Several people sent me this link, via Twitter, Facebook and E-mail. Feel free to take 20 minutes and watch this TED talk.
(Irrespective of your views on this video, I highly recommend digging through other TED talks – there’s some amazing content there.)
I’ve watched the video and here are my thoughts:
So there are aspects of this that I agree with, but have to reject the bulk of it. On many occasions, I’ve said something like, “Keep the good and get rid of the bad, wherever you find it – including from religion” – and I meant it. Generally, though, I’m talking about the community building aspects of religion.
But he seems to be saying that we should adopt the methods of religion – methods that I specifically reject. What he’s suggesting are largely elements of indoctrination; using art, repetitive, ritualistic actions and emotional language to instruct people…and his justification for this seems to be that it’s useful. Well, of course it’s useful!
This is an “ends justify the means” argument. Convinced that he has the truth, he’s advocating spreading it by whatever means works best. Unfortunately, there’s doctrine and dogma waiting at the end of that road…and the results may not match his projections.
Another problem is that it’s ridiculous to use indoctrination techniques to teach people to be freethinkers…you’re teaching them what to think instead of how to think. It’s a good way to get people to memorize things, but a bad way to get people to understand things… and understanding is critical.
It’s a self-defeating exercise that reminds me of the moment in Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” where Brian informs the crowd, “You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody. You’ve got to think for yourselves. You’re all individuals.” And the crowd responds, in unison, “Yes, we’re all individuals!”
Don’t even get me started on his suggestions, during the Q&A, to remain silent and politely disagree…