Yuval Noah Harari was born in Haifa (Israel) in 1976. He received his PhD from Oxford University in history, and is currently a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. In 2014 he published Sapiens. From animals to gods, of which 10 million copies have been sold. In 2016 he published Homo Deus. A brief history of tomorrowwhich has already sold 5 million copies, and in 2018 published 21 lessons for the 21st century, Debate, Barcelona 2018, 399 pp. which completes the trilogy. Sapiens is about the past, Homo Deus of the future and 21 lessons of the present.
In this latest book Harari asks: What is going on? How can I understand today's world? And in the answer he includes religion religion, with a treatment that occupies almost half of the book. It is my purpose of this article to analyze the proposal of this well-known historian in the field of religion, and to make a brief commentary of religion and make a brief commentary.
First, two words will be useful to situate the context of the book. context of the book. In the first part, to the question "What is going on? to the question "what is going on?" he adds some considerations on the power of reshaping and redesigning life through artificial intelligence and biotechnology. artificial intelligence and biotechnology. Algorithms, he says, will decide for us. We will have to think about the jobs of the future. Will there be enough for everyone? He also adds a critique of the West's liberal democracies. Are they appropriate for developing countries? Haven't they shown their failure with the 2008 global financial crisis? the global financial crisis of 2008? What to do about immigration? immigration? The author answers and proposes points of view to face the coming years. the coming years.
Another point, which in my opinion contextualizes the book, is the last chapter entitled is contained in the last chapter entitled Meditation. In it he explains Harari explains how in 2000 he began the practice of Vipassana meditation and how it changed his life. how it changed his life, so that every day since then he dedicates 2 hours to this meditation and does a two-month retreat every year. hours to this meditation and does a two-month retreat every year. That, according to him, gave him concentration, according to him, gave him the concentration and clarity to write his books. books. And it seems that this meditation, together with the observation of his bodily sensations bodily sensations, gave him a greater knowledge of himself and humans, superior to the stories, tales superior to the stories, tales or mythologies he had heard so far. to that time.
What is the origin of religion, according to Harari? The answer is that primitive man, the Sapiens, divinizes what he does not know: the moon, the sun, fire, the fecundity of crops. the moon, the sun, fire, the fecundity of crops. As science advances advances, the unknown becomes less and less reason for belief in occult powers. in occult powers.
According to him, the great religions are based on stories: Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism. They are fictitious fictitious narratives, some of them naïve, that men have invented. They have erected global institutions that give them their identity and create their liturgies that keep them alive. that keep them alive. Man needs stories and, without further ado, he invents them, and the surprising thing is that they work. surprising is that they work: they give him meaning and comfort in his life.
Harari Harari says that it is not necessary to be a religious person to behave well in life. life. He thinks that the secular moral code is superior to the religious one because it constitutes the foundations of modern scientific and democratic institutions. the foundations of modern scientific and democratic institutions. And it has a greater commitment to certain values such as compassion and truth.
With compassion, secular ethics is not based on this or that god's on the mandates of this or that god, but on a deep understanding of suffering. suffering. Something is wrong, such as murder, because it inflicts great suffering on human beings. suffering on human beings. One should not avoid killing just because "God says so. says so.
The other commitment of secular ethics is to truth. truth. Truth should be above all else. And in case of conflict between religious truth and scientific truth, the latter should take precedence. That is why the basis of modern science is the scientific truth that disintegrates the atom, deciphers the atom the atom, deciphers the genome, observes the distant galaxies, and not the stories of religions which, according to Harari, are the basis of modern science. religions which, according to Harari, are not supported by scientific evidence.
What about atheistic ideologies that have dismembered the 20th century and have been dismembered the 20th century and have been evidently catastrophic, such as Nazism or communism? or communism? The answer is that it is not easy to live up to the secular ideal and they have been lost along the way. and have been lost along the way. He says that the same thing has happened to religions the same thing has happened to religions as well: that the ideal is one thing and the practical realization is another. In the case of Stalin, for example, he considers him to be the pseudo-founder of a new State religion, with its own new state religion, with its own dogmas: Stalinism.
Regarding the meaning of life, Harari falls into a certain nihilism. nihilism. He points to the Buddhist ideal that life has no meaning, that there is no need to look for a story to justify it. The solution comes from the Buddhist side of putting the mind in blank. Not to think. Not to do things. Not to do nothing and let things flow.
Where does Harari's atheism come from? What are its roots? its roots? Perhaps from Feuerbach and his critique of religion, who, like Strauss, considers the gospel accounts mythical, like Strauss, mythical the gospel accounts, and speaks of religion as a human creation. as a human creation. It is an anthropological atheism that puts man at the center of thought. center of thought.
It must be said that Harari is right to place commitment to truth as a fundamental objective. commitment to truth as a fundamental objective. The problem is: what is the truth about man? What is man? What is man? It is surprising that in a book with 21 lessons about the 21st century there is not a single word about the family, when man is a social being by nature. man is a social being by nature and is part of the truth of man, the truth of the family. the truth of the family. And not only because God says so, but also because man discovers in his being and his man discovers in his being and in his actions this noble reality. It is necessary to love the truth, but it is also necessary to discover it in the environment that surrounds me. And not only the not only the empirical truth, which can be experienced, but also the truth of my transcendental transcendent actions that go beyond matter, such as love and admiration for beauty. beauty.
Harari's proposal does not distinguish between religions: they are all the same. religions: they are all equal. But the reality is that some are truer than others. true than others. Some accounts of religions are fictitious. But we must ask But we must ask ourselves: are there any real ones, and why not? Who prevents a God from revealing himself to men? from revealing himself to men? Christianity establishes an account called the history of salvation. history of salvation. Facts and words. They come in the Bible. But there are also extra-biblical extra-biblical sources and historical-critical methods that analyze the veracity of those veracity of these accounts.
Faith is indeed necessary. You either believe or you don't believe. And I would say humility. Harari's book shows a grandiose panorama that puts the keys to the future in the hands of man. that puts in the hands of man the keys to the future. In the background there is a bit of what is in the book of Genesis: "you shall be as gods, knowing the knowledge of good and evil. knowledge of good and evil". (Gen 3, 5). With artificial intelligence, biotechnology biotechnology, the governing algorithms of life, man feels capable of playing god. to play god. However, man is not capable of saving himself, no matter how much scientific truth he thinks he possesses. And it is evident that salvation is necessary salvation is necessary because the human being is morally decayed (because of his errors and sins) and needs restoration. sins) and needs restoration. It is simpler to believe in a savior and creator God who watches over us and who is the creator who watches over us and is the Lord of history.