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Posted by Aurino Souza on September 17, 2002 13:02:57 UTC

Hi Mario,

How 'bout a little bickering? It's been a while huh?

I still maintain that your criticism of religion (as well as Alex's) is founded on misunderstanding. You are quick to dismiss fundamentalism, and yet your understanding of religion is based on it. Perhaps you are not aware that most religious people are not fundamentalists?

Religion lays no claim to truth in the sense you are talking about - that's why we have science, and that's why until recent times most scientists were deeply religious men. The conflict between science (objective knowledge) and religion is unique to the modern era, and in my perception is nothing but the result of misinterpretation of what the success of science means. Mind you, even in our era most people see no conflict between science and religion, so much so that the vast majority of people believe in God and accept science at the same time.

It's not enough to keep blasting religion "because science has proved it wrong over and over". That is just preposterous, the essence of religion is as solid as it ever was, and no amount or flavour of science can possibly touch it. But in order to understand what I mean by that, you have to understand what the essence of religion is, and I can tell from your posts that you currently don't have that understanding. Don't get me wrong, I didn't understand it myself for a long time, and it was only a few years ago that it dawned on me what religion is all about.

In order to understand religion you have to understand the mind of the religious person. Apparently you do that, but in the wrong way, because you concentrate on the mind of a very small subset of those - namely, Christian fundamentalists in the US. That is as wise as a foreigner criticizing the American way of life because Americans eat too much junk food. Come on, let's use our gray matter and think for a while.

Religion has been with men since the beginning of recorded history. Religion exists in every single culture in this world, from native peoples in Africa to communist China to materialistic Los Angeles. The human activity we call 'religion' exists in more different expressions than one can count, there's very little that is obviously common to every single religion in the world. Some religions don't have scriptures, some don't believe in an afterlife, some don't believe in gods, some don't build temples, some don't collect money. So right away we can say that religion is a universal phenomenom which is not about any of those things. The question you have to ask yourself then is, what is religion about after all?

Some people find it useful to examine the roots of the word, and you probably heard that religion comes from 'religare', which means 'reconnect'. That is what religion is all about. Religion is about that nagging feeling that we exist in separation of everything else - you are here, locked somewhere inside your head, and the world is there, always beyond your reach. You can see the world, you can smell it, touch it, hear it, but you cannot grasp it, it's not "part of you". That feeling hurts.

Religion is nothing but a very successful attempt to get rid of that feeling. A truly religious person feels at one with the world, they see no separation between themselves and the rest of creation, or themselves and God as some religions put it. It's a wonderful feeling, and if anything our science only proves that it is true - we are, after all, part of everything else that exists and our sense of loneliness is unfounded. We are not alone, and our hopes for the future rest on solid foundations.

So, if you understand that, you can see that religion is indeed about truth: the truth of the human condition. That is the essence of religion. But of course some people who call themselves religious don't understand that, all they care about are the scriptures, the doctrine, the temples, the money. Those people are as old as religion itself, and they do more damage to religion than atheism itself.

I personally don't worry about those people. They are lost and still fighting the illusion that they are alone. Because they are living a lie, and because truth lasts forever while lies eventually crumble on their own weight, it's just a matter of time before these people realize what's wrong with them.

God works in mysterious ways, which is just another way of saying that appearances can be deceiving.

Have fun,

Aurino

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