humour, music, life, sociology. friendly agnostic.

And No Religion Too

Posted by spritzophrenia on September 14, 2010

Imagine all the people, living for today. When I was a committed believer, I was very much living for today— a belief in an afterlife didn’t stop me trying to do good in this one.

“Imagine”, by John Lennon.

I said yesterday that I think it’s unlikely the world will become significantly less spiritual in the future, and suggested listening to each other as a possible solution. Maybe I’m too idealistic. Or maybe Lennon is.

Is Religion Dangerous?. I often think yes, this book says “no”. It’s in my city library, I might read it, but the link has a good summary.

Religion and superstition have perpetrated many horrors in our lifetime, let alone before. We’ve just had the anniversary of the September 11 bombings in New York. We could aim for an “atheist peace”, in the words of hardcore punks Bad Religion. Is the Lennon solution the best? He doesn’t suggest that atheism alone is what we need:

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I’m a dreamer

Would the world really be more peaceful if no-one believed in gods?


? What do you think?

[Shout-out to Aswin for asking me to do a piece critical of religion. There will be more critical pieces at some point in the future.]

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35 Responses to “And No Religion Too”

  1. Iain said

    I think we can all “imagine” that people would find a way to war against each other and hate even without religion.

    However, it does seem like religion provides an easy way out to justify hatred. Think of the culture-war between U.S. and generic-muslim-badguy-terrorists… that’s ostensibly religious. Troubles in Ireland; ostensibly religion. People bombing abortion clinics; ostensibly religious. Paranoia in the U.S. about Obama’s personal religion and partisan warfare; too often driven by religious rhetoric. The list can go on.

    But Lennon was calling for much more than that:

    “Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky”

    Imagine living morally without the false encouragement of rewards, doing good for goodness’ sake.

    Imagine living your life true to yourself without the disproportionate threat of eternal hellfire should you happen to use your brain, weigh the evidence, and conclude something a holy book doesn’t approve of.

    “Imagine all the people
    Living for today”

    Imagine people making decisions based on reality, with a concern for their fellow people, rather than driven by superstition and dogma.

    “Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do”

    Imagine judging somebody on their own merits and not where they were born, their skin colour, or their accent. Patriotism? What does that even mean? Such a false system of discrimination.

    “Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion too”

    Imagine a world where NOTHING excuses killing another person. Imagine a world where mutual flourishing of all sentient creatures is your goal, rather than unjustified domination or kamikaze martyrdom for an irrational cause.

    “Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace”

    Just imagine.

    “You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one”

    Imagine a world where the crippled, the poor, the weak, and the outcast can say, “I’m a human: I am valued, I am loved.”

    “Imagine no possessions
    I wonder if you can
    No need for greed or hunger
    A brotherhood of man
    Imagine all the people
    Sharing all the world”

    Imagine a world without the “haves” and “have-nots”. Imagine a world where it wasn’t true that the richest 1% of adults alone owned 40% of global assets, that the richest 10% of adults accounted for 85% of the world total, and that the bottom half of the world adult population owned 1% of global wealth.

    Imagine a world where we all had everything we needed: food, shelter, clean water, no disease.

    “You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will live as one”

    Amen and amen.

    • Nice reply, I support your ideals.

      “Imagine all the people
      Living for today” To reiterate, it was (partly) my belief in a life after this one that motivated me to look after disabled people, outcasts, homeless people etc. NOT to preach to them, just to serve them.

      However, I’m not sure how different i was from other religious people. Maybe many don’t “live for today”.

      I also did it for other reasons, eg Because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

      If I believed there was nothing beyond this life, then I would be tempted to live it totally selfishly, just for me. I sort of flirted with living that way for a while post-belief.

      • lumping disabled people with outcasts, homeless is offensive Jon.

        • Iain said

          I’m to blame for mentioning that particular collection of people, Romy, so it isn’t Jonathan’s offense.

          I’ll admit that the reason for my list was due to the range of people ordered that we should show special care to (and provide restoration for) according to injunction in the Hebrew Bible.

          Perhaps it would look less offensive like this:

          Making people of all colours as one.
          Making women and men as one.
          Making the mentally-typical and the intellectually-disabled as one.
          Making the physically-typical and the physically-disabled as one.
          Making the rich and the poor as one.
          Making the autonomous and the indentured as one.
          Making the children of all nations as one.
          Making the familiar and the stranger as one.

          There are many ways that people can make outcasts of one another. I do feel that sometimes religion can contribute to the us/them divide but, given my example was originally stolen FROM scripture, sometimes religion can also heal these wounds.

          I certainly meant no offense, the state of division is not uniquely limited to the disabled by any means.

        • Thankyou for saying directly what was bothering you, Romy.

          I’m gonna disagree with Iain and say it was my phrase, so I take responsibility for it 🙂

          I’m sorry to offend, all I was meant was “people who often need assistance from others”. There was no judgement of anyone.

          In fact, I class myself as one of the people who “often needs assistance from others”.

          I try not to judge homeless people, or anyone.

  2. leesis said

    I have to say Jon that I firmly believe if not religion then something else. So no, the world would not be a better place as far as meaning we’d fight less for I know we’d find something else.

    Religion is not dangerous. We are…but…thank-goodness…that’s only one part of us.

    Religion reflects the nature of the human being…in its insecurities, its issues of intimidation, fear, corruption, need of others, mortality, greed and so on, but also, artistic brilliance, community, compassion, etc etc.

    After all, all we need to do is watch a pack of young men at a Aussie-rules footy match to assure you…if not gods…something else for sure :)!

  3. leesis said

    “Well, one of my definitions of dangerous would be a belief that doesn’t allow you to question it.”

    (“1) suicidally apocalyptic religions that value post-death over this life and whose adherents almost welcome international disaster and tragedy, and I certainly mean (2) religions that actively encourage non-fact-based thinking and moralising.”

    I don’t know if I can meet the sometimes demanding standards of academic/poetic stuff that some folk write here (she says enviously) but Guys in my humble opinion you’re missing the big picture here.

    (and soz Iain, I mean this with all respect to your right to your opinion but I think your (1) just a reflection of some folks struggles with life and none of our business and your (2) so laden with judgement). And yes I get that some religous folk like to convert us but so do political parties, my ex and jeez…most people I meet in some way 🙂

    To clarify…yes Jon I thought of the gun analogy intially except that’s not it.

    Religion is only a reaction, a symptom if you like of the very essence of our growing understanding. It is a history of how all over the world we’ve tried to understand our ‘crocodile food status’ Vs consciousness; our need to love Vs our need to have it our way; our need to both create vs our destructive force; our need for community and the demands that makes on our reptilian brain. The birth of Psychology is deeply linked to religion. As is science.

    Religion is a reflection of the mind of man and yes some of sucks. To reject religion though is not only to reject the Jungian shadow of our global psyche but equally so it is rejecting the road to which we have humans have evolved as well as the beauty that is also part of religions.

    Dumping religion will never be the answer. We need, I reckon, to get deeper into it, study it, talk of it, study our own reactions too it…seek understanding through it, and gently and respectfully encourage all to allow growth to occur. It’s slow but so is evolution. Anyway, hope this makes sense.

    Jon, yes of course footies a religion…like beer and surf! 🙂

    • Iain said

      Hi Leesa, perhaps we are talking at cross purposes. How is wanting our actions (and our moral decrees/legislation) to be based on facts being judgmental?

      If we don’t reason or act based on facts then presumably best case scenario we might act in a healthy / positive / successful manner only by coincidence. Most of the time the alternatives are far worse. I would have thought that most people would at least pay lip service to the idea that “true beliefs are fuels for success”.

      • leesis said

        the problem for me is that clutching to facts. I don’t have as much faith in facts as you perhaps Iain? Science itself has taught me whats fact today may be released tommorrow when we learn more facts. “true beliefs”…lordy…is there such a thingy?

        • Iain said

          True enough, but scientific progress in truth – including when general paradigm shift occurs – doesn’t indicate factual relativism or damage the notion of getting a better grasp on the truth of the matter.

          In fact, so far in human history the only reliable way we have been able to improve on science is by doing better science. I don’t have a problem with that at all! I welcome and encourage changes. I don’t fear the unknown and I don’t fear revolutions in knowledge. Both are exciting.

          However, consider the alternative? If not clutching to facts… we should be clutching to…? Lies? Guesses? I’m not sure what the alternative is? (quite seriously, i’m not trying to be facetious 🙂 )

    • I like a lot of what you say Leesa. I’m only going to respond to one thing:

      As far as “sometimes demanding standards of academic/poetic stuff”

      I really don’t want my blog to “demand” anything. If there is something that is hard to understand in the comments, i will ask. I think it’s the responsibility of those who are “experts” in particular areas to gently explain to others what they mean and help them learn. Sharing understanding, not arrogance is what it’s all about.

      Sorry to rant a little, it’s a thing with me that everyone feels welcome to contribute here, even if they don’t feel they are “academic”.

      It’s a Socratic thing. (Also noting Socrates commitment to following where the discussion led him.)

      I have learned insight from things you’ve said Leesa, we all have something to contribute. 🙂

  4. I feel like crying about this. While I’m pretty revolutionary – I’m also a hardcore cynic (Leesis).

    • leesis said

      hey Rommy…I’ve noticed the cynic in you :).Actually it confused me a tad because Ive noted on Jons blog here you subscribe to reincarnation which I personally find the soothing balm to cynicism. No crying hun…as I recently pointed out to another blogger as a therapist it would be sad if I didn’t subscribe to the humanist perspective of the inherent goodness of the human bug :). Can I ask you to keep an eye out for my next post…it is partly in relation to this notion

  5. moriahbethany said

    We would absolutely be better off. Of course we would still find reasons to kill each other but that’s because we are people. At least kill me over something tangible I say. Aside from the obvious divides religion puts between us there is more to it than that. Religion makes it easier for people to disbelieve science and history. Questioning the facts is one thing but outright denial of the facts because of supernatural reasons is another. There are literally cures for cancer that we are not utilizing because of moral reasons that stem mostly from religion. Religion is not the moral compass it claims to be. It is slowing progress that we need to make in order to survive as a species( I have many examples to back this up but didn’t want to write a book about it). Unfortunately, I’m totally a cynic. Misanthrope that I am I can’t see everyone, or even the majority giving it up. There aren’t any benefits to being an atheist aside from self actualization which we learned in high school most people never reach. Religion offers an afterlife, a way to shun personal responsibility when things get tough because “God’s ways are higher than ours”, and truly poor taste in music apparently. Boy, that all sounded very bitter…meh.

  6. leesis said

    in response to Iain : However, consider the alternative? If not clutching to facts… we should be clutching to…? Lies? Guesses? I’m not sure what the alternative is?

    Indeedy, I struggle with this one. For me the alternative I think is to an explorer. Something perhaps akin to Socrates plus Captain Janeway (Star Trek Voyager)…knowing we know nothing and committed only to learning. 🙂

  7. A couple of comments from Twitter:

    I think peace without religion is the only possibility. ~Felyne

    [Peace] without “”organized religion” YES! organization of any faith ruins it ~Dorothy

  8. leesis said

    just to chuck the cat among the pidgeons;

    what if our need to throw religion out completely is classic projection…what we see, what upsets us in peoples behaviour within religion, is recognized by our frontal lobe as existing within ourselves. Our reptilian part of our brain percieves threat and immediately says…its them out there…get em…? A very common defense mechanism but one that keeps us back.

  9. Jon and Iain,
    Reinforcing old stereotypes helps no one.

  10. Iain said

    Romy, Leesa’s blog is http://leesis.wordpress.com/

  11. thanks Iain!

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