A Nameless Reflection on Religion, Science and Politics
The constant friction between religion and science has durably been an arena of ongoing flux, with neither side willing to concede the paradigm shift necessary to understand the other. While various approaches exist to mediating this conundrum, I believe the dialogue must continue. The rift between these two fields is analogous to that between gravity and quantum mechanics; they both operate under an entirely different set of laws. With that being said, the simultaneous pursuit of both truth and reconciliation is of utmost importance. To that end, there are a few things I feel the need to clear up to those whose investment in the subject relies heavily on consistent re-evaluation and meta-cognitive exercise.
This reflection came about after a recent virtual visiting of a man I once briefly revered but have come to detest, Richard Dawkins. I will articulate my distaste for him soon, but first the following: it has become fairly common for “free” thinking crusaders like Dawkins and his armada to portray religion, in general, as synonymous with evil, or as an unavoidable precedent to it. Without twisting and turning, this line of thinking is fundamentally flawed. Dawkins and his ilk have consistently used examples such as the Taliban and suicide bombings to demonstrate that Islam, in particular, is a force that necessarily leads to acts of aggression or violence. The reason this is imbecilic is because that sample size is so incredibly inadequate. Around 1.5 Billion Muslims (last time I checked) populate the earth, of which only a fraction are indeed involved in military organizations. This is rarely, if ever, contrasted with any other control group.
This alone should dilute the argument aforementioned, but a vastly more important point should be made: religion does not exist in a vacuum. Every human being on earth, from birth, is molded within a plethora of historical, geographical, political, economic, racial, sexual, intellectual and religious contexts, among many others. The only way one could prove a concrete relationship between religion and violence is if one were to remove all other contexts and provide a repetitive and consistent link between them, all other contexts notwithstanding. In the case of the Taliban, we’re speaking about a region of the world which has known constant warfare since the days of Alexander the Great, through to the soviet era (during which the US supported the Taliban), and up to modern times. Warfare is a part of their culture and politics; it has evolved to be so.
Furthermore, any unbiased review of the realm of science will prove that it falls prey to similar demons. Science was the bane of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and mother to things like white phosphorous and nerve gas. Not only were tools of destruction the result of science, but of scientists as well. During the colonial era, science was, as religion, one of the most substantial frontiers to the subjugation of the empire’s victims. Scientists injected black men and women with STDs and watched them die slow and painful deaths, cure in hand, “for science.” Leonardo Dicaprio’s in-character diatribe in Django, about how the black man’s skull scientifically demonstrates inferior cognitive capabilities, wasn’t pulled by Tarantino out of thin air. Now, the obvious (and valid) rebuttal to this is that science is evil only in the wrong hands, and not inherently. The same could be said of religion. The Qur’an itself advocates not only for peace, but for plurality of thought; various verses within indicate that there should be no compulsion in religion. Ultimately, the dynamic I’m trying to reveal is that the underlying politics of any given agenda is what is always going to bend science or religion to its will, neither of which operate by themselves without other defining variables.
This isn’t a wholehearted attempt to defend religion from criticism. In fact my initial admiration of Dawkins was because he said some things about religion in general that needed to be said, true and crucial criticisms. However, I soon came to realize that Dawkins’ zeal in antagonizing religion enclosed him within a unilateral thought process, much like his opponents’, which deterred him from ever stepping outside his own beliefs and constantly challenging his own knowledge. He once was on the Bill Maher show (another individual of the same static-minded variety) and openly said that Muslims believe that clear water and salt water cannot be mixed. This is false. A friend of mine revealed to me, with evidence (unlike Dawkins), that the verse states that when any two bodies of water from opposing environments collide, they do not merge; that the two bodies remain separate. This is scientifically true -the significance of that is irrelevant to my query- and Dawkins, had he been a pursuer of truth alone, could have easily found that out. Instead, he went on public television and presented this group of people as a bunch of imbeciles deserving of mockery. This is exactly the type of behaviour that allows us to mass bomb the living daylight out of them in regions far beyond the reach of honest television cameras, and sleep at night soundly.
This process of ‘othering’ different people is precisely why, as a social activist, intellectual, and an African, I began to detest Dawkins. I’m convinced that both he and Maher would have made excellent slavemasters a couple of centuries ago; they have both mastered the internalizing of an inherent inferiority in others. That, coupled with an ego that blinds them both from sufficiently criticizing themselves and their own, leads only to bigotry; the type of bigotry that allowed Hitchens -a man I thought was very cool- to justify a war that cost the United States a decade, Billions of dollars (or did we replace that ‘B’ with a ‘Tr’?), and thousands of American lives (I stress American lives because we all know no Westerner cares about the countless innocent Iraqi lives who were undeservedly killed, raped and displaced from their homes), all for what we eventually found out was nothing.
This ‘us’ versus ‘them’ binary was red flagged to us by both Carl Sagan and Edward Said, intellectuals and public thinkers who left their marks on the realm fairly recently and quite profoundly. This warning seems to have fallen on deaf ears in the case of Dawkins and his subjects. For the daft, I should probably state that I do believe certain transgressions by foreigners under the lens of religion should be reviled and addressed in kind. However, these acts are neither mutually-inclusive with religion nor ethnicity - and are paralleled by many perpetrated by the secular West. While I find nothing wrong -in fact I think it only makes sense- for the US to pursue the Taliban for their travesty on 9/11, reacting by simple-mindedly othering and inferiorizing an entire constellation of peoples is, as always, only going to lead to more misunderstanding and, subsequently, more bloodshed.
There are very few politics-heads (for lack of a better term) who know, for example, that the United States bombed a medicine factory in Sudan in 1996 (claiming they falsely thought it was harbouring weaponry related to Bin Ladin), leading to the deaths of eleven workers and thousands of people due to lack of malaria medicine. There are very few individuals in the West who even acknowledge this, let alone put it on the same pedestal as 9/11, although the act was just as malicious and lead to a far greater death toll. I’ve never heard Dawkins or Maher comment on this or any similar event in which a secular, Western abuse of power caused a deeply tragic event, which honestly doesn’t surprise me, seeing as they are both so busy pointing fingers at others (frequently and often without merit) that they fail to look to themselves and their own.
P.S. I’d like to note that this train of thought was sparked by a comment that Dawkins made about oriental philosophy being ‘rubbish’ because it insinuated a duality or plurality of truth. Mr. Dawkins, while truths are, in concept, universal, the pursuit of them is as variable as life itself. The realities of maths, chemistry and biology are indeed objective, but the bulk of knowledge we’ve attained of them came about through a plethora of separate efforts, all of which culturally-affiliated. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in your imperial little version of the world, you think the Western world solely discovered everything in those fields. And in case you didn’t know this, the philosophy practiced here in the West (Canada for me, England for you) is subjective to us; we just don’t call it “Western philosophy,” much like they don’t call theirs “Oriental philosophy.” You might actually learn a thing or two from it if you only silenced your ego and opened your mind to the various possibilities leading to and stemming from the present. .
6 Ways To Make Sure You Don’t Hate Your Life And Actually Enjoy It And Stuff - Neil Gaiman
This is beautiful.
— Andy Bernard
Kurt Braunohler - A Better Place / Modern Comedian - Episode 1
This guy gets me.
The Weeknd - Kiss Land
French Montana ft. The Weeknd - Gifted
The Weeknd actually managed to create an ignant version of R&B music. Tight as always.
JadaL - Ana Bakhaf Min El commitment
All this beautiful Arabic music.
Do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sun on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning’s hush
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circling flight.
I am the soft starlight at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there, I did not die.
- Mary Elizabeth Frye
Kendrick Lamar - Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe
Too damn good.