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Simon - T1S1


(Text as at 16/08/2007 14:44:10)

(For earlier versions of this Note, see the table at the end)

Dear Theo,

I have written and re-written a reply and almost given up because I’m arguing with myself. However it occurred to me (actually while luxuriating in the bath) that you didn’t really tackle my core questions, which admittedly were not well defined. Here’s a better recap:

And this, for me, is where an atheist/evolutionary6 point of view breaks down.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in a god or any other omnipotent being. I look upon the religious texts as terrific stories – equivalent to soap operas of their day – but essentially a tool7 of the ruling class to create fear and to be used to control the masses.

But something is awry; evolution doesn’t seem to have an explanation for why there is such apparent diversity in the living world, but no other8 animals that have developed our ability to be ‘self aware’, conscious of ourselves.

The central argument of whether God exists, seems to be an unnecessary use of brain-power. Expending energy on ‘does he/doesn’t he‘ is a bit like Schrödinger's Cat; we won’t know until he/she has been observed9 – so for now God exists in both states, so get over it!

So let me tackle a central question that you pose, albeit from a lay-person’s perspective….

Q: “But isn’t a dispassionate search for truth one of the things that makes life worth living10?”

You know, I suspect less than 1% of the population would think this way. If you ask an ‘omnibus person’ the question: “what makes your life worth living?” I believe the answers would include:

a. “Freedom from oppression”
b. “Pursuit of happiness” {21st century hedonism}
c. “My mum/spouse/lover/child/etc.”
d. “My friends”
e. “My job”

Possibly a response might also include:

f. “To serve God’s purpose” {which I think is just a roundabout alternative to b.}

There is no question in my mind that religion is a ‘catch all’ answer that people can use to explain away and rationalize bad things that happen to them, such as the tragic loss of a child, etc. How often do we hear ‘he’s in a better place’ or ‘It was God’s plan’ etc. For people who can’t rationalize suffering, belief in religion provides an escape route from their torment, it’s the consolation11 prize for failing to get to b. (above).

Buddhism has a saying that “Suffering is an ocean with no beginning and no end”. If suffering is a universal and ever-present feature of our animal-planet lives, then religion can provide a crutch for many people. As an aside, I find my daughter and her generation to have a real problem with the concept of ‘suffering’. They have grown up in a media world that pushes the belief that all problems are surmountable; that the achievement [not just the pursuit] of happiness12 is an inalienable right; and that suffering is wrong and unnecessary.

So our children’s generation may have significant problems when they are our age. They have largely lost the notion of the ‘pearly gates’ as representing an acceptable consolation prize; they have little to fall back-on when things go wrong, so consumerism and serotonin inhibitors have attempted to fill the void.

This isn’t intended to be an argument for religion. I’m merely trying to think through why religion has been so attractive to both the ruling classes and the down-trodden for such a long period in history. Again whether God actually exists or not, is probably moot until he/she is actually observed13. When I think about radical Islam14, I’m again reminded that it’s particularly attractive to its adherents because they generally have no other options or economic consolation prizes; they need something to believe in so they can answer the question: “What’s my life all about?”

That’s it for now; sorry to ramble. To tie together my central questions:
  1. Is belief in a god justified15 because it’s the only freely available antidote to the natural ocean of [Darwinian] suffering?
  2. Something’s missing from the evolution-only theory because: a) selfless acts don’t correlate16 to a survival imperative; and b) how come humans are the only sentient17 animal on earth, if evolution is a random walk in the gene park?
Simon (5th May 2007)

Theo’s Response18

Previous Version of this Note:

Date Length Title
12/08/2007 10:17:46 4773 Simon - T1S1

Note last updated Reference for this Topic Parent Topic
16/08/2007 14:44:10 397 (Simon - T1S1) Simon - T1

Summary of Note Links from this Page

Consolation of Religion Darwinian Altruism Darwinian Altruism 2 Darwinian Altruism 3 Darwinian Altruism 4
Evolution - Problems Happiness and Suffering Human Uniqueness Hunter-Gathering Psychology Islam
Justification of Religious Belief Life Worth Living Observing God Religion as State-Control Simon - T1S1T1

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Summary of Note Links to this Page

Simon - T1        

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