Imagination needs inspiration to bloom.


Upplysning i det 21:a århundradet by Christer Sturmark

Christer Sturmark's book about enlightenment comes in a time when many people leave their faith, at the same time as religious forces are getting stronger. Other attitudes to life also seem to grow. The book includes everything from religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam, to supernatural elements. Sturmark's main message is the importance of reflection and reason. While science is able to explain more and more phenomenon, people yet seem unable to reflect and think logical. Instead, they believe in stuff that are unexplained and lack scientific support, such as ghosts and telepathy. 

Sturmark is a missionary for enlightenment. Science and culture have been considered important until the world was thrown into barbary, before, as he puts it when discussing his book on television. Now, the irrational thinking seems to spread again, perhaps because of the possibilities online to discuss opinions with equals, and not having to challenge one's believes.

Philosophy is the foundation of this book. Much of it is a lesson in philosophy of religion, and Sturmark discusses the concept of God, why morality doesn't have religious foundation, and whether God hates women. One of the most interesting parts of the book is those that discusses the birth of religion and it's development (it's interesting that the US was more secular during Benjamin Franklin's time, than today). The history of ideas is a big part of the book and necessary to understand today's attitude to religion. Epistemology is another important part of the book. The main pillars of science research is explained, and why science is more reliable than superstition and belief in religion and the supernatural. According to Sturmark, one should have a good reason to believe in something, whatever it might be. Preferably evidence. This is an argument that somehow collide with religion. Doesn't a big part of being religious mean to not demand evidence? To just believe? - this is a smart way of not having to explain so much. Of course, whether people choose to believe in religion, the supernatural or pseudoscience, it's important to reflect before reaching conclusions. However, it's also important to be humble. Science is a relative term and changing. There are a lot we don't know, and a lot we know but can't explain entirely, just think about quantum physics. Today's science fiction is tomorrow's science. Scientists try their hypothesis after having had an opinion about a matter. If not being open-minded, we will never come up with new theories and expand our understanding of science. If we can't believe in something without evidence, that same evidence is difficult to find to justify our believes.

Sweden is a secular country. The Swedish church is tolerant, accepting marriage between people with the same gender, and having female priests. But it hasn't always been like that, and there are still some flaws, which, according to Sturmark, can be explained by underlying religious believes, such as rules concerning organ donation and euthanasia. Sturmark also discusses the debate about religion in Sweden. Agnosticism is common. Sturmark - who is comparing religions with ghosts, trolls and astrology, which might be considered disrespectful - wonders why many people that not believe in supernatural phenomenon prefer to call themselves agnostic, instead of atheists. Perhaps it's complicated. It is a comfort zone where you don't have to have an opinion. Because it's impossible to prove that God exists and it's as impossible to prove that he, or she, doesn't exist. Perhaps it's also a way to get along with everyone and to respect their believes. Another explanation might be that baptism and weddings are about tradition, and something beautiful worth saving because they make us feel amazed that there is something bigger out there. We celebrate midsummer, despite not having a pagan faith or thinking about the summer solstice. Furthermore, there are surely many people that aren't religious but have a great respect for religion. 

When reading such a book, with critical and matter-of-fact arguments - with statistics and sources that back up the reasoning - it's important to remember that religion has nothing to do with those practising it. Under no circumstances should religious people be mistaken for their religion, no matter if we think religion good or bad. Religion is a conviction, an attitude to life, that does not define an individual person. People's gender, ethnicity and sexuality are not to be questioned, of course, but religion is a standpoint that is changeable, and therefor, it should be allowed to question it, according to the author. Another reason for questioning it is Sturmark's statement that religious groups are funded by the government, while organisations with a secular approach are ignored.

Sturmark is tired of peudoscience that came with postmodernism and truth relativism. There is only one truth, he claims. Religion is only compatible with science if God lit the spark for the universe, and then abandoned it. The constant interference by God into our daily lives is difficult to incorporate with scientific reasoning, according to him. But is it impossible? There is a tone of criticism throughout the book, while at the same time, Christer Sturmark is preaching freedom of faith. Everyone has the right to practise her belief, as long as it doesn't mean breaking the law, or restricting human rights or freedom of speech. However, it's easier with a secular approach, Sturmark argues, since it's difficult to fight oppression of women and other victimization when such ideas are given a religious motivation, sanctioned by God - it's not possible to meet such attitudes with rational arguments. That is the author's opinion. Claiming that God works in mysterious ways is a rather convenient argument. The secular ethic puts human beings in the center. Secular humanism means that religious dogms should never be superior to human rights. Sturmark claims that secular humanism is the only way to a democratic society that protect the human rights. Religion puts God in the center, while secular humanism puts the human being in the center. Sturmark uses statistics to dismiss certain claims about the necessity of religion as a moral guide, and show us that it is rather the opposite.

Not all of the aspects of the discussion are new, but Sturmark delve into some of them and argues in a way that makes you think. Religion is a big mystery. It's fascinating. It is good if it comforts and fills one's life with happiness or endurance, but it is not needed to explain the world and it shouldn't overshadow human rights. It's when a person is put in the center that she becomes a self-thinking individual.

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