Instill and enforce loyalty

PSI Blog 20170531 Instill and enforce loyalty

We all need to respect religion—or else. As I maintained over a decade ago when I reviewed Dawkin’s “The God Delusion,” the evolutionary purpose of religion is to instill and enforce loyalty.[1] Dawkins had failed to emphasize this all-important factor, suggesting that religion was merely vestigial in nature. Religion is vestigial alright, but it continues to dominate the globe, with 90% of our 7.5 billion population being affected. Now comes a much-needed book that mostly gets it right: Adam Wadi’s “Atheism For Muslims: A guide to questioning Islam, religion and God for a better future.”

After much apologizing to his family, friends, and an institution likely to take offense, Wadi gets on the right foot by telling us that, in general “Religion creates this sense of belonging and purpose in people with the goal to achieving one outcome: submission” (p. 27). He says that the definition of “Islam” is “one who submits to God’s will” (p. 124). He then goes through the Qur’an, using numerous quotations to demonstrate how nearly every page instills and enforces loyalty in a way similar to a book that made the scene 600 years earlier. Both holy books continually warn believers and nonbelievers that they are to ignore the contradictions and to do as they are told. Any criticism (blasphemy) or traitorous rejection (apostasy) is not to be tolerated. Above all, believers are to be “god-fearing” in the same way they are to fear the power of the King, Queen, or der Führer.

Loyalty makes a social group extremely powerful. There is nothing like a couple, family, tribe, state, or nation that is on the same page, defending its policies to the death, if necessary. In a world still dominated by feudalism such loyalty remains critical in protecting against the inevitable invaders. That is why capitalism also needs to harness religion for its necessary expansion. Soldiers who do not expect to experience living after dying are no match for those that do.

Wadi admits that he is unlikely to dissuade many of his more tentative readers to atheism, particularly those facing the possibility of severe punishment. Rather, he wishes to give hope to folks who already are taking that path. In the spirit of a true educator, he has outlined the reasons for belief as well as disbelief. He points out that both holy books cagily provide believers with support for dreams that surely will come true if they only follow orders properly. As Wadi says “After all, that’s all religion is, people choosing the stories they most want to believe in whether they are true or not.” “Eye for an eye” and “turn the other cheek” need not be a contradiction. Just choose whichever suits the occasion.

I learned a lot about Islam from Adam’s explication. For instance, I was unaware that much of the Qur’an was based on the old and new testaments. I had always thought that the reformation started with Luther five centuries ago, but it actually started with Muhammad nine centuries earlier. The Qur’an claims to be complete, perfect, and unchangeable: “There is no changing the words of God; that is the mighty triumph” (Qur’an 10:65). But as in Protestantism, there have been many reforms. For example, the Sunni sect forbids images of Muhammad (the last prophet), while the Shia sect often permits them. There is no mention of the promised 72 virgins in the Qur’an (that is part of a “reform” or interpretation called the Hadith). The Qur’an condemns blasphemy, “but doesn’t specify a punishment for it in this life, only the next” (p. 289). I learned that Muhammad was a pacifist in Mecca and only became a militarist when he moved to Medina. His popularity grew as a result, with growing populations embracing its utility (i.e., “instill and enforce”) for expanding throughout the world.

Wadi: “If Islam is indeed true, you’d think its followers wouldn’t have to use fear and intimidation so much to get children to practice it devoutly” (p. 226).

This is the line he got while growing up Muslim:

“Here’s the way it is. Everyone else is wrong. They’ll likely burn in Hell for not following the rules, regardless of how good a person you think they are. This is how it’s always been. So you should be fearful if you don’t believe it too. Otherwise God will punish you and you’ll burn in Hell forever” (p. 226-7).

One other quote is worth the price of the book:

"We are not living in the most dangerous time in human history, we're living in the most fear-mongering time in human history” (p. 43).

I like that quote because it reflects Pinker’s data showing exactly that.[2] Fear-mongering is good for sales, whether for anti-virus programs, alarm systems, or religion.

Here are some other great quotes from the book:

“From a scientific standpoint, human life has absolutely no meaning to it, regardless of what any religion says.” “So, it’s not religion which gives us meaning, it’s us that gives religion meaning” (p. 318).

“There’s a myth that people who don’t have a religion have nothing to live for. But it’s the opposite. We have nothing to die for. We have everything to live for.”

“Religion and science have both given us opposite accounts of the world we live in.”

“I’m quite conscious of the fact that you can’t reason people out of something they didn’t reason themselves into.”

Not everyone gets everything right. Here are some quotes not in tune with univironmental determinism:[3]

“I am agnostic when it comes to the belief of whether or not there is a higher power out there…”

“We all have the free will…”

He gives an interesting, partially factual, 60-step description of the evolution of the universe, without realizing that today’s cosmogony is religious.[4] Hubble did not discover that the universe was expanding.[5] He merely observed that cosmological redshifts correlated with distance. Wadi repeats the conventional view that most of the universe consists of “dark energy.” Like most every regressive physicist and cosmogonist, he does not realize that energy does not exist—it is a calculation.

Despite those few quibbles, “Atheism for Muslims” is a good read, especially if you would like to find out what Islam and the Qur’an are all about.

[1] https://thescientificworldview.blogspot.com/2007/07/evolution-of-religion.html?m=0omenon. 
[2] Pinker, Steven, 2011, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined: New York, Viking [http://stevenpinker.com/publications/better-angels-our-nature].
[3] Borchardt, Glenn, 2007, The Scientific Worldview: Beyond Newton and Einstein: Lincoln, NE, iUniverse, 411 p. [http://www.scientificphilosophy.com/].
[4] Borchardt, Glenn, 2017, Infinite Universe Theory (coming soon): Berkeley, CA, Progressive Science Institute.
[5] Sauvé, Vincent, 2016, Edwin Hubble... and the myth that he discovered an expanding universe, Accessed 20161030 [http://tinyurl.com/j6txbl5].

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