Rather than religion, a reader points to the “double-blind experiment” as our greatest innovation:
It’s the means by which we can finally escape the illogical and incorrect claims of religion and discover the way the universe actually works.
Another is more critical:
Yuval Noah Harari has got to be joking; religion is one of humanity‘s worst inventions. The scientific method ranks far higher, the products of the enlightenment rank far higher. Why does systemic enforcement of belief in myth rank higher than actually figuring out how the universe works?
Another is even more blunt:
“Without some kind of religion, it is simply impossible to maintain social order.” What a bunch of self-serving theist bull crap.
You don’t need religion to maintain social order. Religion might have been used for that purpose at times, but the fact that you had few pure religious forms of government, ones where the priests were the sole holders of power, argues that religion is insufficient to maintain social order, at best. Heck, if you look at the population of prisons, you will see a lower percentage of Atheists than you do in the general population.
Religion is great at making claims and repeating them until their followers believe them to be true. But the purpose of those great lies is to perpetuate religion, not any kind of search for real truth.
Frankly, as an agnostic (albeit one who respects your right to view the Universe as you will), I can’t help but view faith as mankind’s greatest stumbling block. Every advance we have made as a species has been in spite of the efforts of religion to keep us perpetually beholden to unseen, unknown, and unknowing deities that disapprove of our efforts to transcend our animal instincts. The ability to reason is the only gift we have that separates us from more primitive life forms. Religion encourages us to pitch reason away and remain forever huddled around the campfire, afraid of the monsters in the night. Reason, not religion, is our greatest “invention”.
PS – I know your skin is far too thick to be bothered by my random dissent, but the squish in me feels compelled to make it clear that I love your blog!
Another has more on Yuval Noah Harari and his views:
I’m waiting for my copy of the US release of his Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, out in February, so I can’t say for sure that you didn’t quote him directly or correctly. But in his course, which I took on Coursera.org (one of the two largest consortia of universities running MOOCs), Dr. Harari actually teaches that it is humanity’s ability to create “imagined realities” that is the greatest invention.
Religion, of course, falls into this category, in his view. (His course gave fits to the very religious among the course-takers … you should have seen the discussion boards.) But many things that we accept, in addition to religion, are “imagined realities” – nations, for example; corporations, laws, money … and all have roles in creating societies and keeping them together, until people no longer believe in those imagined realities (such as the divine right of kings; or the Third Reich, or the Fourth Republic) and then institutions come crashing down.
Dr. Harari gave a remarkably funny and thought-provoking lecture in which he uses DuPont Chemical Company as an example of an imagined reality, consisting not of its managers (they are not the corporation; it continues if they die), not its board of directors (ditto), not its shareholders (they change constantly), not its employees (ditto), not its factories (DuPont could build new ones if they burn down, and it exists in the meantime); but rather, a company exists because everyone agrees that it does, and its priests (the lawyers!) say certain words and write certain words, and another imagined reality (the State of Delaware) says ok “you exist”, and as long as everyone believes it exists, it does!