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Faith, or If you know what life is worth, you will look for yours on Earth

October 24, 2006

I would think you lot have Wolcott on your feed and or roll by now. In case you aren’t keeping up, read this bit. Just a short muse about conservative republican’s scoffing anytime a Democrat professes religious faith. Brilliant stuff in there.

This person is quoting D’Souza. Oh dear.

My conclusion is that it is not religion but atheism that requires a Darwinian explanation. It seems perplexing why nature would breed a group of people who see no purpose to life or the universe, indeed whose only moral drive seems to be sneering at their fellow human beings who do have a sense of purpose. Here is where the biological expertise of Dawkins and his friends could prove illuminating. Maybe they can turn their Darwinian lens on themselves and help us understand how atheism, like the human tailbone and the panda’s thumb, somehow survived as an evolutionary leftover of our primitive past.

D’Souza confuses biological evolution and social evolution. “Nature” has not bred people who see “no purpose to life.” Society has. Of course, his construction of atheists as nihilists is as simple and, well, philistine, as most of his thinking. Not everyone has to have a purpose derived from the ends, (i.e. if you do well and obey what’s in the book you will get eternal life). Some people find purpose in the means, raising a Little Dork, listening to Mos Def kick hot lyrics, watching their old man go bitterly into retirement, having goals and dreams that impact life now as we live it, not impacting life as if we live after it. Life is not a means to an end, it is the end all be all.

I think D’Souza has the order backwards, too. Atheism, or non-belief, as Kate puts it, is not like a vestigal organ. Seems to me the order goes, superstition, polytheism, monotheism . . . what comes next?

The poster asks all sorts of rhetorical questions that do have actual answers.

Can evolution explain why religious people more influential in their societies than atheists?
Social evolution can. Politics can. Sensing wants us to understand that religious people are more influential because of the truth of religion, however religious people are actually more influential because of the power of religion. Catholicism has it’s own state, you know. People still believe, and there is power in numbers. Politicians certainly know the power of religion, and will exploit that power this Sunday when the candidates descend upon hundreds of African American churches. That’s okay, that’s how the game is played. The church has long been the voice of authority in the community. However, it isn’t simply because of the “truth” of religion, it’s because comiserating in the church was the only way for slaves to plot and plan without the watchful eyes of the master. Faith grew in this community in part because that’s where the power was, in the church.

And why has religiosity survived more strongly than atheism if there is really nothing out there?
I’m not so sure what “religiosity” is. I don’t know if this statement is that accurate. There are about a billion people in the PRC, and it’s a safe estimate that between 10 and 25% would describe themselves as religious. About a third of Russians describe themselves as religious. Many Japanese practice “religiosity,” yet most are only in it for the cool ceremonies and promises of good fortune for the kids.

D’Souza says that some express “surprise” at how religion has survived. Of course they shouldn’t be surprised. Marx’s famous comment on religion is still an apt observation. People feel that religion enriches their life? I’m all for it. Better religion than crack. We are rational beings, yet we aren’t all rational all the time. If you’re thinking you are going to live forever because you don’t beat the kids and don’t cut me off in traffic, well, keep working those means to death. I’ll keep at it from my side, too. Guess I wont get a reward for it, though.

Also, I’ve destroyed any chance of running for public office with this. 😉

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 31, 2006 11:53 am

    Also, I’ve destroyed any chance of running for public office with this.

    Yeah, lots of folks in our generation and after have ruined their chances at elected office by posting revealing disclosures on the internet. Either that or within 10-15 years we’ll be re-defining what makes a worthy candidate, and it won’t be a complete lack of skeletons in the closet. Here’s hoping for the latter.

  2. October 31, 2006 12:12 pm

    Yeah, probably true, though I’d bet the “religiosity” requirement will be an enduring one. I said that totally tongue in cheek. I’ve seen how the sausage gets made up close, and I don’t have the stomach for it.

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