Sunday, 19 May 2013

Absolutist doctrine

A philosophical or aesthetic doctrine, like a political ideology, more often than not is absolutist. It can often consist of a set of ideas (which, to its credit, are often consistent and don't self-contradict) which negate and refute its adversaries. It can often have a need to proselytize others. In effect, it wants the rest of the world to think like it does.

For all intents and purposes, I'm going to narrow it down to religious (and anti-religious) doctrines.

The New Atheism movement, for instance, turns unbelief into belief. Atheism, basically, is the lack of belief in God. Why would one be so militant about it?

New Atheism is no different from other organised religions. It argues that all religion is inherently immoral, that all religion is man-made and that all religion is totalitarian in that it is exploited by those in power. To blame all immoral behaviour on religion is just as arrogant as those religious persons who claim that morality is a divine providence and that human order is dependent on religious morality. Religious morality is just one kind of framework that works for certain people.  It turns this arrogance on its head when it says that a wicked act committed by a Christian is attributable to his faith. Lambasting religion because is man-made is very facile and childish indeed. There is no way of proving or disproving the existence of God. And, yes, religion can be a viable conduit for totalitarianism. But the argument that all political totalitarianism has its roots in religious teachings is a conflation.

In fact, religion is a human myth. It is one way in which humanity has made sense of the world. Why would one want to eviscerate such an integral part of human existence and inquiry?

And the fact that the New Atheists feel the need to proselytize is a bridge too far. Christian missionaries did the same when the conquistadores ravaged indigenous South America. Why do atheists feel such a burning itch to convert the heathen?

Personally, I don't want anyone one else to adopt my way of thinking. What I would want to do is shake people out of their slumber, to confront them. Not to convert them to a certain doctrine or ideology.

If there were one doctrine which was more malleable, it would be the Sceptic movement in Greek antiquity. Sceptics did not believe that one thought system was entirely true per se. So, they adopted different ways of thinking but never fully 'swallowed' them. They went to religious ceremonies but did not believe in God. They followed human practices but did not believe in them. This kind of scepticism, I think, should be adopted. I can recognise the the value of science and rationalism, but what's stopping me from going into a cathedral and feeling transcended?

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