Tuesday, September 26

science & religion

Dawkins is a militant atheist, with a book just published; this is my reply It attempts to show the true point of "religion": a different "Way" of life, perhaps only generally possible now that science has discovered how our cosmos and planet are constructed. Hugh

Co Wicklow 24th September ad 2006

Dear Professor Dawkins,

No no no no, you are a very intelligent man,
and you're not trying.

Religion is not about a supernatural being fashioned in the image
of a human patriarch, nor is it about an imagined afterlife, in
which we may be rewarded or punished for behaviour down here. Nor is
it about an ultimate sanction for a particular sect's way of life.
etc. All that is the lamentable distortion of religion, developed
to harness a strictly other and alternative "way" of looking at
things and acting consequently, without changing over to that other

Religion is about losing our self-centredness, as individuals ,
as groups, as a species, and identifying with the other and the
whole. When you say that you might yourself be religious in your
admiration for the logic of the cosmos of the physicists, and
your delight in natural phenomena, you are half way there.

But you fail to concede that every human act, thought and
emotion appears as part of the logical wonder of the cosmos to a
non-biassed scientist as to a truly religious person,group or
species - the idiocies and criminalities of your fellows included.
What an amazing thing that this fertile planet should derive from
elements created in nuclear explosions in stars! What a further
amazing thing that, amongst the animal life on this planet should
occur a weird species that has been driven (largely by internecine
competition,by fear and greed) to uncover the structure of our cosmos!

Now, at this stage, when for the first time in our history,
we have an outline of how it all hangs together, we are bedevilled
by the very fear, greed and selfish competition that have
brought us so far. Now, as I see it - and I admit very few others
do, but so what? that may change - what we need is to rediscover
the essence of the religious way, that love of the other and the
whole that science and religion can unite in propounding.

We have to see ourselves, not through self-projection (as you
seem to, along with the prevailing ethic ) but as our enemies see
us, including the other species which we self-obsessively seek
to harness for our imagining of our own good - which threatens to
lead to our self-destruction.

This is redemptive compassion, the understanding of the logic
of the other's position, an empathy that releases them from their
prison cell, even as it releases us. And this is what , surely,
jesus of nazareth, or gautama buddha was on about. It is not
sectarian, it is known to simple people the world over - and you
could express it ever so much better than I. Furthermore, it
could logically only flourish when we correctly understand the
structure behind our sensory impressions. Before science,
religion had no chance.

I hold myself that we shall find ourselves able to accept our
"automatism" , our lack of free-will, once we lose our fear in
wonder at the whole. If, as I myself rather expect, the tables turn
(umkippen), without our lurching from one extreme to the other, and
find that we are individually far happier, and as
a species have a far better chance of coping with the future than
at present, realising that your cosmos of the physicists includes
in its logic this "maturation" of our species _ then "religion" will
be a normal, everyday affair, doubtless varying in fancy-work from
one spot to another, but uniting all in adoration of the "thing"
we now find ourselves part of (no longer "separate").

And I may as well admit here that, to individuals who do thus lose
attachment to their own self in the wonder of the whole, the
relationship does seem to be reciprocal, the "whole" does seem to
be living and loving. Just precisely what is at work here, a mental
delusion or something outside the individual mind should not matter,
and certainly need not be prescribed. Since the experience does occur,
however, I would hope that be regarded as a plus, not a point of

Dear Professor, you have never replied to a communication from me.
I shall continue in hope (how many letters did Bernard Shaw send to
newspapers before one was published ?)

with kind regards, Hugh Sacker, retired academic and traveller, age 81


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