For the past few weeks, this column has spent a great deal of time criticizing government institutions and officials that, in my opinion, seek to curb the presence of self-determination in our society. I have pointed the finger at over-regulation and forced altruism, stating that such forms of collectivism rob men of there right to self-governance.
However, this holiday break, as I witnessed a church full of Catholics uniformly regurgitating the Responsorial Psalm during Christmas Eve mass, I began thinking that there may be a far greater threat to the sovereignty of man’s ego – the threat of religion.
The faults of religion stem from the same erred belief that fuel the existing forms of collectivism in our society, meaning they seek to prescribe men with ways of living their lives rather than allowing them use of their own reason to determine what is just and right.
With regards to collectivism, the method for this prescription is law, presenting men with the option of either complying with the government’s wishes or committing a crime. Religion, however, determines what is right and good through means of dogma, Halakha, Sharia, or one of the hundreds of other way religions label their tenants of faith. These “laws from above” present men with the similar scenario of either falling in line or being guilty of sin. The central flaw with both of these systems is that the laws and dogmas are established by a small body of individuals and then forced upon the populace as a whole, regardless of their validity.
Perhaps the most well known example of faith versus reason came with the advent of modern science and its personified fountainhead, Galileo Galilei. In Galileo’s time, dogmatic law stated that man, and the planet he lived on, had been created by God as the absolute center of our solar system. Those of you who have successfully completed the eighth grade already know Galileo’s heliocentric (or “sun-centered” for those who may have struggled with elementary school) model of the solar system flipped the scientific world upside-down. You may also remember that as a result of using scientific reason to enlighten his peers, Galileo was charged with heresy and forced to publicly recant his theory under threat of torture.
While it may be true that humanity has progressed a great deal since the days of Galileo, glaring controversies between faith and reason are still present in our modern society. Desperately clutching their Bibles, American lawmakers have deemed intelligent design and evolution as equally valid theories of creation, hindered the progress of stem-cell research and placed statewide bans on same-sex marriage, which their traditional Christian values condemn as sinful and morally corrupt.
Perhaps the strongest evidence of religion hijacking man’s sense of reason can be seen through the current crisis in the Holy Land. Once again, the world community looks on as the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis yields consecutive days of bloodshed. It may be true that the fighting in Gaza has a more complex cause than simple religious differences, but the fact that both sides stand blinded by faith, and cling to divine claims of ownership, certainly doesn’t help matters along.
This column was in no way intended to universally condemn belief in a higher power or a sense of personal spirituality. As free-thinking individuals, you have the right to believe whatever makes you happy. However, I only hope that should you choose to embrace religion, you do not allow your faith to blindly guide you through the world, and resist the temptation to sacrifice your right to free and rational thought.
JAMES NOONAN finds it slightly ironic that such an enlightening discussion of religion would be published on the Catholic feast day of the Epiphany. As always, dissenting opinions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.