|Just moved from one to the other
Religion has never ceased to fascinate me. Probably because I have often been a victim of religion and the attitudes it breeds among people with whom I have been condemned to live.
It’s no wonder then that I placed a pre-publication order for A C Grayling’s latest book, The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism. The book was delivered promptly yesterday. I have just started reading it. And here are some of the thoughts that the book provoked in me.
“Religion is a pervasive fact of history, and has to be addressed as such,” says the author right on the first page. I loved that. We can’t ignore religion, whether we are religious, agnostic or atheistic. By the way, Grayling is a professor of philosophy at the New College of the Humanities, London, and author of many books.
In the introduction to his latest book Grayling argues that religion has contributed much to the suffering in the world. Individuals have been left struggling with their sinfulness because of religion. Nations and civilisations have been engulfed in war and atrocity because of religion. Inhuman acts of cruelty have been perpetrated on mankind by religions. Burning of witches and heretics are not confined to the medieval darkness of human history. “(H)omosexuals are hanged in Iran, adulterous women are beheaded in Afghanistan and stoned to death in Saudi Arabia, women and children are subordinated in fundamentalist households in the Bible Belt of the United States and in many parts of the Islamic world,” says Grayling. “Throughout history the religion-inspired suppression of women has robbed humanity of at least half its potential creativity and genius.” (Emphasis added unless otherwise stated)
Religion does provide much consolation to sincere believers. I know many individuals for whom life would have been an unbearable misery were it not for the consolations provided by religion. Karl Marx was right: religion is a good drug. But Grayling says that “Whereas the consolations of religion are mainly personal, the burdens are social and political as well as personal.” And therein lies the problem with religion.
Grayling goes on argue that religion belongs to “mankind’s less educated and knowledgeable” realms like magic and astrology. He won’t agree with those who argue that it is not religion that is at fault for the atrocities committed in its name but those who misuse it. Grayling rightly argues that if religion is misused so much then it is high time that we went beyond it.
The first half of Grayling’s book is a critique of religion while the second half offers a viable alternative. The alternative is clear from the title of the book: Humanism.
I have just started reading the book and I am delving passionately into it. More will surely follow.
[I’m still fighting my case with connectindia.in. I sincerely look forward to a world that allows me to indulge myself more fruitfully.]