[FoRK] Re: Anything to be learned from religion?
Thu Aug 11 07:30:23 PDT 2005
Have you ever read "The Story of Pi"? (No it isn't about math...) The
reviews on Amazon don't do it justice, for the most part.
It was assigned reading at the school where I used to teach, and one of my
students brought it to me, and asked me to read it so we could talk about
it. On the cover it said "This will make you believe in God", so I was
The basic argument of the book, as far as I could tell, was that religion
made a better story than the messy, hard facts of reality. It also seemed
to me that the character was attempting to avoid facing unpleasant facts
about himself, and human nature, through the use of symbolism and allegory.
I think first and foremost, religion tells us something about people in
general. There are many reasons people are religious, but at least with the
Christianity I was part of, the main reason was social (although they
probably wouldn't have admitted it). People seem to want to be part of a
group which is like them. (It wasn't until I started looking at what it
meant to take the claims of Christianity seriously, that I realized that the
system can't hang together without hypocrisy of ome form or another. So I
gradually became nonreligious.)
On ther other hand, if you're the kind of person who is looking for meaning,
etc, I think philosophy is much more enlightening, particulary
Existentialism, and Objectivism -- they seem to provide the best answers for
intelligent, alienated people. It been a good source of food for thought for
me. Too bad we don't learn philosophy in school...
If you want to make science compete with religion, then science needs to
fill some of those basic needs, like provide answers with meaning, like
promote a sense of unity with the world, or somesuch. Instead, people tend
to think of science as cold, uncaring, and empty.
Here's an example: I was reading a children's book with my 5-year old,
called "What's alive". In it, there was a claim that people were animals.
That thought really took her by surprise. So we discussed evolution. I think
she has the beginning of a sense of why we're vegetarian, and how we are an
integral part of the world. This, I hope, will eventaully blossom into
inquiry about ethics, and other questions about how we should live.
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