Thursday, October 15, 2009

What good is religion

Richard Dawkins, who is pretty strongly anti-religion, says that religions get a free ride. They don't have to prove anything, or indeed, even do anything. They simply profess to have wonderful truths.
So, we might ask ourselves: What can we expect a religion to give us that we honor it, give it money, and spend sabbaths dressed uncomfortably and sitting on hard benches?
After all, the teachings of religions tend to be things that, once someone has thought of them, simply make sense. Take the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to discover that rule or to see that it's a very good way to conduct your life. Which is good, because there were no rocket scientists when the rule was formulated, there being no rockets.
Seriously, what should a religion offer that we should pay attention to it. Clearly, we don't need a religion to live a good life. All the atheists I know are honorable, decent, more than decent, people.
I've thought of three things that a religion needs. There may be more, but these will do. If any religion can offer proof for the following three, I'll sign up any day.
One: The religion has got to offer me information that humankind simply can't get on its own hook. That is, there has to be something that the religion can tell me that science can't. And, it can't be something vague, like, "There is balm in Gilead," or "The streets of heaven are paved with gold." It has to be something verifiable (Aye, there's the rub).
Second: The religion has got to predict things that actually come true. It has to be specific and (again) verifiable. I've had it to here with all the "wars and rumors of wars" that people are throwing up to me. I say, be specific. Put up or shut up.
Third: The religion has to have a real, unearthly power. For instance, in the case of a Christian religion, it would have to have the power to keep me out of Hell. And, as in the other two cases, this would have to be a verifiable power.
Notice, though, that while religions are based on claims of having one or all of the above characteristics, the onliest thing is, you have to accept it on -- you guessed it -- faith.
This irritates the Hell of Dawkins, and I'm not too pleased by it myself. But religion has a cover for that too -- "It is a wicked and adulterous generation that seeketh after a sign." So, if I want some sort of logical confirmation, I'm wicked and an adulterer. Where's the fun in that?


Bee's Blog said...

I'm intrigued.

This is possibly a dumb question, but if one is an atheist, why would one believe in hell?

On both your houses said...

Nice subtle comment, Bee. It took me a while to work it out. Of course, Dawkins doesn't believe in Hell, unless you accept Andre Gide's definition, "Hell is other people."

Bee's Blog said...

Sometimes I think hell is right here on earth - either that or one long cocktail party!