Slaying Dragons #33 – Religions

John Watkinson ponders religions.

One of the traps into which the unscientific often fall is wish thinking, which is thinking something is true because it would be nice. It would be nice if we had guardian angels. It would be nice if there were an afterlife and a heaven, but it doesn’t mean there is. A lot of Americans thought it would be nice if America could become great again. That didn’t work out too well.

Stephen Jay Gould thought it would be nice if science and religion could be reconciled by becoming non-overlapping magisteria, but it doesn’t mean that it is possible. If science is simply knowledge, then the only thing that cannot overlap is ignorance. If science is concerned with nature, only the supernatural cannot overlap.

If religion confines itself to ignorance and the supernatural, where science does not operate, any number of gods, demons, sprites and fairies can reside there along with any number of opinions. But the basic problem all religions have is that they want to influence lives in the real world. Any such effort to influence the real world is an immediate overlap and so Gould’s non-overlapping concept is a non-starter.

Religions want to tell people what to do on Earth, how to behave and what rules to follow. In short organised religion is about power, which is why so many heads of state are also the head of the state religion. The morals that religions impose are intended to benefit the church concerned and don’t need to make sense. Real morals have always emerged from secular sources.

Science tells us that condoms reduce the spread of AIDS and religions teach against their use. Some reconcilement. At the beginning of the Covid pandemic, I had to ask…

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