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Afternoon shadows, Monument Valley

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Gray Smoke

Guess its time for me to talk about politics and religion. If I can think of anything interesting regarding sex I will go there too. Hell, there's a lot of area we can cover.

First religion. WildBill followed DaisyDeadhead's link back to her site. We both had similar reservations about her blogpost "Atheism and (lack of) morality." Now Daisy is a wonderful person through and through. I have followed her for years. A more strident liberal than I am, she catapulted from being a mere blogger to the host of a popular left wing radio show Occupy the Microphone in her home turf of South Carolina, not exactly the easiest place for a liberal to do business. Really admire her.

Still Bill and I both had the same reservations about this piece which I reprint the beginning of until she tells me better:

Are atheists more moral than those of us who do not classify ourselves that way? I often think they are. Perhaps this is why they aren't unnerved about the long-term effects of atheism; they are doing fine, and they assume everyone else will, too.

The 'new atheists' are basically moral and well-behaved, so they don't realize that some of us are moral and well-behaved simply to keep from burning in hell for all eternity. 

If there was no God or no law or no karma, we would SETTLE SOME SCORES. 

I started thinking about this after participating on an atheist blog some years ago, when I was still identifying as Christian. I was struck by the fact that one of my serious questions was thought to be a joke, or at the least, a sarcastic rejoinder. It wasn't. I was dead serious. But the atheists didn't think I was serious, and that is what I found alarming: this means they do not understand what a serious matter it is.

Once again, I felt we were trying to communicate across a huge abyss. 

I asked, "What about the fact that believing there is a God, keeps lots of people from killing each other?"

HAHAHA, they all responded, virtually as one unit. Well, they sneered back, one can learn not to kill someone without God. They acted like it was a simple decision, not a seductive thought that one consciously wrestles with (as in Woody Allen's great movie Crimes and Misdemeanors); an act that you eventually logically decide is... not nice. And so, you don't do it. 

But why not, in that case? I asked what would be the deterrent, if there is no hell-fire? No bad karma and/or no punishment? Again, they sneered and thought I was joking or being a wise-ass. (It is also notable that they apparently assumed I was talking about someone else, i.e. The Bad People, rather than myself and other regular people like me.) 

I wasn't. I was being rational. Belief systems (various kinds) have kept a lot of us from going off on people and committing violence. If there is no divine retribution, no holy justice, no guarantee the evil will be punished... do you understand how dangerous such an idea is? 

Let me be very clear: Do the privileged understand that if the poor stop believing in God, they will no longer be safe? Are they ready for that world? Because I don't mind telling you, I'm not.

I have to strain a bit here to get Daisy's logic. We need a god so that poor people won't kill each other?  Honestly, I think that constructing a supernatural divine being for the purposes of social engineering/behavior modification is always a bad idea. Things like this should always first pass muster with the "what is" test. I like to pretend that I am Margaret Mead sitting on the moon looking back at earth with a telescope,"What are those critters up to now?" Xenu, Kolob, Krypton, Megiddo, if it sounds like the starseed or creation myth was just a bad piece of science fiction from whatever era, it probably is. Maybe we need a cultural anthropologist and psychotherapist?

Everyone is entitled to their favorite myth or legend, until it bruises the rest of our shins of course, but my god...I believe that Daisy once identified as a catholic, not that it is any of my business. I think that it is a very normal human habit to subconsciously return to the theological creed or tenet that you first imprinted with. Although I do not know that that is what she is doing or believes in, having never discussed matters of theology with her. Pure speculation for the sake of argument. But why do we have to believe that if there is "no holy justice or guarantee that evil will be punished," that the roof is going to cave in somehow? What inner drive fuels that sort of fervent desire? A need for some sort of understandable human order in the chaos?

Don't we risk our intellectual integrity when we invent religion because it is necessary to keep people on the up and up? The universe is too magical a place, it doesn't need any further ornamentation. We just need to get our shit together.

As hard as we may want something, it doesn't make it so. A difficult struggle between the rational mind and the sacred, I suppose.

Forbes quote of the day today -

“Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.” 
― Napoleon Bonaparte

You call it rain
But the human name
Doesn't mean shit to a tree

Eskimo Blue Day
Jefferson Airplane 

1 comment:

DaisyDeadhead said...

Good post, BH! I now regard myself as a Buddhist, and find that even with no belief in a creator-God, I tend to believe in karma or divine retribution. I can't quite shake the idea, and I realize it is because I *need* the idea. (I think MOST people do, I am just one of those people who admit it.)

My reasons for writing the post are to let the 'new atheists' know that this is something serious for those of us who believe it. It isn't a matter of whether the belief is good or true, the fact is that it guides us. THAT is what I want them to understand.

BH: But why do we have to believe that if there is "no holy justice or guarantee that evil will be punished," that the roof is going to cave in somehow?

We don't "have to"--we just do. For some (most?) of us, it is a default setting.

I am currently thinking that belief in gods (or supernatural stuff; theology in general) is genetic. Did such beliefs give us an evolutionary edge, as in taking care of the poorest among us and the sick? Nurturing optimism? Not stealing from each other (since God said not to) and therefore, strengthening the tribe? I think so. In which case, we might want to reconsider whether we want to summarily dump all religion over the side, just as we now have reconsidered the matter of gender-differences. It may be an intractable part of us, some of us more than others (as in gender differences).

The goal should therefore be to make the religion as benign and helpful as possible, and to eradicate the fundamentalist and/or negative elements. I don't think we can eliminate religion entirely.