RADIO SHOW SCRIPT No. 5 13/04/2019
Welcome listeners, – to the fifth airing of – The Republic of Reason – I am Fergus Quinlan.
This programme – continues, looking at any subject or event from my hopefully different point of view. If any listeners have comments positive or negative, I would be delighted to hear them…. Email the programme at firstname.lastname@example.org or text to; 083 4681472
This evening I will look at;
The interaction between critical thinking, morality and religion. Much of the ideas expressed here emerged from my early reading of a book by British philosopher Bertrand Russell. ‘Education and the social order’ and recently ‘Society without God’ by Phil Zukerman and extracts from my book ‘The Republic of Reason’
- A sea adventure of yesteryear.
- The possibilities for Ireland being an advocate of peace being compromised by events in Shannon Airport.
- A word On Julian Assange
- And of course some excellent music.
In my first programme, I described how; early in my life, I always felt compelled to step outside my comfort zone exploring and questioning every belief and every social structure; I told my story of beliefs and ideas lost and found.
The Republic of Reason – both book and this programme: springs from a perception of poverty. A Poverty Of Philosophy: an epidemic of poor, ill thought out, or contradictory viewpoints. A lack of critical thinking. The first intellectual confrontation I spoke of was baptism. The concept that a newly born baby could be guilty of some sin which needed to be washed away left me bewildered…And this bewilderment has intensified as I realised that the sin that needs to be washed away was knowledge and that the main pursuit of religion appears to be the suppression of knowledge…. The very pursuit that I was engaged in, It is not surprising that most humans appear to spend their lives in a perpetual state of confusion and attempting to escape by shutting down any or most of their investigative thought processes.
The human brain structure is composed of some distinctive parts which evolved during our human development. The oldest part, the instinctive reptilian brain developed about 500 million years ago, this is mirrored in each new human at conception. Its function is breathing, movement, balance and replication.
The next levels are the Hippocampus which compares new and stored information and the Amygdala the emotional part, care, pleasure, rewards emotion sex and security instinct. These sections of the brain originally evolved about 150 million years ago are also instinctive and are common to all mammals.
They form the vital loving attachments between animals and their young and in human terms between children and their parent’s smell, the sound of voices, security. This time lays down a foundation of emotional security essential to the construction of a well-ordered human. As the child approaches the development of the most advanced section of his or her human brain the thinking prefrontal cortex – which originally evolved about two million years ago they are at their most vulnerable state they have total trust in their parents and teachers, They are absorbing information and learning patterns at an astonishing speed.
Children are pliable and can be shaped very quickly at that time, but once shaped the mix of ideas that did so will last far longer than the interactions that shaped them. They will generally be a copy of that which has gone before, I ideas ranging from a language to religion to a concept of a social order….
On the positive side, religion provided comforting answers when science could not, it still provides comfort to many at death an as an explanation of life. It contributed to social cohesion when society had one unified religion. But now, belief systems have split on doctrinal and governance issues; international migration has brought new religions. So the argument for cohesion by faith no longer exists. Now religion contributes to division and conflict, it may not be the main reason, but it certainly does not help. Christianity split into Catholic, Orthodox, and many protestant factions. Islam is split into Sunni and Shia, Judaism in many factions. All of this certainly does not help the cohesion humanity seeks and desperately needs. Our own Northern Ireland is a case in point
In parallel with that problem, science has been providing a stream of answers which the dogmas of thousands of years ago can no longer resist, a round earth, planetary circulation, evolution. Into this mix now arrives the new global religion of global consumerism. Its temples of worship are the vast shopping malls; its icons and saints are multifarious must-have brands. This brainwashing streams out every second of the day from screen, radio and print media…. It begins to overwhelm and replace religions. We will get back to that later in the program.
Speaking of religion – Music a great deal of wonderful religious music emerged during the height of the Classical period this is a three minute section from the Mass written by JS Bach in 1733. One might ask why an atheist like myself would play a Mass, written and performed by us humans it is a beautiful reflection of what we can achieve…. Thus, Bach’s Mass in B-minor…
This is Fergus Quinlan on Kinvara FM community radio with the Republic of Reason. If any listeners have comments positive or negative, I would be delighted to hear them…. Email the programme at email@example.com or text; 083 46 81 472.
The battle between faith and reason is dealt with in more comprehensive detail in – My book – The Republic of Reason– it is still jumping off the shelf at John Burkes Kinvara supermarket….. must be well on the way to be on the bestseller list – well….maybe Kinvara’s best seller list.
So back to the discussion in hand—- the connection between religion and a child developing the most advanced section of his or her human brain, as I said, children are at their most vulnerable at that age, they have total trust in their carers and are absorbing information and learning patterns at an astonishing speed?
At this vital juncture, the parents and guardians have a challenging choice to make. They can, and mostly do, go with – the easy option, they pass on the unexamined inheritance and allow the child to go with the flow. In a Catholic primary school- and that is over 90% of all schools – the child spends this critical year preparing for their first holy communion. At this interface between their developed instinct and emerging intellect, their first prolonged encounter with focused learning is instruction in supplication and a suppression of curiosity.
Teachers get vulnerable children to accept a stream of anti-scientific, illogical beliefs. When the children accept these ideas without question they are rewarded with – a pleasure rush of – gifts, new clothes, money, parties and given huge family and social acclaim. Thus security in belief and pleasure are burned into the instinct, their ability to think critically in the future is often fatally damaged. In later life, it is very difficult for reason and science to dislodge these beliefs. In religious parlance, the Jesuits said – give me the child, and I will show you the man. There were not joking they knew precisely the time to capture a man for life. In their ethos – by the way – Females hardly figured in this misogynist ethos.
The alternative and there is and Alternative – is for parents to take a different route. Ensure that this vital time of about the seventh year is spent encouraging children’s questioning and curiosity. If natural curiosity and critical thinking can become part of their physic at this stage, it will see them through lif; they will seek out self-education. This is more important in a changing society, for they may have to make their own work, that will require innovative thinking a mind that can range outside the box – outside the social norms. A critical thinking mind will save them from charlatans and help them distinguish fake and real news and be vital in the creation of a more progressive and egalitarian social order.
When I became the father of three children over forty years ago – my wife and I, despite being raised as Catholics, decided that the children would not undergo any of the rituals of faith, we would encourage the children to access information on every religion and non-religion. We also agreed that when they matured as adults if they decided to take the sacraments or any religious path or even become a priest or a nun – we would stand by them… Thankfully that did not arise.
Most people say that schooling is the key to our individual and collective futures, but, more often it is just training to pass a test and get a job. The policy is; Bright enough to do the work – but not to question it. Whatever an education is, it should make a unique individual, not an inheritor of unexamined ideas. It should furnish one with a spirit to tackle the big challenges, allow the development of moral values. It should encourage children to deal with what is important, how to live and how to die. That is Humanism – The person should be the centre of philosophy and be responsible for their morality – not Gods.
After this break for music we will ask – can we have morality without religion?
As humanity moved away from the dark ages of church power in Europe in the renaissance hints of light and confidence in humanity began to form this was expressed powerfully in Beethoven’s ninth symphony this is a section of the finale….
Every day we witness the collapse of the moral order; Gastly stories of sexual abuse, the treatment of unmarried mothers and their children, the corruption amongst politicians, the civic Guards, banks, finance, insurance fraud, has undermined our confidence in morality. This to me proves that the wxisting religious based moral order has failed. The existing belief system is so flawed that people are embarrassed by the beliefs them selves. If were to explain to a child in front of its parents precisely what the sacrament of communion was and how it came about… methinks! I would be quickly asked to exit. Thus the mainstream philosophy is never openly discussed – this in turn blocks access to any alternative moral thinking
As an Architect (ret) the important thing one must have – is good foundations – no matter how beautiful the building one constructs, if the foundations are crumbling, all will be lost. In that context any attempt to form children or society with a secure morality are flawed. The foundational documents are not ethical – Bible and the Koran, they are products of their time and reflect the values of the period.. fair enough I say ….well then OK, let them be rewritten to reflect the values and ethos of our time. Cut out the bloodletting, the gross misogyny, the arrogance of gods demanding constant sublimation by the living people and their continuous demand for revenge and punishment. How would one begin to structure these as guides for a moral life?
Go to the street and question any passing stranger about their empathy and their innate desire to forgive and ask would they plunge anyone into everlasting hellfire? …. Extremely unlikely … No the vast majority of people would have far higher levels of natural morality than the gods, Christian or otherwise.
This takes us to the book “Society Without God” by Phil Zukerman. What the Least Religious Nations can tell us about contentment.
The book shows what non-belief looks like when it’s mainstream in a country. It argues that Religious faith is not necessary for a healthy peaceful, prosperous and moral society. Most residents of Denmark and Sweden do not worship any gods or give any credence to religious dogma. They also happen to score at the very top of housing, health care at all social levels and the happiness index.
The determining factor in morality is how one relates to fellow humans, animals and all aspects of nature. The key word is respect, honesty openness and in a word – love. The deciding factor in a moral society is how it orders itself and the welfare and needs of its people. In almost every example the most religious countries score the worst – the non-religious countries score the best. These also are the conclusions of Phil Zuckerman’s book…. A worthwhile read for those pressing for the secularisation of Ireland or indeed who might be fearful of it It might Perhaps – lead to a higher morality.
But there is another phenomenon taking place that has the potential to threaten society with another false dawn; A philosophy that is replacing the pleasure and security of religion and working against the possibilities of an advanced social democracy…..it peddles the comfort and the security of ownership – of things – consumerism. It could be a society jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan…we will get back to that after a bit of a sea story – a blast from the past.
A story of a voyage by river and sea. 58 years ago…In 1961 at 15 years. I built a PBK 22 canoe of marine plywood cross frames and laths of light timber all glued and brass screwed together. The Hull skeleton was covered in rubberised canvas. I got so excited building it, I designed and built a longer slimmer single seat version as well. After the inter-cert exam early summer myself and a friend with canoes and camping gear, were dropped into the river Blackwater near Mallow. For days we paddled downstream. My memories of the river are of its great beauty, overhanging trees with the ruins of ghostly castles shadowing the water and gentle sparkling rapids. We rough camped every evening cooked on a primus stove surviving on spuds, bread, tea and sausages. After four or five days we passed from the beautiful Blackwater out to the sea at Youghal, and paddled west along the coast.
The going got a bit rough and with, no chart, forecasts, we were forced ashore in some tiny deserted cove. Before a rising tide, we had tp bury our kayaks in stone and fled up the cliffs with our camping gear. We waited out the weather system for a day or so, on a soggy headland in flapping tents and watched the wild sea running east. The weather cleared, we emptied our craft of stone and water and proceeded west. Off Power Head we paddled hard but made little progress for many hours, we had given no credence to the tide. But time passes and tides turn, and we finally reached the haven of Poul Gorm. We rang our parents who may have been relieved to hear from us after been effectively missing for over a week ….a world before mobile phones.
I retrospect, I’m not sure if they ever figured how we got from Mallow to the mouth of Cork Harbour. My companion departed, and I stayed in a tent above Poulgorm for another month or more making a living from bumming and hawking. I would ring the Cunard office in Cobh and find out when liners such as the SS France, The SS America, the Queen Mary and I think even the green Mauritania. The massive ships would anchor outside the harbour, circling these leviathans in my kayak, I would persuade generous-minded passengers to throw down boxes of cigarettes and Californian oranges. These I would sell in the local pubs. My parents couldn’t figure out how I lived so well on a living allowance of 10 shillings a week.
This lullaby brings back that lovely sense of drifting down the Blackwater River. Memories of its great beauty, overhanging trees, the ruins of ghostly castles casting shadows over dark pools and – gentle – sparkling rapids. The song contains the resonating plea of protection from – “ dread spirits of the Blackwater and Clan Owens wild banshee…..O’ sweet water and the melancholy of youth. – The Castle of Dromore.
This is Fergus Quinlan on Kinvara FM community radio with the Republic of Reason. If any listeners have comments positive or negative, I would be delighted to hear them…. Email the programme at firstname.lastname@example.org or text; 083 4681472.
Before the break, I had been hinting at a society perhaps jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan… Perhaps I am too pessimistic, I must force myself to see the glass half full rather than half empty.
One hundred years ago in Irelands revolutionary times, the future looked exciting, for the New Republic, as it broke away from the shackles of English domination. The people were Free, Free, Free …well not for long – the Irish Bourgeoise quickly realised that if a free Ireland meant free critical thinking for the mass of people is would become a disaster for them. So as quick as a light – they proved the prods right, home rule became Rome rule. The new sate enmeshed itself with the conservative church of Rome and ensured the full force of intellectual suppression was unleashed on schools, hospitals, colleges and indeed every institution of the state. We had jumped out of the fire and into the frying pan. As soon as we stopped kneeling to King of England, we started kneeling to a king of Rome.
Thus, the struggle for intellectual and spiritual progress against this new anti-intellectual octopus became the norm. For a hundred years every progressive move was resisted, from mother and child care, divorce, contraception, abortion, gay rights, battles against censorship – and on and while the fight for reason is progressing, many skirmishes are left, mainly for the mind of the child.
Now, a new monster appears. The neoliberal agenda, consumerism, a sort of poisonous lotto mentality that money triumphs over everything, this permeates all sectors of society — an anti-intellectualism in its own right. Its bells ring out a religion of thinks, to consume every second of the day from screen, radio and print media. Buy, shop, buy, replace… every thing is a commodity, while we once kneeled at the foot of the Kings then the church many worship at the temple of mammon.
Maybe one could argue that this new global religion of secular consumerism has the potential to unite the world, perhaps, but it may do other things as well…
It has been growing for some time. College graduates, emerge believing the same dogmas and holding the same attitudes they held at lower levels. Professors no longer make any attempt to teach students how to evaluate ideas or even the importance of doing so. Education has become vocational training to get a job. Only conventionally believed Ideas are taught. The concepts of private profit and wealth are pushed over public wealth and gain. While a million thoughts for new entrepreneurs, goodies and services flow, no new SOCIAL ideas emerge from such a culture, and human social progress is stymied. We are bombarded with trivia–entertainment, sports, cars, the lotto and technological toys. Some have called this an addiction to materialism; it is more addiction to ignorance, especially ignorance expressed as a belief in a moribund social order.
All the while – challenging spectres are knocking at the door. Irreconcilable contradictions, Capital concentrates, relative poverty expands, and revolutionary explosions are inevitable. Secondly, infinitely accelerating population and production growth become pitted against a finite world and the shadow of climate change grows darker.
Solutions Solutions will spring only from a liberated youth, Young people with open and critical minds that can and will challenge the social order. While most organs of the chuch, state and media will combine with a million diversions of entertainment and do all in their power to strangle social inovative thinking. My plea is – do not to be afraid, I believe that the instinctive desire for a worthwhile life for humanity and its fragile planet will win the day.
Music time – Written by Gustav Holst about 1915 from the suite ‘The Planets’ Mars the bringer of War…..
This is Fergus Quinlan on Kinvara FM community radio with the Republic of Reason. If any listeners have comments positive or negative, I would be delighted to hear them…. Email the programme at email@example.com or text to; 083 4681472.
My book The Republic of Reason is jumping off the shelf at John Burkes supermarket….. must be on the way to be on the bestseller list well….maybe Kinvara’s best seller list.
Throughout the ages a state through a combination of luck and resources, expand outside their original borders and construct an empire. The Romans, The Ottoman empire, the British empire, the Third Reich, They come and go leaving trails like snails behind them. The world latest empire builder is the Washing Wall Street consensus its protector and enforcer is the military of the United States of America and its claim made by Obama of its Exceptionalism!!
Ireland cannot in any military sense confront the forces of the USA. But we can in an intellectual sense, we can be an international advocate for peace, after the resolution of Northern Ireland wars we may have a legitimate claim as a venue for world peace conferences. To do that effectively we must preserve our neutrality.
However, our neutrality is compromised by the use of Shannon Airport to refuel and transit the US Military Machine. I have been involved over the years in protests at Shannon Airport – the second Sunday of every month from 14.00 to 15.00. A few weeks ago we were joined by veterans for peace from the USA two of whom were arrested and jailed. My following letter was published in the Clare Champion on the 29th March;
Dear Sir/ Madam, Shannon Airport is a perfectly placed flight hub to serve the people of the Mid-West of Ireland. However, a growing consensus feels that to achieve full potential it should divest itself of any connection with the transit of military personnel and munitions.
As the death and destruction in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraqi and Syria begins to be understood, people sense a growing disquiet at the relationship between the Airport and the military forces of the United States. I feel the discomfort myself when I use the airport, to those who work there permanently this unease must be constant.
The majority of the men and women of the US military who transit Shannon are polite likeable people, unfortunate young actors who find themselves tragically at the interface between US imperialism and the resistance that emerges when people are occupied, bombed and shot. The destinations of the military aircraft transiting Shannon have seen millions killed, horrific destruction and a brutalised people fleeing as migrants to Europe. The only beneficiaries appear to be the manufacturers of military weapons.
Any argument that Shannon Airport gains financially from the situation would be untenable and would only add to the general disquiet. The reestablishment of Shannon Airport as a solely civilian air hub would invigorate the airport. It would allow the management, staff and passengers to go about their lives free of internal conflict. As a neutral civilian airport with a new sense of purpose, it should be upgraded to serve all corners of the globe. Restored and marketed as a place of peace and neutrality – travellers would transit with a clear conscious.
This conflict of purpose was recently highlighted when two retired members of the American military who have seen at first hand the death and destruction of war, were arrested at the airport. It is challenging to equate how these honourable men of conscious who protested against the use of Shannon Airport for war purposes should be detained while thousands of soldiers equipped with arms for killing are allowed to pass through the airport unmolested. It is beyond argument that Tarak Kauf and Ken Mayers both US veteran’s for peace should be immediately released from prison and Shannon Airport be restored as a civilian airport.
I have met both Tarak Kauf and Ken Mayers, wonderful men who have experienced and seen up close the horror of US imperialism. I got a beautiful postcard the other day from Ken in response to a letter I sent while they were in prison. These men are presently out on bail but are obliged to remain in Ireland as their passports are held by the forces of our state. Their trail may not come up for years, so they are effectively being punished before they are found guilty.
If anyone wishes to support these peace makers, please google up ‘Veterans for Peace Ireland.’ A fund has been opened in a Limerick bank.
Music to smooth out these conflicts and dilemmas. Written in 1892 by the wonderful Russian – Rachmaninov Prelude for piano in C minor.
Now a related storey. Julian Assange and the Fate of Journalism or how the Media are being Destroyed.
There is nothing new about fake news every war battle, strife, or strike, the vanquished and the victors all have their own version of events for information enhances support or opposition to any cause or action, it is a tool of war. President Bill Clinton destroyed the independent US media when he permitted 90 per cent to be concentrated in six mega-corporations that were in the entertainment and not in the news business. This destroyed the reliance placed on a free press to keep government accountable to the people. This trend has become the charging horse of the worldwide neo-liberal agenda; no country is free from its effects, including our own cowering media.
Julian Assange is the Australian founder of Wikileaks—a website dedicated to the public’s right to know what governments are doing. It posts revelatory documents, often acquired unofficially, that bring to light the criminal behaviour that results in wars and other man-made disasters. Because its very existence encourages “leaks,” government officials fear the website and particularly dislike Julian Assange.
Having identified alleged official misconduct, Wikileaks seeks to acquire and make public – overwhelming amounts of evidence—sometimes hundreds of thousands of documents at a time—which journalists and other interested parties can draw upon. This is a major public service.
That is not how most government officials see the situation. They assert that government cannot be successful unless aspects of its behaviour are conducted in secret. The fact that those aspects lose any accountable connection to the public is discounted. The assumption is that most citizens trust their governments to act in their interests, including when they act clandestinely. Historically, such trust is dangerously naive. Often government officials, even the democratic ones, feel no obligation to their citizens in general, but rather only to special interests.
To cripple Wikileaks and have their revenge on Assange, the United States and the United Kingdom (UK), with the cooperation of Sweden, first sought to demonise Assange on a sexual assault charge. This failed, Assange was still left liable for jumping bail in the UK in order to avoid seizure and deportation to the U.S., where he would certainly be put on trial for truth telling. He escaped to the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Two days ago he was evicted from the embassy.
Assange has ardently supported the notions of free speech, free press and the public’s right to know. Nonetheless, as the documentary filmmaker John Pilger, has noted, “There has been no pressure [in support of Assange] from media in the United States, Britain, Australia, Ireland or pretty much anywhere except social media … outside the mainstream. … The persecution of this man should horrify all free-thinking people.” Unfortunately, there never have been so few brave free-thinkers about.
Many news outlets are willing to use the documented evidence made available by Wikileaks they will not publicly defend the “whistle-blower” who makes the information public. Assange will have defenders, but they will be outside the mainstream—because truth itself is also outside the mainstream. That is their predicament, and ours as well.
My next programme; the last of the series in the Republic of Reason will concentrate on Russia. A story that could be as long and with all the twists and turns of War & Peace.
Thank you for listening, I will sail away with Spartacus by Khachaturian.