I was impressed by the comments of Mr. Peter Laurie in the Barbados Sunday Sun of 30 August 2009. What impressed me most was his call for “rational enquiry and discussion in the quest for objective truth”. It must be acknowledged that Mr. Laurie is no enemy of religion. In other articles, he has emphasised his Roman Catholic faith. This underscores what I have always stated: rational thought is not the enemy of religion - rational thought is the enemy of superstition. In the same article, Mr. Laurie states that “the meaning and value of human life cannot be derived from reason and science alone” This is, of course, his own point of view, but it happens to be one which I tend to agree with.
We need to wean people away from the false dichotomy foisted on them by some religious leaders that it is either science or religion, and that the scientific method of enquiry, experiment and peer review is anti-religion. A dichotomy does indeed exist, but it exists between the scientific method and blind superstition, and why should that be a problem?
I believe that it is possible to be religious and still be rational. I believe that it is possible to be a man or woman of faith and still be a rational thinker, one who rejects unproven assumptions and seeks evidence first and foremost. I am not saying that evidence exists for every hypothesis, but I am saying that evidence must be sought in all cases, and that if I chose to accept a hypothesis on faith, I must be willing to reject that hypothesis if new evidence arises which calls it into question. Fact must always trump belief. There must be no belief so sacred that no fact can overturn it.
Let me provide an example: in the Bible, Numbers 1:46, the number of men who wandered in the desert during the Israelite exodus is given as 603,550. Add to that the women and children, and we would have had over 1.5 million people wandering around in the desert, setting up shelters, consuming food and producing waste, and doing the sorts of things that people do on a daily basis. Yet, archaeologists have found not one single trace of such a massive movement of people. The Exodus happens to be a lynchpin of Jewish and Christian faith, but did it really occur? Perhaps, but certainly not in the manner described in the Bible.
It is issues such as this that need to be addressed, not out of a need to criticise for the sake of criticising, not out of a need to prove people wrong, but out of a need to champion truth and honesty over fiction and dishonesty. This issue goes to the heart of what our society stands for. If we set truth and honesty up as our highest ideals, then we must teach them, we must preach them, and we must live them. If it means saying "I was wrong" or "I don't know", then that is what we must do.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Sunday, August 23, 2009
Welcome, all, to what will be our notice board. Just email me with your thoughts, questions and ideas, or simply post a comment. I will leave the major writing to you, and simply act as moderator. Our mission statement is written below:
The society for rational thought is committed to the encouragement of critical thinking in all aspects of life. We are committed to the goal of establishing a progressive, caring and thinking society. We will respect the beliefs of others in so far as they do not inhibit the development of the individual or of the society. We accept the scientific method and the process of critical evaluation of all statements proporting to be based in fact. We believe that faith should be personal and optional, but should not conflict with our current knowledge base, which is founded on scientific research, peer review, and critical evaluation. Our principle goal is to critique all claims made in the public arena and to educate the community on our findings. Recognising the difficulties involved, we will draw on the wide cross section of disciplines represented by our members in order to offer the public a sound, scientific alternative to the many claims with which they are faced daily.
Following is a quote from Bertrand Russell, which encapsulates our goals quite adequately.
“We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world-its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. .... When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.”
Russell, Bertrand; Why I Am Not A Christian, Touchstone Books, 1957, pg. 23.
If you wish to participate, drop me a line. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . Come and be a part of a new movement which is poised to take this nation forward. The aim is to form an organisation and meet regularly for debate and discussion. I have cast the first stone into the pond. Now it is your turn.
All over the world, we are seeing the fallacies that represent the religious method coming apart at the seams. This unravelling has been going on, slowly, since the time of the rennaissance and the enlightenment in Europe.
I am not denying the importance or the relevance of religion; I am denying the relevance of superstition. I believe that we all have the right to believe or disbelieve as directed by our reason and conscience, but ancient superstitions have no place in the modern world.
You may agree or disagree with my comments above. Leave a comment and let me know. This is an open forum. You don't need to be a member to comment.
The next post will be made in September, 2009.