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?
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.