“When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons.”
― Anaïs Nin (1903-1977)
One point about religion in Nin’s quotation above:
First, in the past ages there have been mass conversions from one religion to the other. But not any longer in this age.
In fact, most of us are born into a religious community; we inherit religions from our parents and our societies. As a result, the followers of a religion regard their religion true and the embodiment of all virtues that human beings need. They don’t say they are following their religion ‘blindly’. Never. They think they are rational human beings and what they believe in is true and the only right way.
Some may ‘tolerate’ the followers of other faiths; but that extends only to tolerating them, nothing more than that!
Secondly, in these times only a limited number of people change their religion for a new one. No mass conversions take place.
Thirdly, religious people do not accept any argument that goes against their religion and its dogmas. No rational exchange of views is possible with such people. They will justify what they believe in by appealing to some ‘Authority’ they can never question. Full stop.
• Rick Staggenborg: Sorry, Nasir but you lost me the minute you stopped talking about “most people” and began to make claims about all followers of religion. Like almost all statements about universal attributes of groups of humans, the assertions fail to hold up to objective scrutiny. Nin’s statement is true because it specifically refers to “those who BLINDLY adopt” a belief system of any type.
It is true that most of us adopt the religious beliefs of our family and/or community, but that means many different things to many different people. A Sufi can be very dedicated to Islam without accepting dogma that some Muslims consider defining, but only takfiris would deny that they are co-religionists.
We all construct a personal world view that is based on our experience and concepts we learn as children. It is only by challenging these assumptions and thinking for ourselves that we continue to grow and to develop a personal reality that is internally consistent and conforms to what is measurable (though is not necessarily limited to that).
The fact of the matter is that almost everyone reaches a point where they stop questioning their assumptions and accept anything they are told that corresponds to their prejudices. As a result, as such people get older they get more and more divorced from what is as close to objective reality as humans can approach.
We have to take that into account when trying to persuade others. I encourage all Soldiers For Peace to never forget that our purpose is to unite, not to divide. To attribute undesirable qualities to every member of a group of people is not just fallacious, but harmful to our cause.
Nasir Khan: Dear Rick, your reply makes sense and I do appreciate your concerns for uniting people, not dividing them as you say in your last paragraph. However, I also find your views on religion very personal and subjective. Whereas what I said was to point to the difficulty of exchange of views with the followers of religions. I see no need to change my views on the matter.
We know fully well that Religion is a complex phenomenon; no attempt to summarise it in a few lines can be adequate. Therefore, I am not going to attempt to do that either. However, some people do not follow the familiar mould of beliefs and dogmas they had learnt in their younger age. To come out of that mould of thinking is difficult. Various social pressures all around us push us to conformity. That’s what happens with most of us. Indoctrination that had made inroads into our consciousness in childhood we cannot shake off. Apparently, the possibility to question one’s assumptions is there; but most often people will defend their assumptions on which their inherited beliefs are based than to question them!
You are right to point out how a Sufi can remain dedicated to Islam without accepting dogma. But this raises another question: Is there an Islam without dogma? If we can leave all dogmas aside than we have a pure form of universal humanism. I can’t see your propositions can stand the test of a close scrutiny in this matter. However, I respect your broadminded approach to such issues. By the way, in all world religions there are also mystics as there are the Sufis in Islam. Orthodoxy has fought against and suppressed such ideas wherever possible. In many Islamic countries, the orthodoxy has taken over; liberal thought in matters of religion has been scuttled in the public life. That dangerous trend is spreading everywhere.
As I see it, our respective views on religion separate us. As long as I am around, I will continue to voice my concerns about the antihuman practices and ideas of indoctrinated people and the dangers they pose to us all. So, I think the best option for me is to thank you for allowing me to use Soldiers For Peace. In future, I will not post any articles or comments.
With my best regards – Nasir Khan