Saturday, June 04, 2005

Is there such thing as 'humanity' or are we all 'monsters'?

Over at DNA's blog - prompted by all the horrors that we have been witnessing in the news - he was asking himself and the readers : ' Humanity : forward or backward?' , a topic which generated an interesting debate, especially from Egyptiansandmonkey who says - please read his complete post here - as the following is only an extract :

'People are monsters, the majority are evil, and we are all doomed. [...] We are not more civilized, we just learned how to hide our brutal nature better.It’s like political correctness[...] We ignore the disease, and instead we fight to suppress the symptoms.But the question arises: how do you fight the disease when you yourself are the disease?I mean, sure, we all think ourselves to be good, but just give us some power and tell us that there will be no consequnces to our actions and just watch what kind of monsters we turn into.I don’t need philosophy to tell me that man is evil, i know he is. Anyone who reads the news knows what kind of horrors we human can unleash on eachother, and you can’t help but marvel at our efficiency to destroy as opposed to our inability to heal or rebuild. But did anybody ever think that maybe we are suppsoed to kill each other off? That maybe earth’s only hope in survival is for humanity to wipe itself out? [...] Or maybe it’s because every religious book i’ve read told me that the end of days scenario involves the outnumbering of evil people to the good ones and how it’s all part of god’s plan.[sic]'

I'm wondering whether because of our inherent cruelty we have been sent religion to learn to unlock our humane side?


The Sandmonkey said...

I know some people who can actually argue the opposite point of view: "That we invented religion to give ourselves an excuse for the brutality we unleash on eachother!"

They would also cite the fact that more people have died or been killed in the name of god then any other reason in history.


Now how about that for a way to start up this discussion? ;)

programmer craig said...

Yes, Sandmonkey, you are correct in what you say. As usual :)

Religion has ALWAYS lead to war, it's ALWAYS lead to a belief amongst followers that the best way to deal with heathen unbelievers was to kill them. This includes Judaism, Islam, Christianity and all pagan religions I know of, except Buddism. BTW, is Buddism a religion, or a philosophy? Seems like a Philosophy to me... maybe that's why it works.

Anyway, this si what's happened with organized religion. But, I don't think that's what was intended. Of the main religions, I only know Christianity well, but I know it well enough to know that all Jesus never intended Christians to behave the way they have been these 2000 years. You don't need to be a religious scholar to see this. A single reading of the New Testament, with an open mind, and the reader will see how far Christian Doctrine has drifted from the teachings of Jesus.

It's bad enough that I no longer consider myself to be a Christian in anything but name. I'm not really sure what I believe any more. I'm going with what it seems to me that Jesus was trying to say, and I'm trying to find my own truth. I feel like I'm making some progress. But this affects only me, only my behavior and my attitudes and my thinking.

An example, the golden rule:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

or, in modern english

Treat others as you would like to be treated

Every christian on planet earth believes this. It's a basic principal. Yet, how many practice it? 1 percent? Less than 1 percent?

I don't know. When people who claim to be religious ignore even the most basic tenets of their faith, what kind of a hope for a future do we have?

I think secular democracy and rule of law is our best bet, rather than relying on religion and the good will of man. It's like you say, and like the old saying goes:

Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.

I have to say though, my hopes for a bright future for humanity are at the lowest they've ever been. There's just too much hate in the world.

AlanK said...

Well that can be argued about religion that has lead to lots of violence, Jihads against the west, Crusades in middle ages, wars over Isreal, Devestation in India when gained independance, Northern Ireland, Chechnya etc.

On the other hand, philosphies for countries specifically set up that ignore religion Communism and Fascism have not been a glowing success either

In the End, we can only control our own actions and we can use them to try to fight against evil

Anonymous said...

Religion is a very powerful spiitual tool, and hence its
great potential for good and mis-use. It can be a strong
dividing factor. We muslims believe that Jesus was never
crossified nor killed a most central theme to the Christian
faith. The Jews even believe Jesus has not even arrived yet.

Hindus worship the cow, while we the others eat it. So how
more divisive can religion be.

So I agree with you programmer_craig
Our only salvation for peaceful coexistence in a single society
is through constitutional democracy.

But we should not forget that Religion is the only system of
thought that answers and tackles a great deal of fundamental
questions. Can we otherwise answer such questions as what is
the purpose of existence?, How can we absorbe the issue of
life-and-death, what is morality and the best modes of behaviour?
How did the universe begin and how will it end?.

These topics science and philosophy can not address without
the help of religion.

Speaking for us muslims. If not for the fear of the day of
judgement and the possibility of being held accountable for our
actions at the end of the day by a supreme court of God. If
not for that most muslims would become the unbearable beasts
this essay is talking about.

Look also at the great civilisation that Islam created in a
phenominal spark of time. in less than 63 years a newly
created Islamic civilisation extended from China to the borders
of France saving the Great Greek philosophy and providing the
the ground work for the subsequent european renaissance that is
still flourishing untill today to say the least.

So don't write off religion my friends. It is still and shall
always be the greatest and most powerful intellectual force we
humans have.


The Sandmonkey said...

where r u?

Highlander said...

Thanks for asking Sandmonkey :), I got some very urgent thing to do today should be back in 24hrs hopefully (you know nothing can keep me away from blogs ).

I see the discussion is going in an interesting direction, thanks to you all. Please carry on don't let me interrupt you, but I'll be back keep your fingers crossed for me and for those who pray include me in your prayers.

Anonymous said...

Yo HL, I can't find your e-mail address. How can I send you a private message?

Same anonymous!

Highlander said...

Same anonymous this is my address

ViceGrip said...

Back to the subject: Alank pointed out that certain philosophies used to govern countries have been as detrimental as many of our religions have been, I agree. However, I think this is more an issue of people miss-using religion or politics to gain power and to keep power.

One of the things I have noticed is that if you want to lead people, you must give them something to focus on. So you must create a problem, an enemy, a demon and use it as the root of all their problems. Then you can keep them occupied with worrying about this great problem, enemy, demon and they wont notice how you keep them poor and oppressed.

For an example, look at some of our minority leaders here in the states. I think Rev. Jackson is the biggest crook there ever was, but he is revered because he is a man of God. He used his position as a leader of the Church to start his political carrier.

Now I will concede that he did do good things when he was just starting out. But now you watch some of the things he does and says and you wonder if the power has not corrupted him.

I hope I have expressed my thoughts on this clearly and with out offence.

Anonymous said...

I agree with your point in general ViceGrip but disagree about rev. jackson. I believe he has done more good than otherwise.

I reiterate my point that religion is a high power force for the spirit. a very powerful opium for the masses as the commis used to say. It would be foolish to ignore it altogether. We just should handle it with great care.


bob said...

I think the assertion that all religions lead to war is a reductionist arguement that is silly. I don't see Congregationalists on the warpath, and with the exception of an occasional outbreak of Lutherans, many sects of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus are characteristically pacifist.

When was the last time you saw a Quaker brake a law or infringe on someone else's rights?

Where religion gets in trouble is when it weds itself to a hierarchal structure which concentrates wealth which ultimately translates to politcal power. It is the interplay between religion and politics that gets religion into trouble.

programmer craig said...

Bob, I agree it's when Religious leaders get political power that they get into the most trouble. Look at all the evil that was done in the Pope's name in Europe during the middle ages.

I don't, however, agree that this is the "primary" problem with organized religion. At least from a Christian perspective, the main problem seems to be that most Christians don't behave much like Christians. For every Christian I've met who seems to be living a spiritually healthy existance according to the teachings of Jesus, I meet 10 who are petty, judgemental, bitter, angry and just generally sour human beings. And they use scripture to justify all these personalty faults they have. Most of them say all the right words but if you look at what they do, how they treat people, how they live their lives... you'll see what I'm talking about.

Or, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll think this is the correct way for Christians to behave. I realize this kind of comment is going to be highly offensive to some people, and I know there are a large number of truly good Christians in the world, but there are a LOT MORE Christians who seem to be concerned only with how scripture can be twisted to support their own behavior, and to condemn the behavior of others.

BTW, I don't mean any of this as a criticism of Christianity, and certainly not of Jesus... it's a criticism of the followers, not of the religion.

bob said...

Interesting. Anecdotally I see just the opposite.

I've been amongst Methodists and Roman Catholics all my life. They go to church regularly and virtually never foist themselves on others. You could argue that this is an artifact of where I currently live (i.e. New England) but I've lived also in the South where I conceed Fundies and Baptists can be admittedly pretty oppresive. Still, I know the South well, and the majority of Southerns are anything but what you described.

I certainly don't see a clear correlation to warmongering.

RK said...

I know this may be off-topic, but please have your readers take a look at this post--very important:

programmer craig said...

We'll have to agree to disagree then, Bob. I was raised Episcopalian, which is the American version of the Church of England, switched to the Church of Christ when my parents moved to California, and spent a lot of time in Irish Catholic masses when I was dating an Irish girl. Attempting to control people's behavior is what churches DO. It's their BUSINESS. I have an Uncle who was a missionary in Austrailia for 10 years and in Africa for 12, and he's probably the closest thing to a good Christian I've ever known. But just what IS missionary work, if not "trying to foist themselves on others", Bob?

I don't know how religious you are, or how often you go to church, but my own experiences lead me to the discovery that I just didn't *like* God very much... not the God that I heard about in Church, at least. Some years later, I came to the conclusion that God is what I understand him to be, not what I am told he is. No human being on this earth has the capability of understanding God. No more than my dog can understand doctoral physics. If my dog could coimmuncate with me and tried to explain doctoral physics to me, how valid would his point of view be?

I just don't get these people who claim to know God. But that's not really what this topic is about, this topic is about how scripture gets abused.

Bob, do Jews get saved, or do they all go to hell?

Every Christian Church I know of answers this question the same way. The wrong way.

programmer craig said...

Sorry Bob, my bad. Here I am trying to explain what it is I don't like about Christianity as it's practiced and I go and do the same things I complain about.

My apologies.

bob said...


You don't owe anyone an apology. Christianity has its flaws. The evangelicals can be manipulative. Re: your question about Jews. I asked when I converted to Methodism from being an Episcopalian (sp?) and like you I was disappointed. Basically the minister, who is a wonderful man, pleaded the fifth. I think he wanted to say that people who were non-Christians by choice were equal in the eyes of God, but orthodoxy prevented him from going on record and saying so.

Btw, Episcopaleans are invariably boring.

Kind of a wierd conversation we are having in Tripoli. %^}

AlanK said...

Well you could always use the Hindu analogy with the elephant, that each person sees only a part of truth and that all religions can lead to heaven

Thing about control is that is true about many things eg Goverments are often guilty of this, even if it is for things supportive off like fox hunting ban here in the UK.

European Union is trying to force countries to continue support EU constitution even though it has been rejected to try to coerce France and Netherlands to support it

Best thing is to be wary of those trying to coerce people into something, even if you support it

also DM

from earlier was not aware of that. From reading of Koran I assumed that Muslims only differed from Christians in believing that Jesus was not son of God. I assumed they did believe he had been cruxified or killed

Highlander said...

To SM, Craig,Alan, DM,Vicegrip,bob,RK and the anonymouses.
Thank you all for your replies and for a courteous conversation, sorry to have been away.

My little idea was slightly theological, when I asked the question 'whether because of our inherent cruelty we have been sent religion to learn to unlock our humane side?' I was trying to construct it from an another angle, the simple one: faith. That is because God knows our cruel streak, he tried to curb it by teaching us about ethics and morality and love, this is his main message. Which is the same when you said Christian values or other labels. These are the ethics we abide by when we want to be 'good'. Our mistake as faltering humans is that we distort God's message ( as many of you pointed out here) and that's when we become monsters with a twist. Because there is a difference between a stupid monster, and one who refines the ways to be cruel and monstruous to others!
Anyway hope I made sense :)

Highlander said...

To Bob : welcome back I haven't heard from you for ages :)

Anonymous said...

"That is because God knows our cruel streak, he tried to curb it by teaching us about ethics and morality and love, this is his main message."

Didn't God create us? Doesn't that mean that our cruel streak are either something he planned on us to have ( which would make him responsible for man's inhumanity to man),or a flaw in the god's design that he attempted to fix later using religion as u r proposing ( which kind of makes god look incompetent and less powerful then we know him to be)?

So which is it: Is he cruel and likes to mess man up by making him cruel and then ordering him not to be? Or Incompotent to the degree that he creates man with such a flaw, and powerless to the degree that he can't fix the mistake himself and needs to create religion to get man to behave?

programmer craig said...

Highlnader, you make perfect sense to me, and I agree with you. That's really all I've been trying to say. I think the main problem with organized religions, is people practice the relgion mechanically, as they've been taught, without understanding the spirituality that is at the heart of religion.

Hmmm. I keep trying to say what I'm thinking but it never seems to make sense :\

To previous anonymous... the Story of Adam and Eve attempts to answer that question.

I don't really look to the Bible to answer the question, though. I think people are supposed to struggle against their own nature. Some small number will succeed, and most will fail. I think this is by design. Of all animals, only man has free will. We get to choose, rightly or wrongly.

Anonymous said...

Yes Alan K

The Quran is very explicit about this. In it God states clearly that Jesus was not killed and was not crucified, But someone else was made to resemble him.

I like your ideas Bob and agree with you the most.

This has been a very nice & civilised discussion of a very thorny issue ...... thanks to the moderation skills of our host I guess.