March 9, 2010

Religion ≠ Sustainability?

Your politics & religion are my concern.

Religion’s getting a bad rap these days – and with good reason. Between the Jihadi’s, the Israelis and the fundies on their compounds, the world is increasingly looking like something out of Dante’s Inferno (and yes, I did just have a crack at Israel – and no that doesn’t make me anti-Semitic; just as criticising the USA doesn’t make one ‘anti-American’).

Of course, the arguments are that the conflicts in Palestine, the Middle East and just about anywhere outside North America where the US military is stationed are purely political (or related to energy security).

Yet wherever you have Presidents, Kings, Sheiks, Prime Ministers and various other political leaders invoking their god(s), praying in Parliament or printing scripture on their currency, there is a case to be made for asserting that there is absolutely no separation between church and state.

And if that’s true, a rigorous analysis of the dominant religions and the part they play in shaping policy is essential for determining whether consumer sentiment or political activism really stands a chance of shifting us away from a path of almost certain self-destruction and onto a path of survival.

Many wiser and more erudite people than me have discussed this already, and the point of this post is not to seek to restate their positions, but to bring a particular focus to it in the hope of continuing to stimulate debate and enquiry.

Sam Harris in The End of Faith makes a compelling case for the dangers of faith-based religion, whilst The Ranting Gryphon makes a far more impassioned (and amusing to some) case through his two minute video on Global Warming. And then there’s Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher and a plethora of others asking similar and equally valid questions about whether religion has a future in humanity’s future – or if humanity even has a future as long as religion does.

In a recent post I commented:

It’s time for discussions about politics, religion and consumerism to take centre stage, for all of us to call into question the irrational and dangerous beliefs that have brought us to the precipice. It’s time to wage war on superstition and unsubstantiated belief and embrace reason.

Your lifestyle choice is my concern – your diet is my concern, your means of transportation is my concern, your politics are my concern, your religion is my concern.

We all know that thought precedes action. I often hear discussions about the ‘lack of thoughtful action’ when it comes to addressing global sustainability concerns – yet I’m pretty sure that it’s the quality of the thinking, and not its absence that is the primary problem.

We’re so busy hammering away at a culture of consumerism – and blaming that for the problems that beset us – that we’ve failed to recognise that each of the three largest monotheistic religious groups have spread their influence throughout politics, the courts, economics, science, philanthropy and education;  due in no small part  to our unwillingness to really discuss their place in our societies. Our imam’s, rabbi’s and priests are the original thought-police – not only telling us what we are permitted to believe, but threatening to ostracize us from our communities if we either fail to agree or, heaven forbid, exercise our own intelligence in contradiction to what they teach.

… and now they’re supported either covertly or explicitly by government policy, tax concessions and grants.

The time for religious tolerance is long past. And by saying this I’m not agitating for racial or cultural intolerance.

Religious tolerance seems to pretty much equate to “you leave me alone to believe what I want, and I’ll leave you alone to believe what you want”.

Yet when our beliefs, collectively, appear to represent a significant threat to our capacity to survive as a species, is this really a reasonable basis for continuing?

What it seems we need is an intolerance for foolishness. An intolerance for irrationality. An intolerance for the beliefs that have not only ‘brought us to the precipice’ but now threaten to tip us over the edge.

What I really want to know is, why, in our quest to save ourselves from self-induced extinction, is everything else up for discussion but God?

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