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The Horrors and Absurdities of Religion (Penguin Great Ideas) Mass Market Paperback – 27 Aug 2009
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About the Author
Arthur Schopenhauer was born in Danzig in 1788 where his family, of Dutch origin, owned a respected trading house. Arthur was expected to inherit the business, but hated the work and in 1807, after his father's suicide and the sale of the business, he enrolled in the grammar school at Gotha. He went on to study medicine and science at Gottingen University and in 1810 began to study philosophy. During his middle life he travelled widely in Europe. He died in 1860.
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So begins this strong diatribe against religion. But to put this forward one has to satisfy the claim that religion does more harm than good. It points out that religions bring this wicked biped race consolation and we all need consolation at various points in our lives. The real question is does it do more harm than good? Witness the various wars and incursions that have killed so many – the Crusades, the Inquisition, and, more recently, the exemplification of sex abuse scandals carried out by Priests. Do we really have to throw the baby out with the bathwater?
We tend to want clear guidance when it comes to religion and for many of us we recognise this as a crisis of belief and faith. There have been terrible failures such as the American right wing exposures of mammon versus faith. But is religion, and here I include all such faiths, to blame? Is it true, as Schopenhaur claims that: “Mankind is growing out of religion as out of its childhood clothes.” Why can’t we just shrug our shoulders and say, believe what you want to believe? Well, it’s precisely this that causes the problem. Do men (and women, of course) have an absolute need for an interpretation of life?
It seems that they do. The mystery of life has to be solved. And in that phrase lies many contradictions and many explanations. Schopenhaur provides one way of solving the mystery. For the answer is (for him), “we cannot know.” We either throw in our lot with the believers of one kind or another, or we withhold our answer and say, I am an atheist until someone or something strikes me as a better way. Or, until someone or something happens to prove that faith and its consolations are somehow knowable. (perhaps through prayer?). Atheism may seem the sensible option. This flies in the face of what we are taught about religion. If you have faith in God, you have a powerful ally. If not, you don’t. You are alone in the world.
But not really. You have your kinships and friendships. The question is, do you really need anything else? Four score years and maybe a little bit longer will do for me.