On questioning myths

Reason must resist religion. It’s the pathway to liberation. This is a basic premise of modern rationality. Except, all too often, this principle is used to replace traditional with secular religion. Instead of questioning form – the blind acceptance of just-so stories driving norms and behaviour – we question content, e.g. whatever myths, norms or rituals have been put forward as truthful or important by religious leaders. As if the problem lay not in our relationship to stories and inherited frameworks, but only their origin.

With this comes danger that we fall prey to different myths. At worst, that we join cults and conspiracy theories. More insidiously, that we believe the truth of modern mythologies, engineered in states and corporations. That value derives from the bold initiative of genius entrepreneurs. That Europeans brought civilisation to barbarian shores. And a range of other just-so stories.

Resisting those myths is a needed effort. We need to clear fabricated truths from our brains, through constant attention to facts, and the structure of narratives. Some books provide precious help in doing this. Howard French, David Graeber, Robin Wall Kimmerer, Amitav Ghosh. One step further, we might even apply the form of rational freedom to the content of religion – as enlightened spiritual masters from across traditions encourage us to do.

In a world that pushes unquestioned lies down our ears, maintaining rational thinking demands active resistance. We must make the time and effort. Failing this, we will tumble into folly.

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