in and out of this world. They marry, procreate, win wars, and also have their share of losing.
But at the end of the day, they have the last word which is why their lives should be emulated. Hinduism makes no dogmatic declaration on how humans appeared on earth or on whether the sun is stationary or not. In India, our gods have never been challenged by science as they are not concerned about matters of creation.
This is why Hinduism has never felt the need to take on Newton, Galileo, Humphry Davy or Darwin, nor even Aryabhat or the Charvakyas. On the other hand, under science’s onslaught, Christianity was in a doctrinal mess.
It had invested a lot in Aristotle-proofing the Bible, but that was beginning to fall apart. Adam and Eve and Noah’s Ark soon began to appear as fables for the credible. Even our positioning on earth was now more about gravity than God.
(Image Source: Wikimedia – Galileo Galilei at his trial by the Inquisition in Rome in 1633. Galileo pushes away the Bible. Back then whatever that was unknown was the will of the God and science was witchcraft)
Before Galileo Galilei looked at the sky and accurately identified that the Earth orbits around the Sun, it was long believed that the Earth was the centre of the Universe. With modern astronomy, it has been proven that the Earth is not the centre of the universe and certainly it is not flat. As consequences, Galileo was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition. On the following day, this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
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Things have changed ever since the 17th century where there were more unknowns than knowns in relation to astronomy and science. In the 21st century, the world is indeed flying on science and technology. We have now powerful computing devices that can fit our hands and recently we had Space X’s Dragon XL flying with human payload all the way to the ISS.
The more we understand the environment around us, the more we find faults in religion in their reveal of how the world came about. Beliefs should not be facts. Beliefs should be personal and not something that can be forced onto others.
And with the many religions in the world and with many claiming that their religion is the only right religion, the existence of it along with proven science and technology will need to be pondered deeply as well.
Ricky Gervais once said that isn’t it funny how you’re always born into the right God. It is funny indeed.