Religion (and philosophy)

Summary: I am convinced that the concept of God is so far beyond human comprehension that no religion has, or will ever, come close to knowing the truth (it would be easier to teach insects about "automobile insurance"). All religions are man-made. We created god in our own image, not the other way around. But here is the sad truth: many misguided people would not think twice about killing in the name of their religion, or their god, so I fear the violence will never end. Deism seems to me to be the middle path between atheism and religion.


  1. Man is a Religious Animal. He is the only Religious Animal. He is the only animal that has the True Religion—several of them. He is the only animal that loves his neighbor as himself then cuts his throat if his theology isn't straight.
    Mark Twain
  2. Biblical text should not be interpreted as properly literal, but rather as metaphorical, if it contradicts what we know from science and our God-given reason
    (Augustine of Hippo, De Genesi ad literam 1:19-20, Chapt. 19 [408], De Genesi ad literam, 2:9)
    Saint Augustine (354-430 AD)
  3. Fundamentalism is the blind lunge towards over simplification
    George Steiner (Philosopher)
  4. Hundreds of professional and amateur scientists actually believe that the Bible pretends to teach science. This is a good deal like assuming that there must be authentic religious dogma in the binomial theorem
    Georges Lemaître (1933) Roman Catholic priest and Scientist (who first proposed the Big Bang after analyzing the mathematics behind Einstein's General Theory of Relativity)
  5. The bible explains how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go
    Galileo Galilei (1616)
  6. All extreme forms of thinking are a form of insanity
  7. An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary proof
    Carl Sagan
    (Perhaps this quote can be used as a successor to Occam's Razor)
  8. Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities
  9. We live in a world shaped by stories. Stories are threads of our lives and the fabric of human cultures. A story can unite or divide people, obscure issues, or spotlight new perspectives. A Story can inform or deceive, enlighten or entertain, or even do all of the above. As humans, we are literally hardwired for narrative. Stories are essential to human learning and building relationships in social groups. There is growing consensus in the scientific community that the neurological roots of both storytelling and enjoyment of stories are tied to our social cognition.
    Steven Pinker
  10. Ours is a time of space telescopes, electron microscopes, supercomputers, and the worldwide web. This is not a time for parsing lessons given to a few goat herders, tent makers an camel drivers.
    Rev. Michael Dowd, "Thank God for Evolution!"
  11. There's another reason I think popularizing science is important, why I try to do it. It's a foreboding I have -- maybe ill-placed -- of an America in my children's generation, or my grandchildren's generation, when all the manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when we're a service and information-processing economy; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest even grasps the issues; when the people (by "the people" I mean the broad population in a democracy) have lost the ability to set their own agendas, or even to knowledgeably question those who do set the agendas; when there is no practice in questioning those in authority; when, clutching our crystals and religiously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in steep decline, unable to distinguish between what's true and what feels good, we slide, almost without noticing, into superstition and darkness.
    Carl Sagan
  12. Properly read, the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived
    Isaac Asimov
    Click here for some examples

My "2 cents" on religious world conflict

Europeans learned during the "30 Years War" (1618-1648)1 that religion and politics don't mix. In fact, it was the principal of religious freedom2 that was the basis for ideas which created the United States of America. So I'm confused when:

  1. the USA enthusiastically supplies arms to a democratic theocracy (Israel) who is in a war with a group of people trying to become a democratic theocracy (Palestine). On the flip side, Palestine receives and uses arms supplied by Iran and Syria against Israel while their own people starve in the streets dreaming of the afterlife.
  2. the USA is best friends with a tribal theocracy (Saudi Arabia) who look the other way while Saudi religious police engage in kidnappings in the name of Sharia Law. To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia is the largest purchaser of US military hardware and are most likely supplying weapons to ISIS / ISIL.

    comment: so just as the US and USSR created many problems in the middle-east by fighting a proxy-war during during the 1980s in Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia (Sunni) is fighting a proxy war with Iran (Shia) in Libya and Syria. To make matters worse, American arms sold to Saudi Arabia are being used to attack people in Yemen. What do you suppose happens when anyone looses their home or family then trips over a piece of metal stamped "Made in U.S.A."? You guessed it: life long enemy waiting for an opportunity to enact revenge on the United States, their allies, or Americans. 
  3. many Americans today reject science and logic while openly embracing religious fundamentalism (including a literal belief in Bible scripture) and political extremism. They even claim that America was founded on Christian principles even though many of the US Founding Fathers (Washington, Adams, Madison, Jefferson, Franklin, etc.) were Deists. The joke (perhaps irony is a better word here) gets better when Ronald Reagan, who becomes president with help from fundamentalist Christian groups organized by people like Jerry Falwell, quotes a few lines from Thomas Paine during his inauguration. (Many religious people, then and now, labeled Thomas Paine an atheist even though Paine was a self-described Deist)

The world will never have peace until there is a protestant-style reformation in all religions which will enable people to take back control of their churches from zealots and extremists. Every citizen must strive to ignore anyone (religious or otherwise) who instigates war or martyrdom. We also must be wary of any religious person with "political ambitions" or "ties to people with political ambitions" (you probably think I am referring to some Islamic Imams and Clerics but American Christians like Jerry Falwell also spring to mind)

  1. in this war, Catholics and Protestants fought each other for the bodies, souls and property of the other group. A whole generation passed until the children of the people who started the war put a stop to the madness.
  2. in this context "religious freedom" can be rephrased as "each citizen being free of the other person's religion"

Two more cents


After the 9/11 attacks on New York in 2001, I read three books on Islam as well as Islamic History to attempt to understand Islam's principles. While contemporary Muslims usually refer to Mohamed as only a prophet, he was also a politician as well as a military general. This perspective sheds new light on Muslim discontent which obviously extends beyond religion.

Most Muslims consider Qurans not written in the Arabic language to be profane translations. This means that imams and clerics not able to read Arabic must turn to the hadiths (non-Arabic translations are allowed) which number between 4000 and 8000. Demanding that the primary holy text stay in the original language is reminiscent of pre-protestant Christianity demanding that the Bible stay in Latin (even though many original documents were only available in Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek)


Next I read three books on Christianity which rendered me equally confused. Mention "the big schism in Christianity" and most modern people with think "Catholic vs. Protestant" rather than "Eastern Orthodox vs. Roman Catholic"

A very simple summary involves the Trinity (a word never found in the bible) which is derived from the evolution of the Nicene Creed (publically recited by most churches as an affirmation of what the attendees believe) which first appeared in 325 AD. The Trinity controversy begins with the insertion of the Filioque in 451 AD at the First Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon making Jesus divine. In a theocratic power play in 1054 (was this religious or political?) the Roman Catholic church excommunicated Christian churches who did not accept Filioque which resulted in a spit between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox. I ask you all now: if the Greek belief is still labeled "orthodoxy" (straight thinking) then wouldn't the Roman Catholic doctrine, and everything descended from it (Anglicans, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Pentecostalists to only name five of many), be considered "heretical"?

Food-for-thought: many protestants scoff at the catholic practice of "praying to Mary" but if belief in the divinity of Jesus is heretical, then "praying to Jesus" should also be discouraged. As far as I can tell, the Muslim world prays to Allah rather than Mohammad which may be more correct (especially if Allah is just another name for God)

Our Modern World

The age of enlightenment was kicked off by Europeans like Spinoza who laid the groundwork for the 18th century Enlightenment and modern biblical criticism (an open minded scholarly study and investigation of biblical writings seeking to make discerning judgments about these writings). For most of Europe, this put an end to governments recognizing superstition and the end of acts like "witch burning". Roman Catholics behaved badly with the inquisitions until Napoleon put a stop to the last one (of five) in Spain after after conquering that country. Spinoza's enlightenment continued in 18th and 19th century Europe where many more original bible manuscripts (scrolls) were acquired then compared with ancient historical records and found to be changed or just plain wrong. (quote: this school reached its apogee with the influential synthesis of Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) in the 1870s, at which point it seemed to many that the Bible had at last been fully explained as a human document).

I now call myself a Desist who is convinced that all religions are completely man-made. Like literature, music and art, religion is just another human cultural expression and humanity would, most likely, be poorer without it. Since no rational person would ever "torture", "murder" or "go to war" over literature, music or art, then those who believe these activities are permitted in the name of religion need to be educated otherwise. No one will ever be able to prove (or disprove) the existence of god so there is little point in trying. Meanwhile arguing about the inaccuracies found in all religious writings make me think that humanity's only hope is to keep personal religious beliefs private. This means we must all strive for a secular society.

Humanity's Coming Dark Age (a warning)

Humanity's Coming Dark Age - The rise and fall of empires
The Rise and Fall of Empires (published: 2003-01-29)
Symptoms before each collapse: ignorance, superstition, religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, intolerance, rejection of science

Click here to read more

Useful Links (and a few departing points)

World Union of Deists
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Neil Rieck (rationalist, humanist, deist)
Kitchener - Waterloo - Cambridge, Ontario, Canada.