This post is in response to On Science, Religion, and Nationalism
On the topic of (supernatural) religion and defending a society opposed to religion, I think that we are starting to have a disagreement on a fundamental issue, which is great.
Firstly, I just have to clarify a couple of things here. Are you really putting the story of Jesus turning water into wine on the same level on the historical event of Hirshima (or event the rough history of Columbus)? This seems very strange to me. The reason that I think this is so important to really call one a myth and one a historical event is that one of my biggest faiths is repeatability. Many boats existed at the time of Columbus (as did many written records). Many a-bombs have been fired off and filmed. There are still survivors of WW2 and Hiroshima. In STARK contrast, there has never been another event of turning water into wine (instantly/miraculously). Furthermore I would be hard pressed to believe that you would be willing to bet your life that these events are equally “mythical.”
The reason for separating myths from historical events is EXTREMELY important. So much so that I am beginning to think that history is the most important subject in building a society with a progressive actively philosophy. For this reason we must acknowledge the difference between actual events and mythical stories. Simply put, making positive change and progressing humanity requires that we do things that are possible.
Although it is possible to learn from and apply the lessons of myths, it must also be made extremely clear what we can and cannot change (Serenity Prayer). Myth is an essential component of human culture, but it can be dangerous. When people believe in the myth of heaven they are willing to put aside their responsibilities because they are “going to a better place.” By propagating a religion that claims scripture to be true, the lines between what we can change by actually doing something, and what we can change by waiting for God to change it becomes very blurry.
On the quote, “The Europeans justification for genocide found a hearth in their scientific superiority. This raises even more serious concerns…” Good point, but I think that when are more holistic view point of humanity and existence is taken this type of justification wouldn’t exist. In reality, a scientific superiority really means nothing and a progressive, active-philosophy (especially vs. religiously) based culture would readily acknowledge this.
On the quote, “The assumption is that scientific knowledge would take faith’s place.” I realize that science itself is on a fundamental level faith based. However, it (how I conceive it) is not trying to dictate the human spirit, rather it is a by product of the human spirit (like art and music). However, it is based on what seems have happened in the past, what seems to be happening here and now, and what can happen in the future. This is largely different than something that may have happened once.
You have another quote, which I am also confused (or even surprised) by. “Of course a virgin birth seems outrageously improbable but we openly believe many things which will seem equally absurd in fifty years.” I challenge you to name one thing that is equally absurd (and not repeatable) a virgin birth. To defend science, you can really on talk about modern science (post ~1600), which is married to active observation. For instance the earth being the center of the universe does not count.
Sure it is true that saying “I know” is faith based, but to actively believe that women can get pregnant without a sperm? Again, repeatability is key here. We can’t build a society on things that may have happened, we need to build it one what did happen, what is happening, and what can happen.
I would also argue that a secular rational society is not mutually exclusive with spiritual matters such as “living a good life” and “peace is worth the time.” In fact I would contend that is almost the stated goal of a secular rational society (of the type I envision).
On the quote, “At the same time something like reincarnation which when explained properly makes perfect sense.” Please explain this properly and have it make complete sense (I really don’t think you can). You’ll have to resort to things that are not repeatable and amount to conjecture. I think you are stretching this too far.
On the quote, ” I guess I am not on the same sociopolitical page as you here, “we see it in the so-called separation of church and state within the schools, bleeding nationalist and capitalist propaganda and scientific knowledge together into one clean unquestioned forum.” This is outside of this post, but I am beginning to think that nationalism is the single most damaging thing to the human spirit.
I also highly disagree with the statement, “Ultimately all of our knowledge relies on faith… and a thorough and honest evaluation of faith and the subjective certainty of our knowledge renders the distinction between religious and secular faith trivial.” Faith is a dynamic thing that gets developed and changes. It does not just exist a priori, in fact it is a skill/tool we develop as we age. To easily distinguish the two, I would simply say, “I don’t have faith in God, because he it does not happen everyday, but I do have faith that when is sit in this chair it will hold me up, because it does happen every day, and I’d be willing to bet my life that if I try it again in five minutes it will hold me up again.”
And this really is my point.
You might say the chair holding me up is God. I would agree as long as we had a very important discussion of what is meant by God. On one had you could be talking about a man in the sky that watches everything that you do (religious faith), while on the other hand (which I think we more or less agree on) you could be talking about the one constant in life; we are part of a greater construct (secular faith). These are vastly different ideas.
The next quote is where I really start to lose you:
“What I always say is that it makes more sense to study God which actually might have corporeal substance (even better constitute the essence of all corporeal substance) and therefore exist, and not merely conceptually; compared to studying America which certainly does not exist and is merely a concept perpetuated by the thoughts of man. Which is the more absurd attachment?”
The important distinction is that there is God cannot simultaneously exist within the construct and be the construct. Religion asserts that not only is God the construct, but it is also a physical realization within the construct. What I am really trying to say is that either everything is God or nothing is God. And if everything is God, then God is the construct and not a piece or component of the construct. As soon as you start saying that God can manifest as an entity within the construct you essentially saying that, “angels might swoop in and instantly rid the world of AIDS.”
This is a tangible realization of America that has existed, exists, and will continue to exists, unlike the “might have corpeal substance… and therefore exist.” Therefore America is not merely a “concept perpetuated by the thoughts of man,” but rather a reality of life that man has constructed for himself. In fact in it is harsh a damaging reality that causes us to “go nuts” when Brittney Spears little sis’ gets pregnant (and certainly not by immaculate conception), but not give a shit when millions of children are starving around the globe (as a direct result of our protection within our border). Although, America (and all nations) are in effect ‘make believe’ they are really are not ‘make believe’ like a white-bearded man in the clouds, because somewhere right now there are some people trying to cross that border and nothing could be more real to them right now.
On some level I think that you are somewhat missing the point of what I was trying to say by the post. In reality spirituality, seeking to maximize the essence of the human spirit, is absolutely essentially to optimizing the world we live in. However, I cannot not see how actually believing (using up your valuable faith) on things that have never happened, do not happen, and won’t happen (i.e. bullshit from scripture) is helpful.
For me this lack of belief (use of faith) on the supernatural absolutely essential to developing an active philosophy on which to base my life. I must acknowledge my role and place in the greater construct, while ignoring the things that don’t appear within this construct such as physical god, virgin births, miracles, etc. This leaves plenty of room for the short comings of science and rational thought, but at the same time forces us to base our reality off of what is happening.
I don’t contend the religion or the belief in it is evil, or that if there was no religion, there would be no evil. This, again, is because humans do evil things not the supernatural (humans also do good things, and the supernatural doesn’t). Good (Evil) is not imposed from the outside, and (un)fortunately it is part of human culture as well.
The goal for me is to build a global understanding of what are world actually is: from abstract paintings to physics, from being abstinent until marriage to getting laid as much as possible, from helping an old lady across the street to completely fucking a good friend over for you own benefit, from being rich as fuck and buying another yacht to being poor as fuck and giving you last piece of bread to a complete stranger who seems just a bit poorer than you, from having no fucking clue to being absolutely certain, from living a stable regular lifestyle for 85 years to partying like a rockstar and dying young.
Once an understanding (or at least an attempt to building this understanding) we can, as single, united human culture using the faculties available to us to maximize our existence. Finally, I do agree that compromise is key… and to use a little bit of history, the best way to change things is to build upon what already exists so that we can exploit, “ritual, tradition, and familiarity.” This is similar to the Spanairds convincing the Mayans that their religion was actually Christianity by using symbols in the of the Mayan religion and tying them to Christian tenets. Look how Catholic Mexicans are today. Hey if it works… use it!
In a certain sense I agree that people believing in virgin births is not the actual problem, but rather the crushing waves of institutions… namely nationalism and classism. However, I think it is absolutely essential that view points be built from the natural and not supernatural, because we can at least attempt to control these forces (i.e. it’s better to go to school than church).
Viva la Humanists!