Saturday, June 18, 2011

(awesome poster from

Now, I can't remember, (and being swamped with student reports and not being a professional blogger, I do not have time to look it up), was it Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens who said the people pictured above only did bad things by virtue of some latent religiosity?

Well, whichever one of them drooled that particular line of bull spittle, it only proves that they can do no damage to people with common sense. None but the most dogmatic anti-theist (atheists tend to be more rational than that lot) would ever buy such a ludicrous argument.

Yet, while that opinion will never be taken seriously by people of good will and sound reason, John Lennon's argument (or should I say Yoko Ono's?) often is. The song, Imagine, has never had much charm for me with its anaesthetic rhythm and sporadic pattern of rhyme, but many adore it. In the 1970's in America, many young Catholics even made their First Communions to it. Amidst the homogeneous rubbish playing on radios in retail stores, that song still occasionally emerges, as up to date as when it was written. But that song is a lie and a recipe for human misery.

Every religious movement has parties that want to influence the public life more authoritatively, and most religions also have factions that want to keep their creeds pure of earthly taint. The term 'religion' is nearly a meaningless one in that the movements falling under that name hardly ever offer the same thing. Some are merely philosophies; others are a system of manners. Some exalt the god of their creed, and the rest merely meditate on the paradise which they hope awaits them. What they have in common is that they permeate a culture. Unlike disciplines of empirical sciences, schools of pure philosophies, and political parties, a religion has the ability to be grasped at some level by any citizen of the commonwealth over which it presides. This is the one common factor that may be gleaned from the term 'religion', so how is it that Lennon could make this broad, sweeping statement?

...Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

Leaving aside the reference to nations in the previous line of the song, why on earth would the lack of a god, which not all religions properly have, leave a man with nothing to die for? Could not a man still get drunk and beat another man's brains out in animal rage? Even without a creed to condemn adultery, one spouse may still murder an unfaithful husband or wife in a jealous rage. It's one thing to condemn the Church for the Crusades and another thing to say that she is the author of all Western woes.

However, the first verse is still the one that takes the cake:

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

The sky is a vast dome with barren space beyond and the Earth is a hollow shell. All that exists is material and the only time is now. Would, does this mentality foster a peaceful environment? Well, let us say that for some reason, the lack of the promise of Heaven destroys man's incentive to live as if there was a 'tomorrow' to which his 'today' will be accountable. Would this not make for a most irresponsible and selfish society? If there is no tomorrow, why should anyone have to endure self-denial? There is one pastry left on the table, and if you hurry you could cut off the other person heading for it. Why not? After all, there's no tomorrow.

Therefore I commended mirth, because there was no good for a man under the sun, but to eat, and drink, and be merry, and that he should take nothing else with him of his labour in the days of his life... (Ecclesiastes VIII:15)

Yet, an admirer of Imagine is likely to say that Lennon/Yoko Ono did not mean 'today' literally. They were referring to the entire life in which we live, and given their views on the myth of over-population, one knows that they did not mean to encourage self-gratification at the expense of others.

However, if living for today means doing one's best to achieve Heaven on Earth, to bring about Utopia, the outcome will be unfathomably worse than the comparitively innocuous humanism mentioned before. It is a common literary device to complicate a villain by making him to believe that he is acting righteously. He does not hurt others, because he hates them. He does so, because he knows better than they what is good for them.

Usually this person is painted as extremely orthodox, but to accept this veneer would be a mistake. A member of an organized religion must bow his head to the hiearchy. The universal body of the Church will keep him balanced and humble before his fellow man. It is the heretic, who esteems his personal fanaticism above the devotion of his fellow man, who exalts his reason as the only source of truth, that becomes the dangerous man--the murdering Utopian. While the simple atheist, the person who just sleeps in on Sundays and is content to respect or patronize his religious neighbours, can hardly be accused of dogmatism, such is not the case for anti-theists publishing their own holy writ. They, along with the Monte Cristos of literature, are the villainous idealists.

Christopher Hitchens hates Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. Why? Because she accepts the lot of the people whom she serves. The Catholic Church has so many charitable orders and has taken upon herself so many works of mercy throughout her long history, with no hope of earthly reward for it, that she has often been praised for it by non-Catholics and atheists, too. Anti-theists however grind their teeth at these acts. Their answer is not to mitigate the personal distress of the unfortunate individual, but to change the structure in which the person is miserable. Most believers however will accept this saying as from the mouth of God:

For the poor you have always with you (Matthew XXVI:11)

Persons of any religion are usually taught to place bread in the hands of the hungry, but that they must ultimately accept suffering as the will of God. Utopian anti-theists prefer to give those who are wronged guns to fight their fates. If happiness or 'living in peace' is the immediate goal of man, where then should one cast his lot? The answer seems to be the same as Pascal's wager.


Kelly said...

Wonderful post! I couldn't agree with you more. Thank you for expressing your thoughts so well.

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Domine, spero quia mundum vicisti. Lord, I trust that Thou hast overcome the world. Panie, ufam, żeś pokonał świat.
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