Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Truth and Dogma

This clips talks about problems in the Christian bible, which including conflicting accounts, contradictions, later additions and forgeries, and more. Particularly the hosts focus on the tale of the resurrection of Jesus. I don't have much to add here in way of commentary. I selected this clip for my friend because she believes in biblical inerrancy. While I never can and will never claim that I can disprove her god (or any god), I can confidently state that there are errors (many errors) in the bible based on nothing more than elementary logic and reason.

By the way, if you are interested in biblical truths and how scholars go about determining what the original books of the bible really said, I recommend you read Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why by Bart Ehlman. I read this novel a few weeks ago and I loved it. It is a very interesting read and I learned many things I didn't know about Christianity, religious history, and textual criticism. And the book is not anti-Christian or pro-atheism by any means at all. I think it presents a very unbiased, unprejudiced analysis and I recommend it for both believers and non-believers.

This clip, split into two videos, discusses dogmatic religious mindsets. The host, Matt, makes a very interesting observation about how gods have gotten less and less specific over time. Many early religions, such as Greek mythology, had many very specific gods fulfilling very specific purposes in the world, such as bringing out the sun or controlling the seas. Religion seems to have "evolved" (pun intended) into the worship of less gods that are extremely ill-defined. Most believers around the world today are monotheists (believe in and worship only a single god). When they tell me that their god is good and I find an example of an evil action their god was said to have done in their holy text, I usually get an answer like "well he's mysterious".

The discussion continues with the caller noting that when you destroy a religious, dogmatic mindset (due to overwhelming evidence), it seems that the believer will just replace it with another dogma. The co-host Jenn adds that she thinks its because these people have some sort of "childish need for certainty in their lives", which is a view that I happen to agree with. Science will never be able to tell us everything and I happily admit that I don't know everything, including the fact that I don't know if there are any gods or not. I just don't believe that any exist. But belief in something and knowledge of something (including claiming to know) are very different. Perhaps people cling to religious dogma because they are afraid of not knowing what happens after they die (I would argue that no one knows that actually), or afraid of not having an all powerful being in the sky that's always looking out for them. I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes by Carl Sagan. A view that I concur strongly with.

For me, it is far better to grasp the universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.

In the second part, Matt goes on to discuss how his position on his atheism would change when/if he is presented with extraordinary evidence to support an extraordinary claim for some supernatural power. Personally I think that anyone, whether they are a theist, atheist, or something else, who would deny or reject sufficient contradictory evidence to their stance is a complete and utter fool. Any ideological system, whether religious, political, or something else makes any sort of statement that the believer is not allowed to question its views or assertions should be immediately questioned. For me, whenever I am told not to question something it immediately sets off my "bullshit sensor" and I am much, much less likely to believe whatever it is I'm being told not to question.

I may have mentioned this earlier this year when I started my posts on religion. But my enemy is not religion. I have identified my enemy as dogma. I've come to reason and believe that dogma is responsible for so many evils in this world. Its responsible for the massacre of millions throughout religious wars like the Crusades. Its responsible for medical doctors being murdered in cold blood for practicing abortions. Its responsible for terrorists flying airplanes into buildings and bombings across the world every day. Its responsible for the merciless torture and slaughter of Jewish and other minority groups at the hands of Nazi Germany. There is nothing, nothing positive about enslaving your mind to anything or anyone, regardless of whether that force is good, evil, or something in between. Part of the reason I continue to write about religious topics in my blog is for the hope that by doing so, maybe I can weaken dogma's cold grip on people just a little bit more. Dogma isn't going to disappear overnight and it probably will always exist in some form somewhere, but that's no reason for me to not even attempt to defeat it.

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Blogger Sean Leather said...

Interesting point about dogma. I hadn't thought about it in those terms.

I think it's important to not let beliefs (even those of an atheist) become dogma in your mind. Of course, that's nigh on impossible, but it's still worth trying in order to remain truly open-minded.

BTW, if you're aren't already subscribed to my Google Reader shared items, you should be. ;) I just shared a very cool video of Neil deGrasse Tyson talking about belief, UFOs, and aliens.

3:38 AM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

I analyzed my own set of beliefs thoroughly a few months ago, but I couldn't identify anything I held onto dogmatically. That doesn't mean that something dogmatic isn't there though, I may have missed it. That's an awesome video of NDT. I love hearing him speak and wish that more people would listen to what he has to say.

5:56 PM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

Just came across a frightening article this morning discussing the case of one man who, as a child, was forced into indoctrination and brainwashed to submit to an authority dogmatically. After he left his church, he became a satanist. There's an example of replacing a religious mindset with another religious mindset.

6:37 AM  

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