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Pastors, social media & perilous ideas


ADELAIDE - The Christian religion is perhaps one of the most pervasive legacies of Papua New Guinea’s colonial era.

It was imposed or gifted, depending upon your outlook, through the efforts of many dedicated and determined missionaries.

As with any group of humans, some of these people were genuinely wonderful advocates for their faith and for humanity generally .

However, others offered only doctrinaire rigidity typically displayed these days by America's infamous 'God wants you to be rich' tele-evangelists.

Organised religion, in my judgement at least, is mostly bad.

Organised religion asks adherents to suspend their disbelief in order to accept ideas and events that have no basis in demonstrable fact.

It demands that adherents abandon their critical faculties, their abilities that would normally discern what is real and what it false.

Organised religion often leads to dogmatic and rigid thinking about the world.

It has too often been an engine for generating enormous suffering and grief.

Because religion is fundamentally and inescapably anti-intellectual in nature, it necessarily has an uneasy relationship with science.

Science is not a religion. It insists on examining empirical facts about the world.

Genuine scientists know that their peers – other genuine scientists - will regard their ideas with polite but resolute scepticism unless and until those ideas - through experimentation, calculation or observation - are demonstrated to be undeniably true and correct.

Scientists know that there are, and will always be, many things about our world and universe that we are never likely to know or understand.

They offer us only answers and understandings that can be validated.

Scientists do not offer a pathway to spiritual redemption or a ticket to a post mortem nirvana; a paradise to be delivered only in a place unseen and unverifiable about which we are asked to rely on ‘faith’ not facts.

Everything we know about life on this planet has come from science.

Theology has produced almost nothing of value in terms of furthering our understanding about life because it deals exclusively in speculation, supposition and superstition, not the usually laborious search for truth and the rigorous examination of facts.

This is the context for the behaviour and the attitudes that have caused Michael Kabuni to recoil from some of the pastors he writes about with such great concern in his commentary, Do we pay too much reverence to pastors.

That people turn to religion for spiritual comfort and support may or may not be useful, but relying upon religious advocates for advice on scientific matters is often a serious mistake.

Michael's pastors lack doctorates in virology and immunology but apparently feel able to spruik ideas about Covid and the pandemic that are nonsensical and harmful.

It seems these ideas have largely been gathered through social media which, as Michael rightly points out, is full of bad information from dubious sources.

Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok and other social media are seldom edited or curated to ensure the scientific veracity of what is posted.

Thus on social media, the predisposition of religions to believe and promote unprovable and unscientific ideas is fast-tracked to huge numbers of people who further promulgate these ideas to an audience of the ignorant and credulous.

This is causing great harm during the Covid pandemic and it is no exaggeration to state that many thousands of people have died as a consequence.

So Michael has been wise to cease listening to those pastors who have become mouthpieces for anti-scientific nonsense.

Sadly, as long as people insist on clinging to religious ideas that require supernatural explanations, they will always be prey to such egregious nonsense.


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