I think it's time to get serious about the role God plays in human affairs, and evaluate whether it's appropriate to let everyone in on the bad news: God doesn't exist, never did, and the closest thing we'll ever see to God will emerge from our own collective efforts at making meaning.
Maybe I'm just getting old, but I no longer see the real value in being tolerant of other people's beliefs. Sure, when beliefs are relegated to the realm of pure entertainment, they pose no real danger. So, a kid believes U2 is really a supergroup on par with The Beatles or The Who. That's *his* problem, and it doesn't really do a lot of harm to anyone except those of us who still stop by MTV occasionally to see what might be playing.
When religions are practiced, as they are by a majority of those in developed nations, today, as a kind of nostalgic little ritual - a community event or an excuse to get together and not work - it doesn't really screw anything up too badly. But when they radically alter our ability to contend with reality, cope with difference, or implement the most basic ethical provisions, they must be stopped.
Like any other public health crisis, the belief in religion must now be treated as a sickness. It is an epidemic, paralyzing our nation's ability to behave in a rational way, and - given our weapons capabilities - posing an increasingly grave threat to the rest of the world.
He just goes on from there. He doesn't really make a well-reasoned argument, which led me to the realization that many, if not most, atheists are actually quilty of the mythic thinking they condemn in religious believers. It's an all-or-nothing way of looking at the world, and anyone who disagrees is just wrong. That is not rational thinking. It's as Blue as any other authoritarian worldview.
This is the response that I left in the comments section:
Atheism is a belief no more verifiable than the belief in God. All such beliefs, including scientism (Sam Harris is the best example here) belong to the same developmental level of human consciousness.
You see, humans (and the cultures they create) move through developmental stages (think Piaget, Kohlberg, Gilligan, Erikson, and so on). With each of these developmental levels comes certain values and beliefs. The belief in one true God, one holy book, one way of understanding the world -- with the assertion that all other ways are just plain wrong -- is indicative of the "mythic order" level of development. It is defined by black and white thinking, a need for absolute truths, and rigid rules and laws.
This level includes all the major religions in the world in their fundamentalist versions, as well communism, atheism, and scientism. No matter which "religion" you hold to be true, all others are wrong. The funny thing about this level, like all levels, is that it can't be skipped. We move through a developmenal hierarchy and we must pass through each stage in succession. It just happens that we are living through a period in human history where we are struggling with the transition from mythic thinking to rational thinking.
Atheism is not rational. Agnosticism is the next step for an atheist because the existence of God cannot be rationally proven or disproven. Rational thinking requires an open mind.
For Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and so on, the next stage doesn't require the abandonment of their religion, only that they understand that science and religion are separate domains (the great gift of the Enlightenment) and that God and evolution are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Many people are already at this stage (scientific-rational), it's just that those who aren't are fighting so hard against the transition they see happening all around them.
You cannot eradicate mythic religion. And even if you could, many people would regress to the egocentric/exploitive stage that comes before it. We need religion to act as a container for the egoic power quest of the previous stage (witness the tribal warfare in Iraq or in many African nations). Organized religion, with its guilt-based system of rewards and punishments, is one of the few ways to tame the power hungry ego.
It's fine to be annoyed, but take a big picture view, Doug. Don't be as narrow-minded as the fundamentalists you deride.
Here is Douglas Rushkoff's response to my comments:
Peace to you, WH. And that's a well thought-out response (I've checked out your blog, as well). But I don't feel that I'm espousing atheism, here. Certainly something closer to the Brights than Evangelicals, but a decidedly spiritual outlook, nonetheless. Just one that doesn't flip religions on their heads, utilizing them as passivity traps instead of doorways.
In this sense, as a Jew, I'm not abandoning Judaism at all, but rebooting it or, at the worst, continuing its tradition of innovation.
And I hear you, 'nobody,' when you say that faith can be so deep it's a "no matter what" that's felt to be so deep inside it is unchangeable. Still, I wonder: for beings who are alive, that might not be the best thing have in there. For Buddhists, such a "no matter what" would have to be the first thing to go...
rushkoff • 05/01/06 05:50pm
And this is my reply to Rushkoff:
Thanks for the reply. As a Buddhist, I know how religion can have different manifestations at each successive level of development. Based on a comment from you that I missed earlier, I think you tend to agree.
You said: "I think both the institution described by the word "religion" and the emergent order known as "God" have been corrupted and usurped by those who mean to impose ignorance and passivity on their followers."
Much of organized religion as it currently exists is a diseased variation of the mythic order meme. But not all of it. There are very progressive lines in all of the world's religions. Rather than seeing religion as an illness, we should seek to support the healthy manifestations of the associated meme.
God is indeed an emergent order. All of the world's great mystics have found that God is not a thing but an experience, a state of nonduality. Makes no difference which faith, at the ultimate level the "truth" looks the same.
This is a verifiable experiment that anyone can undertake. The world's religions provide a set of injunctions, we can pick one and follow its path. Either we will verify the findings of those who have attempted the same experiement or not.
We need not assert that God does not exist, but rather that how we currently define God no longer serves humanity's best interests.
Even if we can do this, we cannot eliminate organized mythic religion. We can try to make the religion meme more healthy (less fundamentalist), but we need that meme to have a healthy Spiral of human development (see any of the Spiral Dynamics links on my sidebar for more on this).
Technorati Tags: Douglas Rushkoff, Atheism, Religion, Developmental levels, Mythic thinking, Rational thinking, Authoritarian, Egocentric, God
Del.Icio.Us Tags: Douglas Rushkoff, Atheism, Religion, Developmental levels, Mythic thinking, Rational thinking, Authoritarian, Egocentric, God