Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Majority rule

I saw this piece of research today incredibly in May 2012 some 46% of Americans still cling onto the intuition that the Earth was created 6000 years ago by a big man in the sky in a week, why? Of course the answer is simple, these people were indoctrinated with this story when they were children and the communities they now live in continually reinforce these myths as well as make it incredibly difficult (socially) for individuals to question them or indeed hold any other view. This state of mind is perfectly understandable, at a simple day to day level such teleological questions don't matter, they certainly matter less than being fired from your job or being shunned by your family but the real point is not about what's true (that was established 200 years ago!) the real slippery slope here is about religious coercion, freedom and our desire to protect minorities from the majorities.

America has a constitution that separates church and state, it's a wonderful idea and certainly allows that country to benefit from great innovations in the arts and sciences that run counter to religious parochialism. I wonder what would happen if the law of the land didn't protect people who hold contrary views to powerful or dominant religions? Well, perhaps we get a glimpse of what that would be like from India where a rationalist Sanal Edamaruku is being charged with "blasphemy" by the Catholic church for debunking a silly stigmatic statue whose dripping "blood" he showed to be nothing more than a leaky sewage pipe. In this regard Indian law is bad of course, but there wouldn't be a problem if the supposedly reasonable, rational Catholic church wasn't pushing that bad law, would that church push similar prosecutions elsewhere if it could?

Examples of religiously inspired abuses of power from around the world are as numerous as the grains of the sahara, seldom a day passes without some story of an unfortunate soul being tormented for seemingly natural and harmless behaviour. Just today I read about some girls being executed for "dancing", previously I've written about a fatwa for Tweeting and inappropriately named soft toys, the list is endless. Can we assume from all this that the only thing restraining religious abuse of power and privilege is the denial of said power and privilege?

*Update* Apparently Spain has some silly laws too.


Chairman Bill said...

Every religion is true one way or another. It is true when understood metaphorically. But when it gets stuck in its own metaphors, interpreting them as facts, then you are in trouble.

Joseph Campbell

Steve Borthwick said...

CB, Many people like to blur the distinction between metaphor and truth, especially when the metaphor describes something we'd like to be true.

I always learned that models, analogies and metaphors can't by definition be reality and therefore are not "true" (using a normal English definition of that word) That doesn't mean they aren't useful of course just not real.