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Monday, February 26, 2007

Religion and Reasoning - Part II

I have done enough reasoning bashing. Honestly speaking, reasoning provides foundations for almost everything; it's just that I don't think of it as the ultimate arbitrator because of the two concerns I raised earlier (i.e., limitations of logic and changing premises).

Below, I extract from some of the points mentioned by Josh as disadvantages of having a belief system (I am sorry if you think they have been taken out of context; the original comment can be seen here):
  • Instead of seeking to understand different views, or new ideas, a believer will automatically treat that which is not taught in church/ synagogue/ mosque as incorrect, distorted, biased, or even evil. This creates a defensive, closed mindset; not an open, intelligent one.

  • So much time is wasted teaching children and adults nonsensical scripture when they could be learning things about themselves and their world which could help them overcome all the many barriers which stand between them and happiness/ fulfillment.

While, to some extent, I agree to the two points extracted above (I'll talk about other points at some later time), aren't these problems of the clergy (or whoever is your teacher) rather than religion itself? What else justifies creation of sects within a religion where people can be brainwashed to the extent that they become ready to kill each other just because they interpret things in a different way.

When I asked what were the disadvantages of having a belief system, I intended to know the answer from a personal point of view. That is, how religion affects you as an individual --- it varies from person to person depending on what kind of environment you have been brought up in and how much intelligence you have been gifted with.

To me, religion provides a broad framework of life in which I have individual freedom and choice. My religion expects me to be aware of my consciousness, at all times. Seeking knowledge and reflecting on the creation is a not only encouraged, it's obligatory.

There are so many paths which I can follow from this point in my discussion. I guess I should start with the Big Bang (it would be a good idea to read a little on the theory if you are new to it). Next I quote from Quran:

Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together (as one unit of creation), before We clove them asunder, and We made from water every living thing. Will they not then believe? (Ch:21,Ver:30)

There are a few other verses that can be quoted: "The heaven, We have built it with power. And verily, We are expanding it." (Ch:51,Ver:47). Parallels with the Big Crunch and an oscillating universe have also been suggested: "On the day when We will roll up the heavens like the rolling up of the scroll for writings, as We originated the first creation, (so) We shall reproduce it; a promise (binding on Us); surely We will bring it about." (Ch:21,Ver:104).

The word used for a Quranic verse is "ayat" (آيت) which means a "sign" or an "indication." There are signs all over the universe for believers. Non-believers discard all of them by saying that "the citation doesn't constitute a proof." What kind of proof are people interested in when our knowledge is extremely limited, and there exist things that can neither be proven to be true nor false?

Before moving further, I'd like to pose more questions:

Suppose you come across a perfect statue in a vast wilderness, something far superior than anything that have ever seen. What will be your first question? Mine would be, "who created it?" And I might laugh it off if somebody gives the answer that evolution took place at that particular 3x4 feet area and the statue was merely a coincidence.