Are you irritated by dogmatic religious belief on the one hand and by close-minded, pompous atheism (of the angry Richard Dawkins variety) on the other? Would you be interested in a more intelligent perspective on religious ideas?
Intelligent people often find themselves in a dilemma regarding religion. They may be interested in religious concepts and keen to explore issues of purpose and meaning, but are repelled by the sort of unthinking, ritual-obsessed brands of religion that many people seem to follow. This book considers a selection of religious and atheist ideas and beliefs and asks how an intelligent person, unencumbered by religious or atheist dogma, might view them.
Warning: This is a book about religion and is therefore bound to offend some people!
Please read these sample chapters to see if this is the sort of book you might appreciate:
Warning: Some people would consider this book to be deeply offensive!
Religion is a matter of great importance. This is obviously true for a religious person since, for them, their religious ideas are fundamentally intertwined with their notions of why they are alive and what their purpose in life is. Even for 'non-believers,' however, it would be foolish to ignore the impact that religion has on all our lives.
In writing this book, I wanted to offer an intelligent view on religion and on some key religious ideas.
Whether or not one would consider oneself to be religious - to be 'a believer' - an intelligent person will probably accept that the world's religions contain many important and intelligent ideas. Even a staunchly anti-religious person would be hard-pressed to argue that religious beliefs and texts contain no wisdom at all!
However, there are many people whose religious views might not appear to be very intelligent - by which I mean that these people have often failed to carefully consider their views using the power of reason. Some religious beliefs and practices themselves might appear to many people to be inherently at odds with any intelligent viewpoint.
Indeed, many people appear to hold religious views which cause them to frown upon the very idea of thinking intelligently about religious issues at all - as if to actually think about such issues rather than blindly accepting what it says in some sacred text or other were in itself an offence against God.
Thus it seems to me that many intelligent people will find themselves in a dilemma regarding religion. They will recognise the importance and wisdom of many religious ideas. At the same time, however, they will feel uneasy both about some religious ideas themselves and about the willingness of many people to slavishly accept and follow religious ideas without first examining them intelligently.
Similarly, an intelligent person will recognise and respect the compassion, good intent, good deeds and dedication of many religious people, whilst also recognising the harm and suffering that religions and religious people sometimes contribute to - for example, when differing religious beliefs and allegiances lead to war and violence.
So if a person were to think intelligently (and, with at least a reasonable degree of independence and open-mindedness) about the role of religion and about key religious ideas, what ideas might they have to offer?
My analysis will include consideration of some of the ideas currently being heavily pushed by some very prominent atheists.
As an intelligent person, I share many of the concerns that some atheists have about people who blindly follow religious doctrines without questioning them.
However, the ideas of many prominent atheists - from eminent professors to 'intellectual' comedians - are frequently nowhere near as intelligent and intellectual as they would like to believe. It is ironic that many of them have become, in their own way, just as 'religious' and fanatical as the people they most love to criticise and scorn.
My intention here is to follow a more genuinely intellectual and intelligent path that many of these people have carelessly abandoned. You may think it presumptuous of me to suppose I can achieve this - but, frankly, the bar isn't very high and I hope you will be kind enough to reserve judgement at least until you have finished reading this book!
In applying rational thinking to religious ideas, I accept that there may be a limit to what rational analysis can tell us about religion and religious issues - I am not going to arrogantly assume that there is nothing in the universe capable of defying rational explanation or analysis.
However, I think rational analysis can still tell us quite a lot! In particular, rational thinking can tell us a great deal about what we don't know - by pointing out the logical flaws in what some people consider to be entirely rational ideas.
In this book, I'm not, however, going to be attempting to analyse a comprehensive set of religious ideas and issues and I will not be delving into every matter in forensic detail or to exacting academic standards.
What I do hope to do is to analyse a selection of ideas and issues that happen to come to mind. I hope to give a sense of my intellectual approach to religion and of how I think religion can be intelligently viewed.
I am not intent on pushing any particular beliefs, theories or conclusions about religion. I'm hoping, however, that my ideas might encourage people to see beyond the rather anti-intellectual arguments most commonly publicised in the media and thus be better able to intelligently explore religious ideas for themselves.
Does God Exist?
Most people associate being religious with a belief in God, and it is true that, for many religious people, the concept of 'God' is at the very centre of their belief system. Some religions have many gods, most of the more popular ones today have only one God, but not all religions have a god at all. Buddhism, for example, doesn't seem to have a 'god' - at least, not in the same sense as the other main religions. So, is there a God?
Sorry to sound pedantic, but the answer may naturally depend on how you define 'God' in the first place. What is utterly absurd and profoundly unintelligent is when people enter into long and heated arguments over whether God does or doesn't exist, without first defining what they mean by 'God' and thus establishing whether they're actually talking about the same thing!
There are lots of people who do basically envisage God as the 'big bloke with a beard who lives in the sky' sort of god. One can see why people might like to have a visual image of God and why they might pick a wise-looking, human-like figure - perhaps it helps them to relate to him - but perhaps this is also a rather lazy notion of what God is!
If some religious people are guilty of a rather simplified and cartoonish Monty-Python-esque image of God as 'the big guy with the beard who lives in the sky,' then many atheists are even more guilty of cartoonising God. When some of them say, 'It's stupid to believe in God!' it is often the 'big guy with the beard' God that they have in mind.
There are, however, other, more thoughtful concepts of 'God' that are not based on this rather crude image.
For the more intellectual among us, 'God' might refer to something more conceptual. For example, suppose you could lump together all the goodness in the universe, all the compassion, all the charity, all the good principles and intent! You could call that 'God'!
Now, if I say, 'I believe in God,' that no longer means that I've been arse-licking to some big bloke with a beard in the hope he'll find me a place in his comfy kingdom! It might instead mean that I have committed myself to certain fundamental principles and moral beliefs.
Perhaps, in this context, it is much easier to accept that an intelligent person can also be highly religious. We can now imagine an intelligent person who is religious and who does 'believe in God,' but whose concept of God is a subtle one that does not necessarily easily lend itself to being visualised.
To give God human characteristics is natural enough and may even be helpful in some circumstances. It may, however, also be rather misleading in others. Perhaps the idea of a God personality - an actual being/entity with many human-like characteristics - is overplayed in its importance.
Religion is about right and wrong, good and evil, principles and values. If there is a God-being, a God-personality, then He might very well prefer us humans to concentrate on these principles and values rather than on describing, picturing, praying to or worshipping the particular version of 'God' we each believe in.
Does life have a purpose? If so, what is it? If not, can we give it a purpose? What is right, what is wrong? What is good, what is evil? What principles should we live our lives according to? What has value? Perhaps these are actually much more important questions than, 'Is there a God?' And, perhaps, if there is a God, He thinks so too!
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I hope you enjoyed it and would like to read more!
'Revelations' is available in both ebook and paperback versions from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and Amazon sites around the world.
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