Christian Long

Noah Feldman: Politics and Religion Are Technologies

In TED Talks on April 23, 2010 at 10:14 pm

Reflection by RIVU D.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Noah Feldman:  Politics and Religion Are Technologies

Although a bit complicated in its scope at first, Noah Feldman’s Talk on politics and religions as technologies is a very interesting video maybe not for the points it makes, but for the doorways it opens up for the mind to explore. In essence, it lets one ponder the wonders of religion and the intricacies of politics with a much more focused mind.

The case made in the video is that politics and religion are both similar technologies intended to control masses of people. And in a sense, they accomplish that very goal, making it a successful technology. However, what about all of the people who are immune to the effects of religion, and to a lesser extent, immune to the effects of politics by choosing not to be involved? People such as atheists, agnostics, are in a sense free thinkers in this videos case, and are immune to the control of the technology that is religion. In the same boat, people who aren’t swinging one way politically speaking, are partially immune to politics effect. I say partially because the fact of the matter is, if you live in a country as most of us do, you will inevitably be subject to the will of the country’s laws, rules, regulations, and the such. However, saying politics and religion are technologies is all well said and done, but exactly how are they technologies?

Most religions in and of themselves, with the possible exception of Buddhism, are a set of moral rules that are meant to be followed, usually accompanies by a religious text that dictates these rules and in turn dictates the lives of its followers. Thus, you could say the Bible, the Koran, and the Mahabharata, are all methods of dictating the lives of its followers, in a sense, a technology. But the argument against this point would inevitably be, should religion and all its rules and texts dictate an individual human beings moral code? The answer will inevitably be incredibly opinionated, so all one can do is look and attempt to decipher given facts and information. The information given is that religions numerous rules and texts dictate a persons life, but how do they do it? Do they tell people what to do by instigating a sense of wanting in a person, or do they dictate a persons life by instigating fear? In case of the latter, the technology being used is not religion, it is fear. This is because the people being dictated are only following the rules, such as going to church or to temple, in order to not feel the wrath of hell. In essence, they’re desire not to go to hell overrides their want to live a good life, and thus they adhere to the rules as strictly as possible. But what good is standing in a church merely not to be punished? Standing in a church and claiming to be one of faith can easily be compared to standing in a parking garage and saying you yourself are a car. In the end, the technology becomes fear. However, there is another method that religion can control masses. It can inspire people to do good instead of scaring them into the act, which leads to a much happier experience psychologically, and is what the favored option would seem to be. There are also people who are apathetic about the entire situation, in essence atheistic, which permits them a certain freedom in their lives due to freedom from the grapples of religion.

The separate technology was politics, a much more effective technology due to its ability to be almost unavoidable. The reach of politics is incredibly long, as it effects everything, from the money you spend, to the people who lead you, to the very legality of your own being. Take Americas two most infamous parties for example, the Democratic and the Republican party. The leading party ends up dictating the entire countries rules in an obscure sense. Of course, the country has sets of rules to make it as the very people choose who will control them, making it a much more limited technology, but there are other forms of government besides democracy, such as communism, monarchy, and dictatorship, which are admittedly less prominent then they were in the past, due to wars, which were born from political tentions that sent people to war. The reach of politics is so vast, that it even dictates whether you lend yourself to go fight in a war. Thus, it is much more difficult to be apathetic about politics, making it a much more effective technology.

Noah Feldman gives staggering examples of how politics and religion are separate technologies intended to control masses of people, and the case in and of itself is one that shouldn’t be scorned. It brings upon the realization that technology isn’t some new trend that all the kids are using, its an ancient practice. However, the greatest aspect of the video is all the numerous doorways and gateways it opens up in the mind and ends up freeing up an individuals thinking process a bit, from strict adherence to rules and regulations, to following your own individual moral code.


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