Panacea is a noun that describes an idea of a cure-all. Panacea is also the goddess of cures and healing in the ancient Greek mythology. The etymology of the word is as clear as daylight. Though the myth has been well dismissed by rationality, she still has worshipers of her own; she lives on among the philosophies of many religious conservatives in the far right.

The far right religious conservatives — be it Christian conservatives in the US or the Muslim conservatives in Malaysia — believe that the woes of the world will end once the world returns to religion. They believe that religion is the panacea for the world.

In Malaysia, it is not rare to find a religious conservative expressing the idea fervently. As a nominal Muslim, Friday sermon is one of the places where I could find individuals that believe in the concept of religion as panacea. The local blogosphere is another place where local religious conservatives proudly display their panacea thinking. Wherever I spot the idea, I cannot help but smile in amusement, noting an irony in the thinking of the religious conservatives, hyperbolically speaking.

In the broadest sense, the ancient Greeks that practiced polytheism could be considered as pagans. At the same time, religious conservative Muslims have the most profound disgust for paganism. Now, if conservative Muslims believe in panacea, would not that make them as part of the pagans themselves?

Hyperbolic reasoning asides, it seems that the “religion as the panacea” idea comes together with another concept as a package. I am unsure whether it is a separate idea or part of it. Nevertheless, the idea that tags along with the panacea concept is a longing for the past. There is an implicit belief among conservatives that the past is better than today. On average, of course.

After all the progress humanity has achieved, I find it hard to believe the past is better than today, even with all the problems we are facing currently as a society and as an individual. We today are far richer than our ancestors. Not just in term of wealth but also in term of knowledge. With so much knowledge out there, I could only wonder why a person would want to live in an inferior age.

Yet, I do not mind if these religious conservatives prefer to live in the past. The only one thing that I ask is this: please do not drag me and others that disagree with religious conservatism along to the past. After centuries of progress and discoveries, I prefer to be here and now and strive for a better future rather than seek refuge in the ignorant past. I am a pessimist, yes. Within this context however, I am the optimist.

My optimism has its limit though. It does not include a trust for a cure-all solution. There are limitless problems out there and it is hopelessly naive to believe that all those problems could be solved by a panacea. Snake oil failed as a panacea. Why would religion be any better than snake oil?

Religion might have a role in this world but being a panacea is not it.

4 Responses to “[1036] Of religion as panacea and naivety”

  1. on 07 Jan 2007 at 12:26 Abdullah Gul

    [ADMIN: suspected impersonator with nick GaryWBush, Musa, Gul etc. Kindly ignore: see ]

    So, tell us who will you vote for, if you live in Batu Talam area?

    1. Barisan Nasional
    2. PAS

    My answer:

    I vote Barisan Nasional. This is because I wish to oust PAS completely from all 13 state assemblies and parliament. I support establishing a 3rd Melayu party if competition is needed.

    Who will you vote, Hafiz?

  2. on 07 Jan 2007 at 13:32 Hafiz

    I am uninterested. Besides, this is out of topic.

  3. […] comments at my blog. You could read some of his comments at various of my entries ([1050], [1048], [1036], [988], [979], [976], [973], [948], [952],  [850], [695], [435] and […]

  4. […] oh, do not forget this. More compulsory religious classes! Religion is the panacea to all of worldly miseries. Of course, crime committed in the name of religion, like kidnapping, is […]

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