Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dawkins, Religion and Good.

Although I haven't really read everything that Richard Dawkins has written or published, and I haven't watched nearly every video that features him, I have to say that recently Ive been quite taken by this man and what he says.

If anyone knows anything about Richard Dawkins, they probably know that he is a self-proclaimed atheist, one who believes that Science is behind everything and that everything to be explained by Science. The vociferousness and passion with which he argues this is quite intriguing. I'm not sure that I'm convinced by him completely but he has at least led me to think about this a lot.

I am agnostic. I know that that's a cop-out state of mind to take, because it ensures in the case of a debate, I frankly say, I just dont know, and I dont think I can know for sure. Dawkins isn't even satisfied by the Agnostic side of things...but oh well, Im not aiming to please him.

Back to my agnosticism, I dont understand Science enough to say vehemently, like Richard Dawkins, that Science can explain everything. I am a little ashamed to say, Science doesn't even intrigue me that much. At the same time, Religion fails to impress me. Organized religion has been the reason, and is still the reason that fanatics prop up for an overwhelming majority of conflicts around the world. In my mind, religion begets discrimination of such massive proportions that whatever hope, faith and communal feelings it may nurture are overshadowed and obliterated. However I am unable to completely discount the possibility that there is or may be something Supernatural above and beyond the "earth-y" existence (for lack of a better word) .

In one way Dawkins is right. Why do we need religion to know what is wrong or right? Why do we need the idea of an all pervading, omnipresent being to force us to be good? Why do we need some decrepit, out of touch, ancient book which tells us what we should do today in the 21st century? This is kind of the reason why I feel Hinduism to be one of the most practical applications of religion. Albeit, it wasn't really started by someone, with one book, and one purpose...but the fact that Hinduism is more of a way of life than a religion, makes me want to dislike it a little less. And, as I am not a practicing "Hindu" because I do eat beef and do not go to the temple, I am not saying this out of some particular bias.

The idea of being a good human being needs to be given more credence. I don't know about anyone else, but doing good makes me feel good. And I do believe in the idea that good karma is spread very quickly. I believe that if I give up my seat on the subway to an elderly gentleman or a pregnant woman, the feeling of good that I pass onto him or her, is passed on just as easily by them to someone else. And I feel that feeling is a million times stronger than any feeling of good I could get by visiting a place of worship.

For further elaboration Id like to present a certain advertisement. I remember watching this ad a long time ago, but couldn't remember what it was called, so I typed "Good Karma Ad" and the first search result turned out to be the exact same ad I was looking for. Liberty Mutual ran two ads on television with the running theme that doing good is contagious.

The argument that religion is required to keep morality in society is bogus. Its religion which teaches us the idea of "us" and "them". At the same time religion is not required to teach your kids about what is right and wrong, and how to just be good human beings. Why is religion required to teach us good from bad and right from wrong? Does the existence of God really matter, specially when He/She never lets us know they are there or lets us feel their presence? Whose voice is it that chides us when we do something wrong or hurtful when we are growing up? God or our parents? Is it God who teaches us to have piety, love and empathy for those who are less fortunate? Is it God who teaches us by example in our most formative years?

At the end of the day whether God exists or not is immaterial. There is no effect on our daily lives by the solving of this question. If we learn how to live as Good human beings, the whole world will change. One by one by doing good onto others, people will pass that good around. We will learn how to live together, how to practice communal harmony, and live as global citizens. Is that an indubitable fact about religion? I don't think so.