420. RELIGIONS HAVE A STRONG POWER ON POLITICS, ON SOCIETY AND ON HUMAN RIGHTS: THEY SHAPE WORLD VIEWS, WAYS OF LIFE AND THE TYPE OF SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT OF MANY PEOPLE AROUND THE GLOBE. (N. Farouq)

Religion and Science

1. Insofar as religion makes claims in the area of science –which it does, because it talks about creation, about the nature of the universe and about the nature of life– to that extent, all scientists should be involved in it. (Richard Dawkins)

2. Scientists are clear though that science is an evidence-based system and religions are primarily faith-based systems. That is the difference for them to ponder given that when a scientist finds that the evidence disproves a hypothesis, the hypothesis is rejected. Religious beliefs are not rejectable. (You do not have to have faith in science or believe-in or know-about the science of immunization for your vaccines to work –and early childhood immunizations are part of the Rights of the Child).

[Caveat: No denying, many scientists continue discussing about the lack of proof about the existence of God. But the absence of evidence is no evidence of absence. (Albino Gomez)].

Religion and human rights

3. There are the frequent propositions that religion merits protection because it is a public good. The extreme expression of this view comes in the form of blasphemy laws, in which it is no longer individual or collective human rights that are protected by the state, but rather the religion as such.

4. Actually, proponents of the ‘defamation of religion’ laws have, for over two decades, tried hard to impose the view in the United Nations Human Rights Commission and then Council that the defamation of religion should be condemned as a violation of the human rights of believers,* arguing that no clear line can be drawn between offending a religion and offending a person professing it. (D. Petrova)
*: Not being facetious, with so many million believers and atheists, God must be tired of being personified by religions and sects and would rather prefer that people be treated more like her, i.e., be respected and loved. (A. Gomez)

5. Furthermore, according to the United States Declaration of Independence, its citizens’ inalienable human rights (HR) were given to them by the ‘Creator’. But, from the perspective of modern political science, this appeal to God is, of course, futile. Conversely, it is deceiving to think that simply disregarding the Almighty will be sufficient to achieve more secular humanist ideals such as HR. The truth is that we have never managed to vouch and advocate for HR in sensible and convincing modern terms.

6. One common strategy has been to appeal to Nature rather than to God. On this view, human beings have inalienable natural rights. But in order to accept this alternative one must ascribe ‘human nature’ something it does not have so that it cannot be the source of binding, inalienable rights.

7. Kant claimed that the rights of humanity are grounded in our capacity for rational deliberation. However, in order to uphold this position one must defend a metaphysical conception of reason, so, no good outlook there either. Actually, current political thinking prides itself for being ‘post-metaphysical’** arguing that without a theory of justice there is no theory of the state. (the above, from O. Boehm)
**: I ask: Can, under some circumstances, a metaphysical question make a come-back as an urgent political one? Religion may, after all, merely be a subject for philosophical speculation. Although this is the way many persons think, no one takes the first step to relegate religion to that realm perhaps for fear of being called irreverent. (Paulo Coelho)

[Caveat: No denying, historically, religion has both helped tame or avoid popular upraisings, but has also been an ethical motivation/motivator for important revolutionary engagements –including in the realm of HR. (Francois Houtart)].

What comes/does not come from religion?

8. It is further argued that the state is supposed to be an instrument for defending the interests of its citizens. But is it? Does the state really defend justice or universal human rights? Do Northern governments not often ally with many despotic, HR-violating regimes? What is here evaded is the more general, but urgent question of the peoples’ actual entitlement to political claim. While it is a fact that history shows us many examples of commitments to HR (true, sometimes coming from the realm of religion), the problem is precisely that, also historically, we have not yet been able to translate these commitments to HR into political action.*** (O. Boehm) What do religions have to show in relation to this translation?
***: In the world, we do have plenty of ‘identity politics’ which is about group interests, often defined by tribal allegiances and/or religious belief, i.e., communities often organize according to ethnicity and/or faith. Depressingly, faith-coded fanaticism can still exploit widespread frustration with corrupt and dysfunctional governments. The clear-cut ideology of simplistically pitting good against bad attracts alienated, frustrated and deeply confused youth internationally (with HR falling flatly through the cracks…). (Hans Dembowski)

Is religion just a private matter?

Man has the innate and indomitable desire to judge before understanding, and in this desire is where religions have thrived. (Milan Kundera)

9. Do we need to get involved, not just in an education about facts, but a de-education in faith –the form of belief that replaces the need for evidence with simple emotive commitment? Is our challenge to win people away from faith-based living to evidence-based living? I ask, because an open alignment with irrationality makes accepting the implausible a virtue. There are literally thousands of religious sects (44,000 Christian alone). So the odds against children choosing freely from all these to follow the same faith as their parents are pretty high. (J. Coyne)

10. Commitment to one’s faith has nothing to do with the available evidence, but is importantly about social pressures. Science has learned through experience that assuming the existence of gods and divine intervention has been of no value in helping us truly understand the universe. Why does all this matter? Unfortunately, religions can and do have not always positive public and HR implications. Do countries need to do something about this? Take, for example: Forty eight states in the USA allow religious exemptions for vaccination, endangering the children who do not get immunized and also the community in general, for even those who are vaccinated do not always acquire full immunity. (J. Coyne)

11. During the French Revolution, the goals of equal rights for men and women, plus the setting aside of unreasonable Church influence**** in favor of secular governance and human fraternity were some of the aspirations that mobilized the common people to rally against the old regime and to strive to build a new order.***** (Jose Luis Vivero)
****: Voltaire’s intolerance of religion was nothing like religious intolerance; it was directed at institutions –the Church– not individuals. It is thus refreshing that, at a time when many people pay great deference to faith, one can make measured criticism of religious institutions acceptable. But be reminded that this kind of open free thinking is rather rare to find in our world.
*****: Chauvinistic, HR-denying pathways by right wing parties use and have used every conceivable instrument and media in an attempt to reach out to the masses in churches, mosques, temples, pagodas and other bases for social gatherings. (S. Chachra)

Religious leaders can and do influence. So, yes, religion defines many people’s values (B. Felmberg)

12. Very generally speaking, it seems to me that religions can (and have) typically have (had) a few functions: the control of women’s fertility* (men want to know who their children are); the protection of property/rights of ownership (though shalt not steal, etc); the promotion of commerce; wielding political power over large numbers of people; giving financial power to the leadership; mobilizing military force (rallying the troops behind a cause); fostering a sense of community, of belonging; offering a common narrative and rituals; providing relative safety among people of the same group mostly through a social behavior contract; validating a set of assumptions regarding behavior that can be used to navigate transactions with people of another group; enabling networks and intra-group trade; setting rules often enforced through fear and coercion and sometimes violence.****** (Sarah England)
******: Religions, at their best, are not about punishment. But unfortunately, when it comes to women, women’s rights and sex, they are rarely at their best.

13. Religion is merely a matter of consensus, that is, it can make a lot of people think some thing is right (good or bad, fair or unfair) –and so, that thing becomes right. (Paulo Coelho) But when men think they only fear their God, they do not stop at anything… (Baron von Hobach)

Claudio Schuftan, Ho hi Minh City
schuftan@gmail.com

All 400+ HR Readers are available in http://www.claudioschuftan.com

Postscript/Marginalia
– The co-existence of gods and humans was one of the most effective achievements over the ages. All it took was to trade and sell the many demi-gods in the three existing celestial markets: the market of the future that lies beyond death, the market of charity and the market of war. Many competing religions sprang up, each criticizing the faults attributed to their rivals, but still, all alike, being what they most vehemently claimed not to be: a market for emotions. Religions were markets and the markets were religions. (Boaventura de Sousa Santos)
– Religious people are sometimes further away from their fellow beings than what atheists are far from God. (A. Gomez)

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