Sunday, January 1, 2012

Fear is the foundation of religion

The following comes from Why I Am Not a Christian, by the great philospher, Bertrand Russell. What Mr. Russell had to say in 1957, unfortunately, still resonates today for religion--in particular the Christian religion--continues to dominate our culture, our country, our discourse and is, in my opinion, one of the true terrors that we face as a nation.

Consider that the entire troupe of Republican presidential wannabees are religious to a fault. Their political beliefs as well as their personal beliefs, are based, not on science or reason, but on religion -- and in every case, a particularly pernicious form of Christianity. Each of them disavows evolution, the greatest theory in all of human history, the theory upon which most everything we know in the world is based. They dismiss the science behind global warming as if that science was simply a matter of faith and not a morbid matter of fact that threatens the very existence of the human race!

In each case, although they profess allegiance in one form or another to the mythical Jesus, they boldly disregard his teachings across the board, whether it has to do with riches, prayer, charity or politics.

Perhaps it is beneficial to listen once again to some of the great scientific and philosophic minds out of which have flowed nuggets of truth forged in the cauldron, not of fear, but of scientific reality; the same reality by which we have been given the tools to understand the mightiest fact on earth: We are not controlled by gods and witches and the stars, but by nature.

We need no longer to cling desperately to the fear religion suggests as good in order to survive in this world. Science has negated such nonsense and at the same time suggested we are responsible for what becomes of our earth and our life together. In fact, we are the only hope we have!

So, listen once again, to Mr. Russell:  

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, [...] the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. 

Fear is the basis of the whole thing--fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. 

In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. 

Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a fit place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.

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