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Religion & Culture | Humanism, not religion, the path to salvation

Published:Sunday | April 15, 2018 | 12:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
Participants in the recent 'Take Back Spanish Town' religious march. Dr Glenville Ashby says the moral failures of the Church have impeded its ability to ably address social problems without sounding ridiculously hypocritical.

While Christian apologists are busy defending the historical, theological and evidential bases of their faith, the Church continues to crumble from within.

Its moral failures have impeded its ability to ably address social problems without sounding ridiculously hypocritical, even pitiful.

No one needs to resurrect the history of religious indiscretions and improprieties to prove that there is something innately defective about religions. I am moved to cite the 'Good Book': By their fruit you will recognise them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? (Matthew 7:16)

And of the fruits of religion we are well aware.

Two weeks ago, I was introduced to a young lawyer from the Czech Republic and we shared cultural experiences. When our discourse turned to religion, he stated, matter-of-factly, that nearly all of his country is agnostic, if not atheistic.

Blame this on communist rule at one juncture in its history, some might argue. But this explanation holds little water when we look at neighbouring Poland and even Russia (once communist) where religion is embraced.

Eagerly, my young friend then boasted of Czech's homogeneity, its liberal values, its democratic system, and more important, its social stability.

 

HIGH CRIME RATES

 

For a moment, I thought of the high crime rate in countries that are replete with religions, and still boast of being 'God-fearing'. And I reflected on inner cities in the United State where churches outnumber just about every other institution, but black-on-black crime remains a nagging, endemic problem.

I also look at my native Trinidad and Tobago characterised by its multiplex religious landscape and a crime rate that is shocking and revolting.

Later, I conducted a brief research on the Czech Republic and my young friend's boast was not an idle one. I needed to understand that nation's non-religious character.

I learnt that the founder, Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937), was a Neo-Platonist, who trumpeted philosophy over politics; that he showed a critical interest in the self-contradictions of capitalism; that he studied the prevalence of suicides and suffering in modern societies; and that he advanced moral righteousness and personal responsibility.

Religion was viewed as a source of morality. Nothing more. His writings are arguably aligned with Confucianism's human-heartedness, goodness and benevolence.

As for that country's crime rate, my research led me to information from the Overseas Security Advisory Council, a department of the US Department of State.

I read that 'violent or confrontational crime is rare in the Czech Republic; terrorism and political violence are rated low, (and) drug-related crimes lean towards petty theft.'

And my young friend was right that his country is proud of its atheistic bearing.

From the Pew Research Center (June 19, 2017), we garner these revelatory statistics:

"About seven-in-10 Czechs (72 per cent) do not identify with a religious group, including 46 per cent who describe their religion as "nothing in particular".

An additional 25 per cent say "atheist" describes their religious identity. When it comes to religious belief - as opposed to religious identity - 66 per cent of Czechs say they do not believe in God, compared with just 29 per cent who do."

Compare these figures with the US where 61 per cent of the population believe in God.

I am certain that figure is exponentially higher in the Caribbean.

 

Rampant evil in God-fearing nations

 

Remarkable, is that in so-called God-fearing nations, crime, drugs, corruption, discrimination, gender violence, ethnic cleansing and wars are rampant. Food for thought.

Notably, the philosophical basis of atheism and agnosticism is rooted in ethics, charity and compassion.

I recall my article, 'Religion not necessary, say humanists', (Jamaica Gleaner, January 12, 2014), wherein it was said by one interviewee, "We don't have to believe that judgement awaits us to be good."

Those words returned with a sharpened meaning.

Humanism is very much in alignment with Confucianism's concept of benevolence and mercy.

Not that religion rejects such noble qualities. But, by their very framework, religion breeds exclusivity and division. Sadly, most religions have veered into a destructive course, ruined by self-righteousness, obsession with God (and His wrath), vicarious atonement and the afterlife - all a priori arguments that are based on dogma and faith, not epistemology.

Meanwhile, society wastes away. The annals of history are still bleeding from this madness.

- Dr Glenville Ashby is an award-winning author. His latest book: In Search of Truth: A Course in Spiritual Psychology, is scheduled for release in May. Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby