Religions are not imaginative, not poetic, not soulful. On the contrary, they are parochial, small-minded, niggardly with the human imagination, precisely where science is generous.
Scientific truth is too beautiful to be sacrificed for the sake of light entertainment or money. Astrology is an aesthetic affront. It cheapens astronomy, like using Beethoven for commercial jingles.
My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a ‘they’ as opposed to a ‘we’ can be identified at all.
It’s been suggested that if the supernaturalists really had the powers they claim, they’d win the lottery every week. I prefer to point out that they could also win a Nobel Prize for discovering fundamental physical forces hitherto unknown to science. Either way, why are they wasting their talents doing party turns on television?
We should take astrology seriously. No, I don’t mean we should believe in it. I am talking about fighting it seriously instead of humouring it as a piece of harmless fun
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
Nature is not cruel, only pitilessly indifferent. This is one of the hardest lessons for humans to learn. We cannot admit that things might be neither good nor evil, neither cruel nor kind, but simply callous—indifferent to all suffering, lacking all purpose.
Reductionism is a dirty word, and a kind of ‘holistier than thou’ self-righteousness has become fashionable.
It is possible to enjoy the Mozart concerto without being able to play the clarinet. In fact, you can learn to be an expert connoisseur of music without being able to play a note on any instrument. Of course, music would come to a halt if nobody ever learned to play it. But if everybody grew up thinking that music was synonymous with playing it, think how relatively impoverished many lives would be. Couldn’t we learn to think of science in the same way?
After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet,sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked — as I am surprisingly often — why I bother to get up in the mornings
Wondering Whom to Read Next?
- Christopher Hitchens Anglo-American Social Critic
- Salman Rushdie Indian-born British Novelist
- Charles Darwin British Naturalist
- Jeremy Bentham British Philosopher, Economist
- Arthur C. Clarke English Science-fiction Writer
- Bertrand A. Russell British Philosopher, Mathematician
- George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans) English Novelist
- George Orwell English Novelist, Essayist, Journalist
- Philip Pullman English Children’s Author, Dramatist
- Ian McEwan (b.1948) British Novelist, Short-story Writer