Bring back that Old Time Religion
Western society has become more secular in the
past 20 years, especially in
. People are losing interest in religion and some have become anti-religion. I
am not interested in proving any religion to be true but in assessing the
societal and economic consequences of religious beliefs or non-beliefs.
Those of you who have read my earlier articles will discover that in my opinion,
Islamic beliefs lead to backwardness. I had argued that Islam was designed to
facilitate Arabic imperialism and the same qualities that ensured its success in
the first few centuries of Islam are now holding back the progress of Muslims.
That is why Muslims are today amongst the most backwards, unhealthy, uneducated
people in the world - facts which are acknowledged by Muslim leaders such as Mr.
Pervez Musharraf and Dr Mahathir Mohammed.
But what about secularism? Western society, especially
is increasingly becoming secular with people losing traditional religious
beliefs. Church attendance in
has gone down. Christian ideas are been eroded as can be seen by the
legalization of same sex marriage in most parts of
. What are the societal and economic consequences that flow from secularism?
To begin with, secularism promotes a more short term and hedonistic attitude
towards life. Since secular people have little faith in God or an after life,
the tendency is for them to adopt the attitude of “Eat, drink and be merry,
for tomorrow we die”. Of course, not all secular people are like that. But in
general, secularism promotes such attitudes.
Their time horizon is therefore their own lifetime. Religious people on the
other hand are more long term. Their eyes are on eternity. If you go to
, you will come across many Cathedrals that took centuries to build. For
example, Cologne Cathedral took more than 300 years to complete. (1)
Why did the Medieval Christians start a project that none of them would live to
see its completion? The answer is that they look to the hereafter. Their desire
was to please God and go to heaven. They say that faith can move mountains. Here
a mountain of stone was literally moved to build the great Cathedrals of Europe.
But what of the secular people in now post-Christian
? What are the economic consequences of people whose time frame is simply the
rest of their lives?
For a start, they (in general) want to enjoy their lives to the hilt. For some,
this could mean early retirement with loss of still productive workers to the
economy. For others, it could mean fewer or no children for children means
responsibility and a tax on their resources which could be used to indulge
themselves. Statistics from
have shown that regular church goers tend to have more children than those that
seldom or don't attend church. (2)
When interviewed, 47% of people who attend church weekly say that the ideal
family size is three or more children, compared to only 27% of those who seldom
This implies a correlation between religious faith and the birth rate which of
course has economic consequences. I can detect two reasons for this. Firstly,
all religions tend to assign gender roles. Women are seen to be primarily as
homemakers with men the head of the household. Thus those women with higher
religiosity tends to have more children because they are more ready to accept
that child caring is an important part of their lives. Women who give higher
priority tend to have less children.
But there is a second reason which is more subtle and in my opinion more
powerful. As I said earlier, secular people tend to have a "Eat, drink and
be merry for tomorrow we die," attitude. Since they have little faith or no
faith in God and an afterlife, they want to enjoy their lives now while they
still can. In the modern world, children are no longer seen as providers in our
old age. They are seen as drain on our resources because we have to feed and
educate them. Hence you will get a low birth rate among secular people.
A low birth rate in
, besides creating an aging population with its attendant strain on the welfare
system, must be seen in the context of rising immigration from Muslim countries.
These Muslims, perhaps with greater religiosity, tend to have a higher birth
rate. Scholar Bernard Lewis commented that by the end of this century, Europeans
might be speaking Arabic and majority Muslim.
Besides this, secularism has another impact on society. Secularism creates a
culture that is very similar to that of the culture of polytheistic societies.
Secularism and Polytheism produce societies that are too tolerant, too
undisciplined, too lacking in a moral compass to resist an aggressive monotheism
like Islam. I fear that what happened to the ancient polytheistic Meccans is
beginning to happen to secular Europeans
We can gain an insight by comparing Roman/Greek polytheism with Christianity
which replaced it. The first thing that struck me when reading about Roman (and
Greek) gods were that they had very human qualities as compared to Jehovah or
Allah. Jupiter (or Zeus) was a philanderer and his jealous wife always takes out
her anger on the unfortunate mortal women her husband seduced.
Why did they have such human qualities? That is because in all likelihood they
were once human. The ancients and not so ancient people have a habit of deifying
humans. Roman emperors were often declared gods by the Roman Senate. Hadrian, a
pederast Roman emperor made his lover-boy Antinous a god after he drowned in
In Malaysia, there is a temple in Malacca dedicated to Cheng Ho or Zheng He, an
eunuch, Chinese, Muslim Admiral. (4) I also recall reading somewhere that
devotees in an Indian village are worshiping at the grave of a 19th century
British officer. They offer his spirit liquor because he was reputed to love
So we have a motley crew of an emperor's Greek lover boy, a Chinese Muslim,
eunuch Admiral and a drunken British officer added to the pantheon of
polytheistic gods. Thus we may assume that the main Greek and Roman gods were
once human and thus have human failings.
The second thing about polytheistic gods is that they do not appear all
powerful. Often they are at odds with one another (eg Zeus and his wife Hera
were always quarreling) and can sometimes be manipulated by mortals. Amongst
Chinese folk religions, there is a kitchen god who ascends to heaven once a year
to tell the Jade Emperor whether the people of each household have been good or
bad. So once a year, worshipers bake a special sticky cake to bribe him. If that
fails, then they hope that maybe his mouth will get stuck by the sticky cake and
he can't talk. (5)
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