Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Wholly Unholy

I've seen, somewhere, the Koran described as a copy of a copy of a bad original. Indeed, there are several references to the Bible within the Koran. And of course the entirety of the Bible is an extension of the Pentateuch. And the Pentateuch is crammed full of archaic fables, superstition and mythology. The "miracle" of the fulfilment of a savior - Jesus, and hence Christianity - is derived from one tiny passage from this mythology. This, of course, is just another in the thread of superstitious teachings within all the pages of these "holy books".

So, if the Pentateuch is wrong, doesn't that make the Bible wrong? And if the Bible is wrong, doesn't that make the Koran wrong? And if these are wrong, doesn't that make all related and supporting texts wrong as well? To my simplistic way of thinking, this concept is the "black hole" of all the revealed religions. Once you get the facts nearby, the unstoppable force of the black hole will unwaveringly draw them in faster and faster, extruding the truth for all to see - if you choose to see.

This all started with a blip I heard on the radio of a "believer" touting "facts" from the Bible where it is proposed that people used to live extremely long lives - even eight or nine hundred years. What fantasy! What kind of person really believes this stuff? There is absolutely no scientific evidence that anyone ever lived to that age. No paleontological/archaeological record of this whatsoever. Well, what do you know ... it was God who decided, at some point early in Genesis, we shall only live to about 120 years. But I sure wish we could find just one or two of those skeletal remains that lived 900 years. I'd even take 300 years old, but it will never happen, because it never actually happened.

Not much is reported of this Bible errancy. But along with conflicting stories, dragons,  satyrs, unicorns, a man living in a fish for days, reports of God killing millions of people, etc ... what in the world does it take for people NOT to believe these books?! Seriously.

One Deist Φ


Joel said...

You know enough to think you know what you are talking about, but in reality, you don't know what you are talking about. A little learning is a dangerous thing.

OneDeist said...

Joel? Everything OK?

There is a lot to be said for education. I've had a fair bit. People spend their lives studying - and debating - theological subjects such as the Bible. I think there is even more to be said of wisdom and common sense.

You're usually not so curt. Is there something skewed - or completely egregious - in my post?

One Deist Φ

Joel said...

Sorry for the short tone. I wrote that early this morning, and I thought your post was on a blog by someone else with a tendency to say that sort of thing a lot. A LOT. It is a blog I just needs to take off my reader.

But the issue of revealed religion is one I've been debating and discussing not only with Deists lately, but also with the more militant neo-Atheists who look to Dawkins and Hitchens for answers.

Frankly, here's where I've come to. God may or may not exist. If Deism speaks rightly of God, then its implications are no different than atheism. A God who is removed from the scene might as well not exist. But empirically, we just can't know whether or not God exists. Sure, if we subscribe to some sort of Cartesian dualism, we can reasonably construct a Deity in our minds. But I can construct a lot of things that seem reasonable, but if I can't empirically verify any of them, they probably don't exist.

So if truth is on the difficult-to-impossible side of the spectrum, I'll take benevolent pragmatism. I work as an administrator for a non-profit, and a lot of the people who work here do amazing stuff because they are Christians or some other religious persuasion. If that religious framework that believes in the God of revelatory monotheism was taken away from them, I doubt they'd do the same good things. If they are wrong (and they probably are), I'd rather keep them in error and doing the things they are doing to help children from low-income families.

The longer I think through these issues, religion, in just about any form, is about the dumbest thing I've seen. But I fear that taking it out of the world would remove a lot more of the good than the bad. An acquaintance wouldn't have adopted a little girl from Ethiopia, a co-worker wouldn't have started a canned food drive here at work, the midwives taking care of my wife's pregnancy wouldn't do what they do, and I wouldn't have a co-worker buy my lunch on the days I forgot to pack it.

What they believe is foolish. But now I see that Nietzsche was right: reason is a serpent that eats its own tail. Even though I couldn't go back to it, I envy their foolishness, and I'd rather have the foolishness that produces good than the truth that doesn't. So I wish Deists would lay off of revealed religion. It is an easy target in our culture.

OneDeist said...

Thank you, Joel.

Ironically, I was going to specifically mention in this post that I don't really savor "religion bashing." It's something I try to avoid in my daily life, save for counter discussions with anyone who would assert their religious beliefs on me. I'd much rather write about the positive aspects of, and my passion for, Deism. But of course if you are trying to dissuade others from their beliefs, at some point you have to describe why there is error in their belief.

And perhaps this is debatable too, but I'm not so certain your angle on "giving" is quite accurate. After all, aren't you, with your relatively ambiguous beliefs [my words, not yours], working for a non-profit too? Do you feel less inclined to give because of your lack of activity with Christianity? Would you not buy someone lunch if they were hungry and forgot theirs at home? I've also read that many atheists have very strong moral compasses. I think generally people give because there is need. And I think people would give just as much - maybe even more - if their church wasn't telling them that they had to do so. I believe it is part of the human condition to give. Giving completes us.

The punch line: I don't think being a protagonist for religion, even though it does some good things, is justified. The ends do not justify the means ... a lie is still a lie. I'm absolutely not someone who would want to burn all the Bibles and churches, but I would like to empower humanity with truth and Reason.

One Deist Φ

Mike said...

Hi Joel

You make some interesting points wich I'd like to address.

Firstly you sate that if the Deism is right and a God does exist the implications are no different from atheism. If by that you mean we don't have images & Icons of Saints and relics to venerate, we don't have arcane rituals to observe and we dont have mystical & thological connundrums or outdated superstitions to distract our minds then yes your quite right were no different from atheists.

We do differ from atheists in every other respect however, as a Classical Deist I not only believe in God but I accept that he created the world, it didn't just happen, the Big-Bang had a cause and evolution has a direction. I also believe in morality, judgement and the afterlife. These have scientific implications that set us apart from materialistic atheism.

As far as revealed religion while being false are useful, I've no doubt there are many well meaning and vituous members of revealed religions. I do however think that the morality of any revealed religion serves only to increase it's membership.

The Christian Church and Buddhist religion made many converts because of their teaching of forgiveness and compassion respectively. Whilst forgiveness and compassion are good things in themselves, I think these doctrines are however quite malicious when applied the way they are, in terms of religious affiliation. Mankind has the forgiveness of God unconditionally and dosn't need to join a church or undergo an arcane ritual to obtain it.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of the blessedness of poverty has meant many Catholic societies are left in poverty instead of being empowered to create wealth. Conversely the Protestant work ethic, tied in with it's doctrine of election, leads to the oppression of the poor.

In the final analysis revealed religions serve their own ends, instead of God, Man and Nature.

Kind regards


oneblood said...

The reason people believe in anything is varied. Your logical deduction about religious claims is sound, but not your deduction about religious people.

As Mike said above, religions teach ameliorating beliefs, and these beliefs are fundamentally powerful, food for the soul if you will. They are in their own right logical but not seen as such.

I can deduce that you have some incorrect beliefs simply because you are human. But this doesn't invalidate your reasonable understanding of x, y, or z even if you hold on to these incorrect beliefs for many years.

Heidegger was right about thrown-ness. I think this easily applies to understanding as well.