Religion, Knowledge and Intelligence: Science, Silliness and the Nucleus of Niceness – Part 3

I’d just like to qualify this next section by admitting that, for the first couple of pars, I’d been reading Nietzsche and Rovelli and then decided to note down some thoughts after drinking a bit. So it begins with something of a mild drunken blast. But I have opted to publish it because I still agree with the sentiment and probably wouldn’t have had the courage to write it sober. This also makes it sound way more ballsy than it actually is. It’s pretty tame to be fair. I’m pretty sure Nietzsche and Sartre would’ve hated me. Here goes…

No wonder Nietzsche was so pissed off with our slave ethics, averageness-accepting drudgery bullshit. As a man who studied, and clearly had a lot of time for, the classics, antiquity and ancient philosophy, he could see just how impressive early civilisation and its string of brilliant thinkers, artists and poets were. Thales, Democritus, Epicurus, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Socrates, Plato, Artistotle, Lucretius – and that’s just a handful of the awesome characters who made telling contributions to forming what we know about the world and existence.

And yet we basically decided to trash all their good work – all that progress – in favour of turning to religion; to the easy way out. No need to champion intellectualism any more – no need to think about the ways we can make this existence better for humanity. Let’s just turn all our attention to religion – and wait for salvation. No wonder Nietzsche was so hacked off. We had made such an amazing start, in terms of using the psychological capabilities of our minds and physiological potential of our bodies, to understand the planet, nature and the universe, and we forsook it all for generations – hundreds of years! All in the name of religion – all in the name of slave ethics. All in the name of corrupt hierarchies. All in the name of a select few who wanted to dominate wider populations by using a discourse of fear – fear of what might happen. Best do what the priests say – best adhere to the lessons from these old books (none of them even that old, comparatively speaking) because if you don’t do what we say, and we thus aren’t able to assume control of you, you’ll spend an eternity in damnation.

A bit of balance

This is probably the most inflammatory thing I’ve written on this website so far – and I am not prone to, or in favour of, one-sided ranting or a lack of balanced perspective, so I need to offer some kind of self-rebuttal here before I continue. I don’t think faith is a bad thing. I don’t even necessarily think religion is bad. I genuinely respect everyone else’s right to believe in whatever they want (that is, as long what they believe in isn’t something which causes harm to other people) – and I don’t think (in reference to the opening to this section) that belief in a god of some kind equates to a diminishing of one’s intelligence. It just bugs me that people have used faith for their own ends – they’ve used our human draw to spirituality to further their own selfish causes. And these manipulations and abuses have been appropriated through unsavoury channels – fear, division, hatred, otherness, fundamentalism.

And yet, the world is teaming with kind Christians, good-hearted Muslims, loving Jews, helpful Hindus, inspirational Sikhs, etc… And I really wouldn’t want to change that. What I hope is that going forward we take the best parts of these religions – love, kindness, companionship, family values, belonging – and stretch it out so it includes everyone on the planet. And then we ensure that our best and brightest minds – the experts on climate change who are just trying to help our beleaguered planet survive, the biologists and chemists attempting to find new ways to tackle horrible ailments, and the philosophers trying to figure out ways that we can live better and happier lives together – I hope that we can champion their causes; study, learning, understanding, respect.

Aim high

We need to treasure our intellectual leanings and, without resorting to elitism, give our best and brightest the platform to use their smarts to change and progress the world for the better. And religion, guilt and slave ethics should not be allowed to hamper us any more. Nietzsche’s will to power, Nietzsche’s Superman, is an impossible ideal. But the sentiment is right – we should be aiming to be the best of what we can be; we just need to ensure in our quest for the top of the mountain that no-one gets left behind. And we must shed our ignorance – we must cast aside our fear; for progress, yes. But it must be an inclusive progress which helps humanity. Let us discover light-speed travel and blast our way into the future – but let’s not allow these new technologies to be misappropriated to cause injury, fear or harm. I will go on to explore these themes in greater detail throughout this series.

“Ignorance can be scary,” says Carlo Rovelli. “Out of fear, we can tell ourselves calming stories: up there beyond the stars, there is an enchanted garden, with a gentle father who will welcome us into his arms. It doesn’t matter if this is true, it is reassuring.”

But for me it is more reassuring that we are here for each other, in this temporality, in what we we experience – in what we know to be true. We need to create the enchanted garden here on earth; a place where scientific progress and Niceness can go hand in hand. It’s up to us to create a brighter future together – one where our Genuinity is encouraged to glow like the unrelenting burning of a million suns.

Read Part 2 of the series (quantum theory) by clicking here

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