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Chapter 13: God (21 Lessons for the 21st Century)

There are two definitions of God, one is the campfire god that people talk about when they wonder about the universe and its origins. This God is unknown, mysterious, and philosophical. The other God is the one religious people pray to. He is a moral authority, He cares about marriage and sexuality, He cares about what you eat and drink and when you choose to do so. But this God is not the same for all religions.

Yet we know that no religion is necessary to create a moral man. An atheist can be truthful, a Muslim can reject the divinity of Jesus Christ and still be a valuable member of his community. Harari thinks that there is no reason to assume that morality requires any divine intervention. Since animals that are much less sophisticated than us follow moral codes, why wouldn’t we naturally do the same? Why is there a need to posit the existence of a supernatural force?

It is in our self-interest to preserve ourselves, and to do so, to avoid a future where are isolated and alone or helpless, we must work towards the interests of society. Indeed, our happiness depends on love, friendship, and community. We don’t need myth or story to appreciate this, we merely need to develop a deep appreciation of suffering. We want to avoid suffering ourselves, and our suffering depends on how much our society suffers. Therefore, we have an innate incentive to care about the well-being of our community.

One of god’s commandments was not to use his name improperly. This means that one should not go to war in the name of god or use god to advance any of one’s personal ambitions. Yet this is what we see today when religious adherents claim to know what god thinks about social issues. Far from helping humanity advance forward, religious beliefs have trapped people into thinking uniformly about crucial issues that should be considered within a secular framework.

Read 21 Lessons For The 21st Century

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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