Sorry I haven’t posted in a while; I’ve been devoting most of my writing time to the science fiction novel on which I should’ve been working much harder over the last several months. Since last October, I haven’t really worked on it at all. I reached a hundred pages last night, though, and I’m starting to really like how it’s shaping itself.
Don’t be surprised if my updates to the site are somewhat less frequent while I’m working on it. I really should be finished with it, but winter just killed my motivation to work on it, as it does with a lot of other things for me. Getting a full-time job didn’t help, either. (I wrote ~85 pages between July and August, when I was unable to find employment while we were living in NYC. Working severely limits my writing time, I’ve found.) But now, I’m really getting excited about it again, and am becoming increasingly confident in my ability to sell it to a publisher upon completion. I’ll have to post an excerpt or two to the site at some point.
Anyway, I was roused by an accumulation of recent events to write yet again about religion.
It’s rather lengthy, so I’m hiding it “below the fold”.
There has been far too much complaining from the religious right about the way teachers are doing their jobs. On the radio today, some jerk was complaining that “they’re not teaching God” or some similar nonsense. Of course they’re not teaching God or religion, and they shouldn’t be expected to. (Well, save for in a philosophy class.)
Religion is not reality, it is an interpretation of reality. It is a lens or filter through which reality is viewed, and is entirely separate from reality itself. Teachers shouldn’t be asked to provide the filter, only the reality. Trying to force a particular interpretation, usually contrived and supernatural, skews one’s perspective on reality even more than the skew caused by the limitations on understanding imposed by our electrified-meat brains.
Teaching reality without religion isn’t teaching an anti-religious view, it’s just not providing the religious interpretation of reality. And teachers who don’t believe in religion shouldn’t be prevented from teaching a reality apart from religious ideas, and he or she shouldn’t be forced to teach belief. (The same doesn’t apply to religious teachers who want to teach religious interpretation of reality, as it is perfectly reasonable to ask one to teach reality without religious perspective and leave the religious interpretation of that reality to the parents.) It is also insane to force teachers to omit commonly agreed-upon scientific theories because they conflict with religious ideas. At one point, friction was merely a “theory”. It still is, really. The same applies to gravity, force, inertia, et cetera. As not every item and particle in the universe has been tested, we cannot assert with absolute certainty that these principles always apply. So let’s not teach any of them, because I suppose it’s equally plausible that God is directly responsible for every action and reaction, just because such can be inferred from a particular interpretation of a book about miracles and superheroes.
Without getting too deep in the specifics, I’ll get to my ultimate point on this topic: Why do we take these people at all seriously? Why do we allow their influence in politics?
Their beliefs require absolute perfection from every individual. For instance, abstinence only works when the parties involved have perfect control over their biological impulses. Any failure at all, and the entire thing collapses. Because of this requirement of perfection, their philosophy does not address reality, and any attempt to draft legislation or regulate human behavior based on their ideology would be ridiculous and impossible to adhere to. Not only that, but the contradictions with which the Bible (and their interpretations thereof) are littered would make drafting clear, unambiguous legislation impossible.
The reason their entire approach is ridiculous is that they’re trying to take laws that would apply to the world above the filter and bring them underneath it. On the other side of that filter, everything is black and white, with very little complication or complexity, so laws that operate with duality and perfection make sense within the confines of the limitations on their view of reality. But reality itself has very little resemblance to the “reality” they see through their filter. In their limited world, a genocidal God is good just because he said he’s good, and Lucifer is evil because his big wrong-doing is that he lusted after the throne of God. With their limited perspective, it’s wrong to abort a cluster of pre-sentient cells because it’s a “potential life”, yet at the same time it’s good to kill someone convicted of murder despite their being “potentially innocent”. Contradictions make sense on the other side of that lens.
But they don’t here in reality, and that’s the problem with allowing their perspective to force its way in. Trying to read a book written in English the way one would read a book in Japanese would be irrational, because the interpretation of the word and letter arrangement imposed by an incorrect semantic application would result in total nonsense. Setting your keyboard layout to dvorak and trying to type in querty would result in nonsense because you’re applying the wrong interpretation of the keys to the actual configuration. In the same way, trying to apply logical contradiction and paranormal fantasy to reality only muddles everything into a big, confusing slop.
Should we start writing ordinances for people’s dragons? After all, there are people who believe those exist. How about voting rights for ghosts? People for the Ethical Treatment of Werewolves? Building codes that require dark areas for vampires? Reserved parking for zombies?
Or maybe we should force teachers to provide explanations from other religions as well. If we can’t discuss fossil records just because there are people who believe that they’re just tricks of a particularly insincere God who really created the world 6,000 years ago, we also have to teach that mankind came into being when Marduk slew Tiamat and cut her into pieces, becuase there are people who believe that, too. See? Another filter that can be applied to reality.
And all these filters are based around things that were written down, not things that actually exist. This is strongly related to the difference between religious theory and scientific theory. Scientific theory is based on strict methods of observing situations and events in reality, repeatedly testing the observations to verify or disprove the hypothesis. Religious theory is based on “it was written down by someone once”.
Their views on disbelief disturb me. If they feel that morality is directly linked to faith, and that anyone who doesn’t believe must therefore be immoral, it implies that they feel they themselves are actually sinister people whose actions and inactions rely solely upon fear of supernatural repercussion. Because their morality is based in fantasy, it’s not exactly genuine. In other words, they’re not really moral, they’re just afraid.
Atheists, on the other hand, can be decent people without having to subscribe to some grandiose fantasy. Because they’re not acting out of fear of some supernatural entity incinerating their flesh for the rest of time, their morality and actions are honest and genuine, and possess more stable a foundation.
Ultimately, those whose morals are based in the supernatural are probably the most genuinely immoral of people by nature, and their requirement of supernatural threats and guidelines suggests a difficulty with personal control.
I’m also fascinated by their obsession with “temptation”, especially in regards to homosexuality. Their beliefs in this area lead me to believe that they’re all closet homosexuals, or closet homosexuals-by-proxy, and I’ll explain why: I am a heterosexual male, and the thought of another man penetrating my anus is not something I consider “tempting”. Yet they often describe it as a “temptation” with which they feel they need to wrestle. Why?
Perhaps they invent strict religious beliefs to account for their own poor impulse control. If you’re male and not attracted to men, then you’re not going to have urges to have sex with them. However, if you are attracted to men, you’re going to be tempted by homosexuality. Now, if you’re not okay with that, in order to keep from giving in to the “temptation”, you can set up (or buy into) a system that says that some all-powerful entity riding on a cloud will burn you for eternity.
Of course, there are people who are okay with being homosexual, or okay with the idea of homosexuality, or just not attracted to members of their own sex and, thus, don’t view it as “temptation”, or are okay with the fact that it appeals to them. These people compromise the integrity of the system, and make those who belong to the system feel more affected by their urges. Thus, in order to keep from giving in to their own homosexual urges, they have to keep others from doing so as well.
Now, I say, if these people feel the need to develop this kind of a system to keep themselves from murdering and raping, so be it. But the problem inherent in the system is that it requires the elimination of conflicting worldviews (i.e. logic), and thus cannot co-exist with them.
This is Only a Test
One key characteristic fundamentalists seem to possess is that they thrive on being “tested”. Arguments are not about the issues themselves, but about demonstration of loyalty to their God. Thus, it is nearly impossible to win an argument with them, because it’s not really about the topic being argued at all but about standing up to the argument in order to show unwavering faith. They view our words as weapons, and their faith as an impenetrable shield.
Even if one formulated a near-perfect argument, it still wouldn’t get through to them, because while they may be paying attention to the words and arguing back, they are intentionally ignoring the meaning of what you’re actually saying. After all, it’s not really difficult to argue from their perspective, because any point someone else makes can be countered with the argument Deus ex Machina “Because God”. It can’t necessarily be disproven, and it results in a discussion stalemate, while at the same time giving them the feeling of satisfaction in “passing” yet another “test”. Of course, it’s all superficial, and any sensible God would probably see right through their ruse.
Understanding the Incomprehensible
Of course, they wouldn’t really understand that, because God is what they make him to be. It’s yet another contradiction: God is cunning and tricked scientists into believing that the world and the universe are more than 6,000 years old. Yet God would never lie or say anything to trick anyone, and everything he’s said and done has been honest.
Isn’t it a bit arrogant to claim to understand the Will of God? After all, that’s exactly what they’re doing. Who are they to say that God is incapable of using reverse psychology, or leading people to behave in a way that isn’t necessarily genuine but beneficial in the bigger picture? How do they know exactly what he’s thinking? What, God’s mind is incomprehensible, yet they feel themselves capable of understanding it to the extent where they can point at things and declare with certainty what God means about them?
They also selectively attribute things to “God’s Plan”, failing to really address how, if God is really in charge of everything and allows it all to happen, then all the negative things that happen are also attributed to this omniscient blueprint. If everything is part of “God’s Plan”, then September 11, 2001 was an act of God. Had it not happened, it would not have been the Will of God, right? In the same way, it’s a good thing that Jesus was betrayed by Judas, because were it not for Judas, Jesus would’ve never been sacrificed for the sins of man. Since Judas was only a pawn in the plan of God, he cannot be considered evil or wrong. And don’t give me that shit about “free will”. If God’s plan is to send his son to Earth in the form of a human to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind, it’s kind of going to ruin it for Jesus to grow old and die of, say, kidney failure or something because humans failed to act accordingly. Judas’ betrayal was–like apparently everything, according to their implied beliefs–an act of God.
In Conclusion: Misconceptions of Words Beginning in “A”
Atheism isn’t a negative, it’s a neutral. Atheists aren’t evil, they just don’t believe in God. They don’t believe in Satan, either. Or Zeus. Or a giant, thirty-eyed, omnipotent beaver in the center of the earth that forges reality with swift slaps of its tail across a scale model of the universe. That’s because the “a-”, when placed before a word like “theist” or “political” or “sexual”, denotes an absence or detachment from that word. Creatures that reproduce asexually reproduce without sexual intercourse, for instance.
This is the same confusion common among people using variations on the word “social”. People often say things like: “Oh, he doesn’t come out of his room much. He’s antisocial.” Or: “Why won’t he come to this party?” “I don’t know, he’s just antisocial, I guess.” But “antisocial” is a psychological disorder in which one acts against society, often violating the rights of others. The word for “not social”, as in an introverted person who won’t go to parties or rarely comes out of his mother’s basement, is “asocial”. So “atheists” aren’t “antitheists”, they’re just “without theology”. And lack of a system of belief is not in itself a system of belief.
And atheists should be allowed to not have beliefs, just as theists should be allowed to have beliefs. But we cannot allow the fantasy of God and magic to influence government, because it does not address reality. Atheists try to view reality as it is; believers try to view it through the spyglass of miracles and supernatural influence. It’s fine for them, as individuals, to view things through their filter, but it’s appalling for that filter to be installed between the government and the people. It’s like letting the guy wearing the “drunk goggles” from driver’s education drive.
To turn their little inflammatory snips back onto them, they are a threat to America and the principles thereof. Our country was built on rationality, by men who removed miracles and magic from the Bible, things they felt were mythological elements in a philosophical work. While the pilgrims may have been religious, the men who founded this country were not, and it’s a LIE to say that this country was built on religion.
(Countering their rhetoric a little further:) Theocracy goes against everything for which America stands, yet they keep pushing for it. Why do they hate America?
Ultimately, it’s a meta thing. It’s not that their beliefs are wrong, it’s that their approach to their beliefs are wrong. I don’t want to necessarily change the things they believe, I want to change how they believe them, because the way they’re doing it now, with their intolerance and lust for fascist control, is a serious danger to everyone on this planet.
(More in future essays, as I have much more to say on the topic of religion and this is already becoming extremely long. And coming soon from Enter the Jabberwock: SecularSavior.com)