It’s now three months since Sir Arthur C Clarke abandoned his 91st orbit around the Sun and headed back to the stars. We who knew and worked closely with him are still getting used to living in the post-Clarke world.
That Sir Arthur changed our world beyond recognition – by inventing the communication satellite and through his visionary writings – has been acknowledged far and wide. In the days and weeks following his demise, his views on the Next World have also attracted considerable attention.
Sir Arthur was a life-long disbeliever: he was against all forms of organised religion, and considered religion to be the worst form of ‘mind virus’.
As he said: “One of the great tragedies of mankind is that morality has been hijacked by religion. So now people assume that religion and morality have a necessary connection. But the basis of morality is really very simple and doesn’t require religion at all. It’s this: “Don’t do unto anybody else what you wouldn’t like to be done to you.” It seems to me that that’s all there is to it.”
I have just recalled that in his last published story, he envisioned a world without religions by the year 2500. He offered this in a futuristic piece titled The View From 2500 A.D., published in Forbes.com in November 2007, as part of a special online edition on the future.
Sir Arthur described the development of reliable psychological probes, using which any suspected individual could be ‘painlessly and accurately interrogated, by being asked to answer a series of questions’. While its original purpose is to keep the world safe from criminals and terrorists, the “Psi-probe” soon proves to be useful on another front: to weed out religious fanaticism which is a greater threat to humanity.
In his own words:
“One outcome of this–the greatest psychological survey in the whole of history–was to demonstrate conclusively that the chief danger to civilization was not merely religious extremism but religions themselves. This was summed up in a famous saying: ‘All Religions were invented by the Devil to conceal God from Mankind.’
“Billions of words of pious garbage spoken by statesmen, clerics and politicians down the ages were either hypocritical nonsense or, if sincere, the babbling of lunatics. The new insights enabled by the Psi-probe helped humans finally recognize organized religions as the most malevolent mind virus that had ever infected human minds.
“Now that the Psi-probe allows us to link millions of minds together electronically, it has been suggested that something like a ‘supermind’ might be attempted. There is a danger that this will erase the individuality of its components, and whether this is a good or a bad thing has been the subject of endless debate. There are those who think that such a merging would be a blessing–perhaps the only way to reach a true Utopia.”