en

Leslie Stephen

    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    name me an ethical statement made or an action performed by a believer that could not have been made or performed by a non-believer. As yet, I have had no takers. (Whereas, oddly enough, if you ask an audience to name a wicked statement or action directly attributable to religious faith, nobody has any difficulty in finding an example.)
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    Nonetheless, the working assumption is that we should have no moral compass if we were not somehow in thrall to an unalterable and unchallengeable celestial dictatorship. What a repulsive idea! As well as taking the axe to the root of everything that we have learned about evolutionary biology (societies that tolerate murder and theft and perjury will not last long, and those that violate the taboos on incest and cannibalism do in fact simply die out), it constitutes a radical attack on the very concept of human self-respect. It does so by suggesting that one could not do a right action or avoid a wrong one, except for the hope of a divine reward or the fear of divine retribution. Many of us, even the less unselfish, might hope to do better than that on our own.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    Religion invents a problem where none exists by describing the wicked as also made in the image of god and the sexually nonconformist as existing in a state of incurable mortal sin that can incidentally cause floods and earthquakes.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    But there is a reason why religions insist so much on strange events in the sky, as well as on less quantifiable phenomena such as dreams and visions. All of these things cater to our inborn stupidity, and our willingness to be persuaded against all the evidence that we are indeed the center of the universe and that everything is arranged with us in mind.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    What kind of designer or creator is so wasteful and capricious and approximate? What kind of designer or creator is so cruel and indifferent? And—most of all—what kind of designer or creator only chooses to “reveal” himself to semi-stupefied peasants in desert regions?
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    The human species has been in existence as Homo sapiens for (let us not quarrel about the exact total) at least one hundred and fifty thousand years. An instant in evolutionary time, this is nonetheless a vast history when contemplated by primates with brains and imaginations of the dimensions that we can boast. In order to subscribe to monotheistic religion, one must believe that humans were born, struggled, and expired during this time, often dying in childbirth or for want of elementary nurture, and with a life-expectancy of perhaps three decades at most. Add to these factors the turf wars between discrepant groups and tribes, alarming outbreaks of disease, which had no germ theory to explain let alone palliate them, and associated natural disasters and human tragedies. And yet, for all these millennia, heaven watched with indifference and then—and only in the last six thousand years at the very least—decided that it was time to intervene as well as redeem. And heaven would only intervene and redeem in remote areas of the Middle East, thus ensuring that many more generations would expire before the news could begin to spread! Let me send a voice to Sinai and cement a pact with just one tribe of dogged and greedy yokels. Let me lend a son to be torn to pieces because he is misunderstood…. Let me tell the angel Gabriel to prompt an illiterate and uncultured merchant into rhetorical flights. At last the darkness that I have imposed will lift!
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    who wishes that there was a permanent, unalterable celestial despotism that subjected us to continual surveillance and could convict us of thought-crime, and who regarded us as its private property even after we died? How happy we ought to be, at the reflection that there exists not a shred of respectable evidence to support such a horrible hypothesis. And how grateful we should be to those of our predecessors who repudiated this utter negation of human freedom.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted2 months ago
    Were I a Sultan, say what greater bliss
    Were mine to summon to my side than this,—
    Dear gleaming face, far brighter than the moon!
    O Love! and this immortalizing kiss.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted2 months ago
    Know your own wonder, worship it with me,
    See how I fall before it deep in prayer.
    302 Rizvi Khadijahas quoted3 months ago
    Believing then—as this religious objection implicitly concedes—that human life is actually worth living, one can combat one’s natural pessimism by stoicism and the refusal of illusion, while embellishing the scene with any one of the following. There are the beauties of science and the extraordinary marvels of nature. There is the consolation and irony of philosophy. There are the infinite splendors of literature and poetry, not excluding the liturgical and devotional aspects of these, such as those found in John Donne or George Herbert. There is the grand resource of art and music and architecture, again not excluding those elements that aspire to the sublime. In all of these pursuits, any one of them enough to absorb a lifetime, there may be found a sense of awe and magnificence that does not depend at all on any invocation of the supernatural. Indeed, nobody armed by art and culture and literature and philosophy is likely to be anything but bored and sickened by ghost stories, UFO tales, spiritualist experiences, or babblings from the beyond. One can appreciate and treasure the symmetry and grandeur of the ancient Greek Parthenon, for example, without needing any share in the cults of Athena or Eleusis, or the imperatives of Athenian imperialism, just as one may listen to Mozart or admire Chartres and Durham without any nostalgia for feudalism, monarchism, and the sale of indulgences.
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