Last week, I got an unpleasent but important reality check. My coworker and I was sitting at the airport, waiting for the flight to Bali. I explained the concept from my blog post ”Belief and reality”, the idea of dividing reality into physical reality on one hand and psychological, social/cultural and spiritual reality on the other. He dismissed this concept as irrelevant, on the basis that people don’t know anything about psychology and sociology.
Sadly, he has a point. Having a complex worldview is much easier if you have a complex knowledge about the world. This particular man happens to be a muslim and a sociologist. When he uses the argument, it is neither against religion nor science. It is merely against presenting too complex arguments to an audience that doesn’t have sufficient background knowledge in the field.
However, I have heard similar arguments from Atheists, who used it against modern non-literalist interpretations of old scriptures. Their critique was that while these sophisticated forms of religion let educated and sane people stay religious without twisting their minds, common people will not listen to such sophistication. They will, instead, turn to the fundamentalists, the literalists. The people who dismiss science, or reality itself, as a satanic conspiracy. The people who would violently drag us all back to the ancient days when the scriptures were written.
These Atheists do have a point, of course. However. If a religious person is not ready to listen to nuanced theology for our time, will that person really be ready to give up religion altogether in favor of atheism? It seems unlikely.
Knowledge is the key to fight against religious fundamentalism, literalism, radicalism, cults, or whatever you call it. Knowledge about psychology. Including psychological phenomenons such as hypnagogic dreams. Knowledge about sociology. Knowledge about how evolution really works – it is key to understand life on earth, the biosphere we all live in, and the true history of mankind. And last but not least, knowledge about religion and theology. Not just from one religion or from one version each of a few different religions. No. Nuanced knowledge of a lot of religions and variations of religions. The great diversity of faith, within and between religions.
It is sometimes pointed out that many religious terrorists, christian as well as islamic, are highly educated. While this is true, there’s a huge difference between high education and high education. Educationss that simply make you good at something, a good tool for something, does not help you to think for yourself or to understand the world independently. Such education make the student vunerable to religious fundamentalism. He has learned to read books and to blindly accept whatever they say as being literal truth.
Society, all nations, need to raise generations of free thinkers who understand themselves and the world they live in. Not just try to raise generations of docile workers and efficient engineers. This is very important for the future, and not only for the limited set of reasons briefly discussed here.