Rant on Science and Religion

There’s hope! We might not weaken our science standards to the point where we believe Earth is flat! The Ohio School Board actually closed a loophole in their science standards that made space for Intelligent Design arguments. So maybe it’s just barely possible that America can get off its butt and confront the problem of Muslim extremists who believe infidels must die — while also being capable of building atomic bombs. Maybe, just maybe, the US can have religious nutjobs that can also bioengineer weaponized smallpox. After all, it’s God’s will, right!? Right?

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/14/AR2006021401876.html?nav=rss_print/asection

Sorry if I seem bitter about religion today. I’ve read four books since the start of 2006 (five if you count The Westing Game which I’m reading with my class, and six if you also count a wearyingly bad translation of theOdyssey that I’m reading with another class.) Three of them were time-management related: Time Management for System Administrators by Thomas Limoncelli about being a computer network admin, First Things First and 7 Habits of highly Effective People, both by Stephen Covey.

The fourth book was The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Harris points out that the irrational assumptions of religious people, grounded in ancient and unfounded myth, are in fact raising up a planet full of utterly deluded individuals who can simultaneously believe in 72 virgins in Paradise, and assemble a nuclear weapon or detonate explosives to destroy a dam. This leads to hatred of gays and lesbians on the one hand, with moderate Christians standing on the sidelines rubbing their hands in distress, trying to placate their correligionists. “We’re overcoming two thousand years of dogma,” they seem to say, “give us time.” Yet there is no corroborating proof of any of Jesus’ miracles, deeds, virgin birth or resurrection. There is no proof that God had anything to do with Jesus’ philosophy.

On the other side, we have Muslims who are absolutely convinced that if you’re not a martyr (or one of a martyr’s seventy pass-ins) you have to moulder in the ground until judgment day — and that dying for the faith is absolutely better than staying home and fixing your own problems. Both systems have monarchical tendencies which push their adherents toward obedience of the authorities. The suicide bombers of 9/11/01 were not morons, apparently. They were architects and engineers, college graduates in rigorous fields. They also believed in some pretty sick ideas, ideas for which there is no corroborating proofother than that the Prophet lived and had some pretty wild experiences in the desert.

Lovelips told me just on Monday night that a colleague at work knows someone who broke up with his girlfriend because he fell in love with a better-looking girl, and then regretted it. He wound up gouging out his own eyes because, well, they’d offended him and caused him to sin. She remarked how nice it is that we have a sane religion, one where myths are valued but not overbearing.

And it’s true. We dance around a fire. we drum. We speak to the skies, to the woods, to the world, to one another. Yet it’s that experience which matters, not the beliefs or the rules or regulations that follow from that experience. It’s the sensation of being alive that matters.

Glenn, my colleague, is reading a biography of the Emperor Julian, who was the last pagan Emperor of Rome. He is alleged to have said, “Christians have replaced the worship of all that is alive with the worship of death.” It seems to be a fault of Abrahamic religion in general, but judging by a story about cannibalism in India associated with a fringe Hindu group, it may be common to religion in general.

Today, I begin to replace the worship of death with the worship of all that is alive.

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16 comments

  1. “It’s the sensation of being alive that matters.”
    This so spoke to my heart!

    “Today, I begin to replace the worship of death with the worship of all that is alive.”
    This has been the path that I have been on for the last 5 years. And this is “home” for me.
    I have been so glad to have found this path to life!
    And I’ve found so many wonderful, crazy, alive friends along the way!

    “Let’s Dance!”

  2. “It’s the sensation of being alive that matters.”
    This so spoke to my heart!

    “Today, I begin to replace the worship of death with the worship of all that is alive.”
    This has been the path that I have been on for the last 5 years. And this is “home” for me.
    I have been so glad to have found this path to life!
    And I’ve found so many wonderful, crazy, alive friends along the way!

    “Let’s Dance!”

  3. Dogma

    The problem that you are purporting here is not so much an issue of faith as it is of the people in power abusing that power for political ends. Sadly this has been a problem since organized religion began. The Catholics raised it to an art form during The Inquisition.

    The question isn’t why these religions are all such a scary issue right now. The question is: why are we as a people so willing to be blindly lead rather than engage our own brains?

  4. Dogma

    The problem that you are purporting here is not so much an issue of faith as it is of the people in power abusing that power for political ends. Sadly this has been a problem since organized religion began. The Catholics raised it to an art form during The Inquisition.

    The question isn’t why these religions are all such a scary issue right now. The question is: why are we as a people so willing to be blindly lead rather than engage our own brains?

  5. Well said. Regardless of the particular faith, I think you have found one of the central problems – valuing the dogma more than the experience is a sicknes that leads to rigid answers and unquestioning devotion to one or more gods. To paraphrase some surprisingly wise words from SF author Poul Anderson fanatics are dangerous because they value ideas (or deity) more than people.

    4000 years ago all of the emerging states lived under the rule of some sort of god-king. While such leaders are largely gone (except in a few very odd places like North Korea), far too many people still want some form of divine or semi-divine father-figure telling them exactly what to do and not dow, punishing them if they are “bad”, and most of all, smiting and rewarding them for smiting their enemies. Getting over that sort of nonsense will be proof (to me at least) that humanity has grown up a bit.

    From my own PoV, I am betting that it will take transhumanist (biological or electronic) mental upgrades to solve this problem for everyone. I often wonder if the only way to achieve this sort of maturity is to find a way to help everyone overcome the need for any religion and to do away with all of it, including yours and mine. If so, I’d vastly rather have a humane society of atheists than what we have now, despite my very much not being an atheist.

  6. Well said. Regardless of the particular faith, I think you have found one of the central problems – valuing the dogma more than the experience is a sicknes that leads to rigid answers and unquestioning devotion to one or more gods. To paraphrase some surprisingly wise words from SF author Poul Anderson fanatics are dangerous because they value ideas (or deity) more than people.

    4000 years ago all of the emerging states lived under the rule of some sort of god-king. While such leaders are largely gone (except in a few very odd places like North Korea), far too many people still want some form of divine or semi-divine father-figure telling them exactly what to do and not dow, punishing them if they are “bad”, and most of all, smiting and rewarding them for smiting their enemies. Getting over that sort of nonsense will be proof (to me at least) that humanity has grown up a bit.

    From my own PoV, I am betting that it will take transhumanist (biological or electronic) mental upgrades to solve this problem for everyone. I often wonder if the only way to achieve this sort of maturity is to find a way to help everyone overcome the need for any religion and to do away with all of it, including yours and mine. If so, I’d vastly rather have a humane society of atheists than what we have now, despite my very much not being an atheist.

  7. well, I’ll still put in a good word to the lich overlord Jesus for you.

    I love saying that I believe in undeath. I feel so…goth.

  8. well, I’ll still put in a good word to the lich overlord Jesus for you.

    I love saying that I believe in undeath. I feel so…goth.

  9. When you take “god” out of everyone and everything you see, when you put “him” in a box and visit “him” on Sunday, you begin to feel a tremendous disconnection from all that is holy. The power that people could once find inside themselves and within nature was usurped by power-mad, control-hungry “priests” who desired the self-aggrandizement of being the go-between for “useless, weak, and sinning” regular humans. Then you can commit atrocities on other humans because they’re only HUMAN, not pieces of GODS.

    This is why the entertainment industry is the biggest business in the world, and the reason for a massive suicide rate. Priests of old removed the LIFE from us, the GODS from us, and we’re desperately seeking that missing piece of our soul without knowing what we’re missing, Fill the hole with booze, drugs, sex, money, STUFF, and it will never be enough. (Oh man, could I go on and on and on)….

    THANK GODS I’M A PAGAN CHILD!!!!!!!!

  10. When you take “god” out of everyone and everything you see, when you put “him” in a box and visit “him” on Sunday, you begin to feel a tremendous disconnection from all that is holy. The power that people could once find inside themselves and within nature was usurped by power-mad, control-hungry “priests” who desired the self-aggrandizement of being the go-between for “useless, weak, and sinning” regular humans. Then you can commit atrocities on other humans because they’re only HUMAN, not pieces of GODS.

    This is why the entertainment industry is the biggest business in the world, and the reason for a massive suicide rate. Priests of old removed the LIFE from us, the GODS from us, and we’re desperately seeking that missing piece of our soul without knowing what we’re missing, Fill the hole with booze, drugs, sex, money, STUFF, and it will never be enough. (Oh man, could I go on and on and on)….

    THANK GODS I’M A PAGAN CHILD!!!!!!!!

  11. And this is, in fact, exactly Harris’s point. We all feel validated by our religion in some way. Me by my moon sonnets and fire-circle dancing, you by your spirit guide totem animal, just as some are influenced by the prophet and some by Jesus and some by Moses.

    But what happens when you take the more murderous inclinations of our prophets and totem animals, and project them upon the world using twenty-first century weapons and technology? what happens when you stop arguing that “faith does some good in the world because of these fluffy-bunny statements” and start arguing, “the infidel must die!”?

    Are there fundamentalist pagans? Probably. Are there fundamentalist Hindus, Jews, Christians, and Muslims? Assuredly. Do those groups hold most of the reins of power in the world today? Assuredly. Can they launch nuclear weapons? Maybe, maybe not. Are they inclined to violence to support the point of view of their religion? Apparently so.

    This is not an ideal situation.

  12. It’s just like I was remarking to my Spirit Guide Totem Animal the other day, “I’m so glad I have a sane religion to believe in.” And Coyote just nodded. Which was kinda surprising since usually he has some sarcastic or ironic point to make, but here he was in complete agreement with me.

    So I feel totally validated.
    Tom

  13. It’s just like I was remarking to my Spirit Guide Totem Animal the other day, “I’m so glad I have a sane religion to believe in.” And Coyote just nodded. Which was kinda surprising since usually he has some sarcastic or ironic point to make, but here he was in complete agreement with me.

    So I feel totally validated.
    Tom

    • And this is, in fact, exactly Harris’s point. We all feel validated by our religion in some way. Me by my moon sonnets and fire-circle dancing, you by your spirit guide totem animal, just as some are influenced by the prophet and some by Jesus and some by Moses.

      But what happens when you take the more murderous inclinations of our prophets and totem animals, and project them upon the world using twenty-first century weapons and technology? what happens when you stop arguing that “faith does some good in the world because of these fluffy-bunny statements” and start arguing, “the infidel must die!”?

      Are there fundamentalist pagans? Probably. Are there fundamentalist Hindus, Jews, Christians, and Muslims? Assuredly. Do those groups hold most of the reins of power in the world today? Assuredly. Can they launch nuclear weapons? Maybe, maybe not. Are they inclined to violence to support the point of view of their religion? Apparently so.

      This is not an ideal situation.

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