Religious thinking is not the same as religious thought…

The main problem with religions (and this is pretty much all religions), is that the words of a few have been painted as revealed (God-given) wisdom, and as such are unimpeachable. If they were wrong (and they were), any given religion will never improve in any appreciable way until the founding utterances are discarded, and the fallibility of the utterers conceded. But because everyone in positions of power within the religion has a vested interested in keeping the enterprise going, no such acceptance of what is patently obvious to anyone outside the fold will occur. Hence, I have more time for the clergy that have joined The Clergy Project, than I do for sophisticated followers that hope against hope (aka pray) for a change in ‘the system.’

Apart from anything, the concept of “revealed wisdom” is patently a misunderstanding of what we now call intuition, and that we know is the product of non-conscious (which is to say evolutionarily old) processes. Intuition is the product of available (crystallised) knowledge, deeply processed, as such these intuitions can only be the product of knowledge as it was at the time. For example, many Muslims point out the embryology of the Qur’an as being ahead of its time, but not only is the embryology wrong, it’s also similar to the work of Galen (b. 129CE), who was based in Pergamon (modern Bergama) Turkey, despite his Roman origins, centuries before Mohammed.

There’s no doubt that religious people have occasionally made inspired guesses, for example, Maimonides, in describing the making of the world in Judaic terms, came very close to describing the Big Bang as starting as a mustard seed and spreading out. But that is clearly a poetic device that almost captures the truth of the Big Bang whilst actually describing Genesis. A Christian example is the work on memory by St Augustine, which just last year was noted for being highly prescient with regard to modern neuroscience in regard to memory and mental time-travel (links below).

It surely can’t escape anyone’s notice that followers of any given religion can point out the flaws of other religions, but often fail to see those same flaws in their own faith. Some, a very few, can see the flaws in their own religious organisation and the way in which it administers doctrine, but abide, nevertheless. The issue is not the mode of thought, per sé, the issue is the focus of that thought – if a religiously inclined thinker is open-minded about science, they will be a valuable asset to any committee on scientific ethics. But if a religiously inclined thinker applies that same mode of thought, with archaic beliefs about the world as its base (as many of the most outspoken religious individuals are inclined to do), then one can only expect archaic (and occasionally post-archaic, but certainly not modern) outcomes.