We live in strange times, don’t we? Particularly in America, the waves of change are crashing into each other, spraying ideologies everywhere, many of which shouldn’t be allowed in the waters.
As we’ve seen from Charlottesville to PewDiePie, nationalism run amok is causing a lot of problems and people in power (ahem *Trump* ahem) are complicit in empowering these voices. This shit has got to stop. Funny enough, a lot of this is tied to religion and someone like Albert Einstein saw this problem miles and miles, decades and decades away: he had spoken about the problem of nationalism as rooted in religion.
I was thinking about this while telling someone about that ludicrous hipster church I attended, where they used an (unsubstantiated) Einstein quote to validate prayer. “Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results,” the preacher said, quoting (“quoting”) Einstein to prove that you have to act on what you pray for in order to make life work. In other words, don’t wait around expecting shit to happen. In other other words, do what you gotta do because praying does nothing.
But zoom out, church people, to see what Einstein actually thought of religion. “I am a deeply religious nonbeliever,” Einstein said. “This is a somewhat new kind of religion.” He’s gone on to say that things like the Bible are “the expression and product of human weakness.” So how does this relate to nationalism?
Well, in various texts, Einstein noted the dangers of nationalism in a post-Holocaust world. He called these ways of thinking “an infantile disease, the measles of mankind,” tying it into religious thinking. As he wrote in a work titled Science Philosophy and Religion, he mapped the connection easily. “Are we not all children of one father, as it is said in religious language?” he asked, musing over how religion stifles the individual and bars itself from creeping into government as that would not benefit “the service of all mankind.”
“In the totalitarian states it is the rulers themselves who strive actually to destroy the human spirit,” he said. “In less threatened parts it is nationalism and intolerance, as well as the oppression of the individual by economic means, which threaten to choke the most precious traditions.”
The prevention of this steering into the icky can be accomplished with the help of science, Einstein believed, a check-and-balance function to keep religion in place – and prevent shit like nationalism from going crazy. “If it is the goal of religion to liberate mankind as far as possible from the bondage of egocentric cravings, desires, and fears, scientific reasoning can aid religion,” he continued.
And this is where our current problems lie: there’s too much religion in the nation and the rational, intellectual, thoughtful approach to these subjects has disappeared in a distinctly anti-science regime rules the nation and, in effect, the world. The trickle down is the validation of the “religious” who care more about made up theories of right and wrong, which defines some people as better than others with no intellectual basis. When we abandon science and thinking, we end up with hateful fuckheads marching the streets in the name of racism. Science keeps us grounded because it is all about facts. When we become steeped in religion, we stick our head in the clouds and refuse to remove it. That’s a problem.