Religion is Anti-Intellectual
The major religions teach people that their version of the history of the world is true. Each of them tells a different story, and yet all claim to be the right one. Of course this can’t be the case, there can only be one true path that history has taken, albeit multi-threaded. The odd thing is that Christianity and Islam are rife with messages proposing that one not question the words of the religion, and thereby are not only insulating themselves against a natural tendency to question, but are attempting to insulate the religion against any kind of scrutiny. And this is where the problems really start.
If one truly believes that the bible or Koran are true, and the books themselves actively state that all knowledge you need is held within their pages, then there is no reason to seek any further knowledge. This is where religion becomes dangerous, especially in a society like the one we live in today, where single bad decisions made by people in power can mean the death of thousands of people. If they trust in their holy books and take them literally, then bad decisions will ensue.
This anti-intellectualism is not only to be found in the books themselves, but also in the very words they use to promote their religions with, saying things like “Trust in the Lord”, as if to forget all else and just hope that something good will happen.
But the problem is much deeper than simply believing in God. When disaster strikes an area, or a community, or a country, the main response from the religious is to pray to God for forgiveness, to pray for rain, or to pray for the souls of the afflicted. This goes against any actual seeking for a resolution to the problem at hand. If religious folk really lived in the world I live in, then action speaks louder than prayer. There is no incentive to help people in any tangible sense when just by wishing hard enough to their deity, and if the deity thinks it’s a good enough idea, the problem will be resolved or it was never meant to be. It’s the antithesis of any kind of constructive action.
In the real and physical world, if a problem arises, the solution lies in hard work and striving for answers by examining the problem and finding a way to get rid of that problem. In the world of the religious, all personal and communal responsibility is is left up to the will of the almighty with his perfect plan. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).
I admit, sometimes it’s nice to have someone to do the hard work for you, and thinking is hard. I don’t blame religion as the only place that actively seeks to keep people stupid in order to control them, but it does play a great role in this debacle.
Anti-intellectualism is a standpoint against the “know-it-all” scientists in their government-funded ivory tower of knowledge, and people who don’t get it really resent being told what fact is. And religion makes a convenient place for people to fall back onto. IN the United States, the religious-based politicians have been taking advantage of this lazy, “someone else will do it” attitude toward society, as outlined in Charles P Pierce’s article “Greetings From Idiot America” published in Esquire magazine in 2005:
“A ‘politically savvy challenge to evolution’ is as self-evidently ridiculous as an agriculturally savvy challenge to euclidean geometry would be. It makes as much sense as conducting a Gallup poll on gravity or running someone for president on the Alchemy Party ticket. It doesn’t matter what percentage of people believe they ought to be able to flap their arms and fly, none of them can. It doesn’t matter how many votes your candidate got, he’s not going to turn lead into gold. The sentence is so arrantly foolish that the only real news in it is where it appeared.”
It really is a worrying trend, and one I am seeing here in Australia too. Using religiously charged language, and a willingness for ignorance, the western world is throwing itself headlong into a position where the charismatic are manipulating the easily led flocks for whatever means they choose. Not only that but they use similar language to that used in the holy books, claiming that only they have the truth, and that the opposition is somehow evil. I find this current trend not only alarming, but increasingly frustrating. I also see no end to it, unless we can start advocating knowledge as a virtue, rather than it being seen as the realm of the privileged and the elite.