The Grand Illusion
Have you noticed that people can sometimes believe the craziest things? There are people out there who believe that the world is flat. There are those who believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was a lone crazed gunman and those who believe that we never landed on the Moon. Most of these beliefs are harmless, just like the childish belief in Santa (yes, he’s actually a fabrication – sorry kids) others unfortunately are not so innocent.
Take for instance the belief, the illusion, that there is a hierarchy of humans based on the colour of their skin. Can you think of anything crazier than that? I mean the idea that skin pigmentation is in any way connected to the worth of an individual – how truly bizarre. Would you judge a person on the colour of their hair or their eyes or the socks they were wearing? It makes about as much sense. As MLK said “Judge not by the colour of the skin but by the depth of the character” – or something like that anyway.
Humans are a really strange bunch when you think about it. Take what is probably our Grandest Illusion – Religion. Many people believe that God (in various forms and guises) not only created the entire universe, not only the entire world, but also took the time and effort to produce every living thing on the Earth including themselves. Many people believe that they can talk to God and that He talks back. Not only that but that God listens to them and will make their wishes (technically called prayers) come true. Though sounding rather bizarre such a belief is, generally speaking, fairly harmless. It’s only when believers get together in groups that things can get – well, fractious.
Unfortunately different groups of believers often have different ideas about God. Some of these differences can be quite fundamental – while others can be extremely subtle even to the believers themselves. But the problem is not that disagreements exist – I mean, we’re talking about people here – but that all sides think that they are right. Indeed not only are they right (and by extension the ‘others’ are wrong) but that believers with different ideas about God are somehow dangerous and must be dealt with. Such ‘dealings’ can often be very tense indeed. The stronger the belief is, the tenser any confrontation can get. It is not unknown for physical violence to occur.
Obvious not every religious belief can be right. Even if there is a God not all interpretations of His will can be correct. We are, after all, human and therefore fallible (and BOY are we ever fallible!). But they can all be wrong. Think about it for a second. Imagine a universe without God in it. Would we be able to tell the difference? Would it make any difference? Now go one step further (OK a whole LEAP further) and imagine a world without the concept of God – a world without religion. It’s not that simple at first but once you get the idea it gets easier. Imagine a world without religious persecution. Imagine a world without the concept of sin. Imagine a world based on rationality, logic and evidence. Of course this imaginary world wouldn’t be a utopia – we’re still talking about humans here – but would it be a better world? That’s a good question and one, unfortunately, none of us will ever know the answer to. Unless some kind of miracle happens (that was a joke BTW) we are going to live on a largely religious world into the foreseeable future. Maybe in 10,000 years time the only people who will even recognise the word ‘religion’ will be historians of particularly arcane practices but somehow I doubt it.
I fear that humanity is innately too irrational to shake off the idea of God and I fear that it will be the end of us. We are a clever species but we are also an incredibly stupid one. We have developed the knowledge and reason to develop nuclear weapons yet we have retained the irrationality to use them against people who don’t believe as we do. I am coming to the opinion that belief in God is a Grand illusion – a Grand Delusion – that as a species we would be better off without.