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Monday, 13 October 2014

‘Religion’ as a Term of Abuse

We all do it. We say of an ideology or belief system that it amounts to a religion – and we are not being polite. This seems odd, particularly when we openly admit to religious beliefs. I am going to try to avoid doing so in the future.

A better term would, perhaps, be ‘metaphysics’. You can’t avoid metaphysics. You have to have a world view. It can be coherent or incoherent. My world view is theistic (or, more precisely, Catholic). No one has shown me that it is incoherent. Another world view would be animism, the belief that everything that happens is driven by the spirits inherent in mountains, rivers, trees etc. It has been very common, perhaps universal at earlier stages in history. To be truthful, it is not self-evidently incoherent. In fact, from my point of view, it is one up from Naturalism, the belief that there is no reality other than physical reality. It is at least two up from Solipsism, the belief that the world is simply a product of my imagination, including the apparent existence of other minds.

To support Naturalism you have to introduce stuff like the multiverse, a metaphysical assertion with absolutely no evidence to support it.

So, in rejecting Atheism I am not going to say it amounts to a religion. My accusation will henceforth be that it is, or depends on, bad metaphysics.

The metaphysical assumptions that Sheldrake rejects, for example that the Laws of Nature are fixed, bring down howls of protest that he is committing scientific heresy. John Maddox, sometime editor of Nature, is vituperative, claiming that Sheldrake’s books would be candidates for burning, if we burnt books. As it happens, I do have a strong animus against Maddox. As editor of Nature, he used his influence to prevent Peter Duesberg from making his case against the preposterous HIV theory of AIDS, thus helping to prevent alternative avenues of research.

As for Islam:
My quarrel with Islam is not that it amounts to a religion but that the religious element is swamped by the socio-political element. Islam has too little to say about God. Islam is Shari’ah and veneration for Mohammed plus a bit of theology. Allah is, according to the Koran, small-minded and vindictive; but, of course, the vindictiveness is directed at those who do not venerate Mohammed as he would like them to. Strip out the hatred from Islam; get rid of the misogynistic Shari’ah; abandon the idolatory of Mohammed and you might have a real religion, but it would be a pale imitation of Judaism and Christianity.

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