Robert C. Priddy

Writings on diverse themes from philosophy, psychology to literature and criticism

  • Robert Priddy

    In this blog I post information and critical views concerning ideologies, belief systems and related scientific materials etc. I am a retired philosophy lecturer and researcher, born 1936.

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Archive for February, 2010

Religion and conspiracy theory

Posted by robertpriddy on February 26, 2010

The greatest and most accepted conspiracy theories are not just at the fringe of mainstream discussion. They are found in the religions of the world. That an invisible, insubstantial, incorporeal, unknowable, omnipotent, totally unaccountable person, with a vast hierarchy of disembodied helpers, is behind almost everything  otherwise unexplained that happens on earth, should surely qualify as the prototype of all conspiracy theory.

It is prototypical because of its very ancient roots in early prehistory. The idea of a monotheistic God – I submit – eventually developed from a host of attempts to explain the apparent contingency of events on earth… the weather, illnesses, accidents, illnesses, death, birth, the impenetrable sky and volcanic fires and so on ad. inf.
Dreams gave rise to the idea of spirit beings, from which arose worship of ancestors, animals, images, objects as idols… As these ideas clashed and were inadequate to explain or bring about desired results in the dawning light of wider understanding, they were superceded by more general deities – and out of the long historical clashes of warring sects then national beliefs, pantheistic and/or monotheistic Gods arose and the mainstream religions took them in hand, so to speak, and theologised them further… always more and more abstracted until nothing corporeal could be involved.

In essence, the idea that a clandestine intelligent power is conspiring to control us cannot be taken further to excess than is done by the mainstream religions – with the exception of some forms of Buddhism and other lesser known teaching.  While some conspiracy theories  have actually be proved to be substantially true, what we can tag as ‘the Divinity Conspiracy’ can – by its very nature – never be proved to be true. Nor can it be definitively proven to be untrue, though the likelihood of it being true can be shown to be minimal. This likelihood increases all the time as science advances, providing genuine and testable explanations for more and more of the phenomena originally considered to be mysterious, miraculous, impenetrable, and so wondrous as to be forever beyond human comprehension.

The theory of evolution, having expanded its database vastly in a matter of a mere 200 years, which is developing at an ever-increasing pace, gives answer to enigmas that were previously unsolvable throughout human history. Religions, appealing to ancient scriptures, (and largely distorted and often censored) have been bolstered up by flawed speculation of a theological and mystical kind  appealing to awe for the supposed ‘creation’ by an uncreated Creator – all at the expense of serious investigation.

The understanding of genetics which hardly got anywhere before the 1950s with Crick and Watson, is also racing ahead exponentially, confirming and deepening the understanding of the evolution of life. Neurological research is answering more and more of the enigmas about the human brain/mind and the subjective phenomena it can produce.  The religious belief in mystical revelation or ‘cosmic consciousness’ is itself increasingly being shown to consist in phenomena due to functions or dysfunctions of the brain alone.

See also: Some key distinctions for the science-religion debates: agnosticism vs. atheism and secularism

Posted in Atheism, Belief, Creationism, Disinformation, Environment, Evolution, Ideology, Religion, religious faith, Spiritual propaganda, Theology, Understanding | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nirad C. Chaudhuri – India watcher

Posted by robertpriddy on February 26, 2010

Nirad C. Chaudhuri was one of the most prolific Indian writers, especially in English. He was from Bengal and became famous with the first Indian autobiography ‘Autobiography of an Unknown Indian’. After his immigration to U.K. late in life, he received a CBE from the Queen (Commander of the British Empire).  He was a polymath and master of many languages, including Latin and Classical Greek, Sanskrit, French, German, not least of course English and Bengali. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University. The unconventional writer maintained in his writings in the late 20th century that “the world’s knowledge about India today is obtained overwhelmingly at one remove from people belonging to the urban upper middle-class, who have become the heirs to British rule.” As a class, their views and attitudes are predominantly those of the rulers and exploiters of the remaining nine-tenths.”

However, the rulers are now more strongly Hindu-dominated and is clearly not the case to the same extent today. Moreover, there is the rise of some “lower” caste politicians into political power positions and slowly increasing social mobility in India, despite the persistence of many very rigid and discriminative caste rules. Still, though, the vast rural population of India is most definitely not adequately represented in news and opinion available about India in the 21st century so far. We have to look no further than the existence – under dire threat from the Hindu-dominated government – of the Dongria Kondh of Orissa (see Arundathi Roy’s warning about the destruction of indigenous inhabitants)

Nirad Chaudhuri also pointed out most tellingly a ‘dual-accounting’ tendency by most official Indians in telling others about their nation. One gives a beautified account for outside public consumption while knowing that the unadorned truth is quite different. According to him, a subtle kind of double-speak exists almost universally in India… on the one hand what one presents to foreigners and on the other an unspoken knowledge of certain realities shared by all those who know at least one major Indian tongue, but which is very seldom expressed by English-speakers or writers. Chaudhuri himself obviously represents a very definitive break with that norm and he has had to pay the price of being eschewed by the majority of Indians. His voluminous and extremely frank and very learned writings about India virtually shook the nation. Not least, he let the cat out of the bag and some when he wrote: “An Indian’s faith in bribes is infinite and unshakeable. Not only is bribing believed to be an infallible remedy for all workaday inconveniences – a belief justified by experience – it is also regarded as an equally effective means of managing high affairs of state…” (Autobiography of an Unknown Indian p. 117).

He wrote about The Vedas: “According to scholars of history, the (four chief) Vedas were a set of prayers and hymns to God – never originally being God-revealed scripture at all. Though possible revised, their language is dead, but even today the rituals are recited by priests at marriages, funerals and the like and not least at many official (even governmental) functions. The later doctrine introduced about the Vedas that they exist ‘eternally’ and were saved from a world-enveloping deluge is sheer myth, of course.” from ‘The Continent of Circe’ p. 184-5

“Fair complexion is preferred by a majority of Indians to darker skin tones. The lighter the better and the more prosperous in marriage. Much has been written about the origin and persistence of this degradation of people in India (the discriminated Dalits – once called ‘untouchables’ or sudras – and most of the pre-Hindu tribes that have survived are notably dark-skinned). The British rulers were very fair and greatly colour prejudiced, but the ‘white sahibs’ had to be obeyed by Indians who otherwise despised them but themselves failed to correct the colour mote in their own eyes.” ibid p. 188

River cultism: “The veneration of rivers in religion and cyclical bathing festivals are still visited at auspicious times even by presidents and prime ministers. When the Prime Minister and President visited the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad in 1954 – thus diverting police away from crowd control – the result was a major tragedy with hundreds of deaths. The supposed amazing qualities of the Ganges and its water is but one of many extremes of the river cult. Chaudhuri traces river worship back to pre-religious times and considers that the identification of Indian rivers with Gods and Godesses happened because of the popularity of rivers in that otherwise dry, parched and – above all – dust ridden country… not the other way round. ” ibid 197-8

“Cow worship is still prevalent everywhere among Hindus in the shape of a non-beef diet and regular worship of cows at festivals and in religious literature. It is still also being most dangerous to harm or kill a cow that roams the streets where Hindus are prevalent. Killing of cows was normal in Vedic times when guests visited and for sacrifices… so non-violence against animals has no Vedic authority. That evolved later.”

Since Independence, Indian authorities have mostly been extremely cagey about letting the world see the dark side of India, even banning Western documentary and feature film makers who wanted to show the slums and exposed the corruption and uncontrolled police brutality everywhere. The fewest Indian films show anything like the realities of India, with the exception of ‘Salaam Bombay’ and a few earlier documentaries. Bollywood glosses over the real problems of discrimination, rape, brutality, wife-burning, infanticide, vast prostitution networks with underage girls and boys and and the most heinous practices of the underworld where babies and children are maimed most horribly so as to beg for these mafias. The country is presented in as positive a light as possible by its leaders, with constant talk of Indian values as morally superior etc. even more than is usual in other countries. This widespread reliance on double-standards in recording facts is supported by the existence of records of Indian life which often present the harsher realities of India in a stark way, having been recorded in memoirs such as by Nirad Chaudhuri and in other writings by those British who had mastered several Indian languages and spent their lives in the thick of life in the provinces as colonial administrators, judges and so forth.

Posted in Ideology, Media, Understanding | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »