Here’s an image of one of the daily religious parades you stumble across if you spend any amount of time in Cusco. Quite a spectacle huh? Lots of people getting organized and spending a lot of money.
But really, when you look at this, don’t you think all that time and effort could be better spent?
I mean, I understand the fact that a lot of people are hopeless and suffering and they are in a constant quest for some entity that could ease their pain. But does it really make sense to prostrate themselves before a plastic statue?
One of the great deceptions of religion is that if you are sincere enough in your faith, and you pray long enough, your illnesses will be cured and your suffering will be eased. That is one of the promises of religion, and for some reason people choose that treatment and adhere to their devotion even though those promises are never fulfilled.
This is crazy enough, but it’s even more crazy when you consider that there IS a belief system which CAN cure disease and stop suffering. It’s called MODERN MEDICINE and it’s a direct result of the implementation of the SCIENTIFIC METHOD!!!
Honestly, I struggle with religion on a daily basis. It strikes me as a colossal waste of time and inherently damaging to a functioning society. At best, people tend to dismiss religion as “harmless” (which it is not), and at worst people actually swear allegiance to it.
But folks, religion is the direct inhibition of logical thinking! How can that be harmless? How can that in any way be good for a society?
One of the things that constantly astounds me is how friends of mine who are extremely intelligent can have such a lack of understanding about what the scientific method is. It finally occurred to me the other day that many people simply haven’t been exposed to science as intensely as I have.
When I was in college, I never had any doubt that English Literature would be my major. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and my heavy skepticism of teachers led me to think that Literature would be the best course of study. I figured that since we were reading books that had been around for hundreds of years, they MUST have something of value in them (this hypothesis was blown up by the fact that a lot of teachers insisted on teaching non-influential books written within the past twenty years or so because the author was a member of a minority group or something…but that’s a different issue).
By the time I was finishing up my studies, I was becoming pretty disgusted with Literature because it wasn’t TEACHING ME HOW TO THINK! As a result, I made the rather impulsive decision to pick up a minor in Physics.
Now, I don’t claim to be an expert scientist, but I learned enough through my Physics labs to learn that the intuitive nature of our minds (which is always tapped into to make things like melodramatic works of literature function…not to mention religion), is almost ALWAYS not just inaccurate, but COMPLETELY WRONG!
This is the essence of science! To avoid saying, “well OBVIOUSLY X is the answer” and to ACTUALLY DO SOME KIND OF TEST TO SEE WHAT THE ANSWER IS!
To put it more simply, your intuition is the ENEMY! Why? Because our senses SUCK! Our eyesight is terrible, our sense of smell limited, and our hearing is basically non-existent. It’s like we’re trying to measure the world with rulers that are a half-mile short. If you make ANY decisions based SOLELY on the input of your senses you basically GUARANTEE to be in the wrong.
Unfortunately, for the purposes of influencing large numbers of people, human sensory perception is a powerful argumentative tool. If you have one guy saying, “believe your eyes” and another saying, “your eyes are lying to you” it SEEMS like the second person is the one trying to deceive you…and because of that religion is able to jump all over people.
The only way to really truly appreciate and understand science is to have the discipline to sit down and work through the classic experiments that have driven that field of study and SEE THE RESULTS FOR YOURSELF (this is another advantage of Science, it never asks anyone to just “take their word for it,” quite the contrary, you’re ENCOURAGED to find errors in the thinking…ENCOURAGED to be a LEADER not a brainless, following sheep).
However, most people just don’t have the opportunity to really learn about science because it’s not socially encouraged the way religion is!
Imagine, for a moment, if instead of people going to church on Sundays, they went to a three hour physics lab and lecture. Imagine if we taught the majority of our citizens to make informed, reasonable decisions. Imagine if we taught the general public how to overcome the shortcomings that are inherent in human perception and human thinking, and got them to achieve productive, reproducible solutions based on logic and TRUTH!
The positive result this would have on human society would be ENORMOUS! The fact is, so many of the political arguments that you are forced to sit and listen to (worse in an election year) would be exposed as complete wastes of time.
I mean, seriously, can you make an argument that it would be harmful if more people were versed in the ability to distinguish fact from nonsense?
Maybe when I go back to Peru I’ll start giving free science lessons to people (I’m a certified Physics teacher actually). I’m not talking about starting up a religion or anything, I just want to erase some of the terror and confusion that exists about science.
For those of you who want to get a head-start without me, I can recommend a couple books:
The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan
Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman by Richard P. Feynman
Look, anyone who DEMANDS that you accept something that SOUNDS patently illogical is a charlatan who is trying to control you. I think our society would be greatly served if we allowed authority figures to state an obvious fact like this, instead of punishing them (which is the reason I won’t teach Physics in the US).
It’s OK to be an independent thinker! If your religion punishes you for it, come over to the welcome embrace of the scientists. We encourage that kind of thing. We don’t want SHEEP!!! We don’t demand that intelligent, autonomous individuals BECOME sheep!