Leaving Islam




Do We Need Religion? Part 2

See Part 1

Wolfgang Bruno 

Iranian ex-Muslim Ali Sina writes the following in his book about the Islamic threat: “When you embrace Islam, from what to wear to what to eat, from how to run the government to toilet manners are already decided for you. For those who have never had any control in their lives, Islam is godsend. In fact the more a society is devoid of morality, the more attractive prudish and non-permissive doctrines look. This war has to be fought in two fronts: One is to fight Islam itself ideologically – directly and frontally. But there is also another front that has nothing to do with Islam and has to be fought at home. This fight is against immorality and decadence that has characterized America and the West since the 1960s.” Yes, but isn’t Christianity just as bad, as many non-religious people claim? Sina disagrees: “Christianity, despite its excesses and errors and despite plunging the Europe into centuries of darkness, has eventually managed to pull itself out of obscurantism and give birth to the Judeo-Christian civilization – one of the greatest that world has seen. If Islam takes over, it means the death of civilization. It is no exaggeration to say that mankind may never recover again.” “We are running against time. If we don’t destroy Islam soon, Islam will destroy the world.“

However, later on Ali Sina contradicts himself. After having denounced not just religions, but all forms of ideologies, he then goes on to say that most people need to be told what to do, as they can’t figure this out by themselves. Well, how do you tell them what to do without religions or ideologies? “Masses are not strong enough to do the right thing and are unable to chart their own destiny. Most people are not mature enough to take full control of their lives. They want to be TOLD what to do. Even though they are smart enough to know the difference between right and wrong, they won’t choose the right unless they are told to.”

Most significant human civilizations throughout history have been deeply religious. Some have argued that Chinese civilization is an exception to this rule. This is only partially true, as both Buddhism and Taoism have exercised a strong influence on Chinese thinking. But it is true that religion is not as crucial for the understanding the Chinese have of their own history as it is for many others. The Cambridge Illustrated History of China writes the following: “Unlike other peoples who pointed to gods as their creators or progenitors, the Chinese attributed to a series of extraordinarily brilliant human beings the inventions that step by step transformed the Chinese from a primitive people to a highly civilized one. Fu Xi, the Ox-tamer, domesticated animals and invented the family. Shen Nong, the Divine Farmer, invented the plough and hoe. Huang Di, the Yellow Lord, invented the bow and the arrow, boats, carts, ceramics, writing and silk.” (...) “These legends reveal how educated Chinese from the time of Confucius (c. 500 BC) onwards constructed “China.” To them China was defined by technology and statecraft – agriculture, writing, flood control, monarchy combining virtue and hereditary succession, and so on.”

Although China is thus not quite as tied to a specific religion as the West is, this space has been occupied by the belief-system of Confucianism. Chinese civilization has been one of the most powerful and influential in human history, and undoubtedly has many great qualities, but it also has its flaws. Confucian philosophy instills many virtues such as a strong work ethic, but it is an authoritarian world view, with emphasis in the individuals to know their place in a fixed hierarchy. The individual is first and foremost a Western concept, and one of the reasons why Europe became powerful and surpassed China in recent history.

One of the persons who understand this is the Chinese American writer Ohmyrus, one of the most intelligent contributors to Ali Sina’s website next to Sina himself. In an essay entitled “Bring Back That Old Time Religion,” Ohmyrus describes how Christianity has been an invaluable part of what made the West into what it is. According to him, “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”. Their time horizon is therefore their own lifetime. “Religious people on the other hand have their eyes are on eternity. If you go to Europe, you will come across many Cathedrals that took centuries to build. For example, Cologne Cathedral took more than 300 years to complete.”

Ohmyrus also shows that religious people have an advantage simply because they tend to have more children than non-religious people. This same point has been made repeatedly by writer Spengler at the Asia Times Online, such as in the essay “Death by secularism: Some statistical evidence:” “By far the strongest predictor of population growth rates is adult literacy. (...)Nonetheless, religious belief remains a strong predictor even when adult literacy is introduced as a control variable. Wealth, that is, per capita GDP, shows no significance in the equation.” According to Spengler, “underlying the demographic crisis of the industrial world, I believe, is a spiritual crisis. If the above analysis has any merit, the issue is not wealth, but rather the desire of men to continue to inhabit this planet."

Ohmyrus also argues that, contrary to what many critics claim, Christianity has in fact been good for science. “When our ancestors invented the wheel, the benefits were immediate. As time went on, all or most of the "easy" inventions were made."“Roman civilization lasted 1,000 years and did not make the scientific revolution. Neither did the Egyptian nor Chinese nor Indian civilizations which have been around for even longer time than did the Romans." According to Ohmyrus, you need a critical mass of accumulated scientific knowledge before the Scientific Revolution could be ignited. “Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650) said that rational laws must exist because God is perfect and therefore acts in a manner as constant and immutable as possible except for miracles which occur rarely. Other scientists during the Age of Enlightenment who also shared this view of a rational Creator God who created the universe according to rational laws were Newton, Kepler and even Galileo. Thus you have a group of people eager to discover what these scientific laws are in order to glorify God even though they may not yield any immediate benefits.” Thus scientific discoveries can accumulate for years, decades and even centuries without any practical use for them. Eventually, of course these scientific discoveries yielded new inventions and other benefits. This permitted the eventual breakthrough which became the Scientific Revolution.


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