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I was disappointed. What started out as a great critique of ...
on 9 November 2016
I was disappointed. What started out as a great critique of the worsts aspects of religion and atheism returned to an apology for religion juxtaposed to his straw man anti-'new-atheism' position. He is right of course that the enlightenment brought with it the 'hope' and faith of a utopian future (a new religion), where there was no more conflict, war, etc. It was born from the failure of religion to bring anything but war, conflict and oppression for the vast majority of society. It was people like Grotius and his ideas of natural laws, which we could all agree on, which served as the basis for the end of religious wars. It was the emptiness of religious conjectures, about the natural world, which were refuted by scientific discoveries, that led to reformation and reassessment of what 'true' religion is. Hedges talks about people cherry-picking their faith position, as if it is a good thing; that there is no absolute truth, or right way, but that's ok because the Bible (or religious texts) are all metaphor and allegory about spiritual 'truth' unobtainable through reason. Some atheists may have hope for a better future but I don't. What Hedges talks about as the corruption of man (sin), and his irredeemable moral depravity, which we have to recognise (which religion describes), is our evolved animal nature. We mask our true animal nature with civilisation practices, religion, and moral law, but in times of difficulty the mask falls off. We are straw men, we are hollow men, we are animals with the mask of the delusion of imagio dei or the pinicle of evolution. Hedges avoids this conclusion to soft sell his religious position (unproclaimed, thankfully). Yes, he is right, the enlightenment and dreams of a utopian future brought as much pain and misery to the world as religion, but no hope of a redemption or salvation in an imaginary next life with it. "Religious thought is a guide to morality. It points humans towards enquiry...." Which is bulls***. Religious thought about morality is a pretention to knowledge about morality (but don't stop thinking about what truth is on my say so). The statements of conjecture, which make up all religious texts, and for that matter the theology born from them, are multifaceted and mysterious because they say absolutely nothing. They point to a state of being that is imaginary, imagined by the first authors. and adapted and reassessed by subsequent thinkers, when things didn't add up. I deeply respect the works of Barth, Niebuhr, Bonhoffer etc. for attempting to bring theology into the real world, but for all their words, all they point out is the obvious: that we are not homo 'sapiens', we are not 'perfect', there is no golden future, and all who promise such are false idols; but they, like Hedges, return to their own 'hope', that there is more to life than this, which they all pretend to know. I get the critique of new atheism, and its calls for the irradication of religion, as if genocide is a good thing, and the communist experiment in that aspect worked so efficiently, but failed (because you can't irradicate hope). Hope, is a human tragedy; It is what gets us out of bed in the morning, but hope is as empty as faith, and hope is the reason we kill others that don't share 'our' hope. We hope in what we do not see, and there is no evidence for, and yet Hedges thinks this is a good thing. He highlights the limits of reason, where a 'sense of the religious' takes us to 'truth' and yet doesn't have the reason/intelligence to see that that 'sense' is just as imaginary as the thing he criticises and it is not 'truth'. My interpretation of this imaginary world/'truth' is flawed, because it is beyond reason, and because it can never be universal. The problem with every religion is the fact that the interpretation of this 'sense' is not universally the same between any two individuals. There are no absolutes, they are just claimed as conjectures. Hedges, like Midgley, and Werleman, point to the faults of scientific and reasoned enquiry, to dismiss them as myths (evolution, wrongly understood as the myth of progress), faith, and religion, as if that makes their 'faith' position more valid, or 'true'.. and that doesn't follow. In the end I was disappointed, with the man, and I half liked his book for its attempt to critique the worst aspects of atheists polemics, but hated it.. because it only did so to attempt to make religion seem more reasonable in the end. He failed