Monday, 1 February 2016
There was a time when – like the adherents of mohammed – most people, even the intelligent ones, believed in a god. How else to explain the rising of the sun and the bounty of the earth? But there is something in the human psyche that demands their god be so insecure in his omnipotence that he insists on an exclusivity clause – thou shalt have no other god before me – and brings down a righteous smiting on all who demur. Naturally, being aloof sort of characters and somewhat reclusive, all gods seem to need the hand of man to do their smiting, but as long as one puts such small details out of mind, sustaining belief isn’t so hard for the not so bright.
But then, as society evolved and we became better at survival without strife, overcoming the vagaries of nature and freeing some from grubbing for subsistence, our big, busy brains began fizzing with enquiring thoughts and doubt. Science showed us that in the absence of proof the existence of anything is not a matter of fact but a matter of faith and in time the continued absence of proof has worn away at faith; in the developed world the bishops no longer have the power to control by edict and divine threat.
But Voltaire said “If god did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.” And he had a point. What is filling the void left by the church? Science may have done for god in Europe, but science if anything is a harder master to follow than god. Science demands reason and reason demands education. It seems we are demonstrating that you can’t have an easy freedom from religion without the intellect to exist in the world beyond it. In the twentieth century it looked as if secularism was getting somewhere as education freed the masses from unthinking faith (apart from the USA, but that is a work in progress).
So what went wrong? By now we should be a free society of intelligent people, grateful for our liberty and running our lives at a profit, not by a prophet. We should be settling our disputes by reason and coming to consensus, not fracturing into ever smaller, selfish, special interest groups. And we should be absolutely resisting the encroachment of medievalism in the form of men in dresses and women in sacks. And yet the latest OECD report has British teenagers among the thickest in the world; barely able to tie their shoelaces by some accounts
Six billion years of evolution?
Maybe Voltaire was right; in the absence of intellect gods will have to do, but do we really want the old gods back, with all that smiting and human sacrifice? No, we need to invent a new god and a proper one at that – reality TV won’t do - and money has had variable results. No, we need a proper, inclusive, omnipotent, unprovable deity again and a congregation without the wit to challenge ‘him’. The OECD report shows the way; if we can’t make everybody clever, let’s make everybody stupid again – so that they can accept the lord and be saved.