This post is in response to a comment made by – Being June – a very thoughtful, articulate person; whose views, though I don’t at all agree with, are very well put, and kindly expressed, about religion. She’s been willing enough to engage in a conversation with a lunatic (sorry to steal your title, Loony, the original loony) and so, on account of my unfiltered verbosity, here are my thoughts on the matter in the form of a post.
Note: nothing written here is intended to read with condescension or pretension. These are simply my own views, and mine only. Also, I take these views with humour because I simply don’t take religion seriously – here’s why – and so, treat it in the same regard I treat my morning breakfast, with an air of total indifference.
Here it is
The best place to end an open dialogue is when two views diverge, seemingly beyond consolation? Never! At least not with someone so willing for an open dialogue, and disinclined to petty attacks!
A difference of view is, I think, reason that discussion should be carried on. And, well, I don’t have any touchy subjects that I willingly try to avoid – I’ve already been to hell, figuratively, and don’t hide anything consciously – so again, and given my distorted, highly resilient view of this world, I’ve not meant to touch on any soft spots intentionally; I just don’t any more know what a soft spot is, unless, of course, it is specifically personal. Ideas at large about religion, I don’t see as personal, unless explicitly told so. So here we are.
First issue: the bible.
My issue with the bible isn’t that it’s old. You’re very right in that “truth” (whatever truth can be said to mean) is truth regardless of when it was documented. The Tao Te Ching is a “biblical” sort of poem, written, from memory, a long, long while before even the bible came to life, and it’s a something that I think rings truer now than ever. My issue with the bible, aside from all the content I already know I don’t at all agree with – and I don’t think you need to read an entire book to know that there are certain elements of it that you think are stupid (I don’t see how submissive is any better than subordinate? And the homosexuality stuff, well, it’s emotionally charged, which is exactly why it shouldn’t be avoided) – is that, if it’s said to be divine, as it is, then that’s the end of discussion. There leaves no room for interpretation. And, well, that’s absurd, because in order to understand it to begin with, you need interpretation. And here begins the problem: is it totally allegorical, or literal? When is it to be interpreted allegorically and when is it to be interpreted literally? Why? Who says? There’s no general consensus on this, so how do we know? And, there are many, many, many – countless – “divine” scriptures. Which one’s the right one? Who’s lying? Why should we believe that this was inspired by divinity? Am I going to hell if I was born in Morocco and worship Allah instead of Jesus? Whose hell? What if I’m on the fence? … Hell? What if I only believe in order to avoid hell? Does insincere belief = hell? Was the divine conception a case of the laws of the world being temporarily suspended to demonstrate divine intervention, or rather, a woman lying to avoid being, well, stoned? What’s more likely?
As for free will: our perception that we have free will is just as important as whether or not free will actually exists. Ultimately, from my research, and experience, I don’t think we do have free will, though, I do think that our perceiving so is, like you said, important. Reality’s a perception, that’s all. Just cause I perceive that I have free will, it doesn’t make it so. Just because it may not be so, doesn’t mean that I don’t perceive it to be so. We’re human, and that’s how we operate, with a perceived freedom of will. And further, the free will argument in God’s favour indelibly negates God’s power. If He is indeed omnipotent and omniscient, then automatically he has control over our “free will.” If our will was truly free, then he’s not omnipotent or omniscient. And if he was just like, fuck it, you guys do whatever you like, I’m out. Then, well, that seems to make God a sadist, or, simply, not that creative. No, he’s a loving Father, waiting for his children to find the right path on their own accord? … If I knew exactly what the right path was, I’d not wait for my kid to find this path on his own. I’d take him there myself. And yes, I’m sure that there are countless other reasons that God may have chosen to give us free will – not being God, I wouldn’t know what they are – though, I’ve yet to find one line of logic to be convincing. And, if I did find it convincing, it wouldn’t prove anything other than it’s a respectable line of logic.
Higher power: the earth is, in my mind, a higher power than me. The sense I use the word “higher power” is simply indicative of a power beyond me. Loosely, it’s in the same vain that a lion is a “higher power” than a house cat. I quite like the Einsteinian conception of God, which is merely the laws of cosmic energy, united: basically, the root forces driving our cosmos’s progression (a higher power, if you will). And, re the whole keeping my options open (to pick and choose a religion at my leisure); that’s not the case at all. I read theological doctrines in the same way I read Dickens or Shakespeare – as stories, good or bad, that may, or may not, contain some underlying significance re the human spirit (spirit meaning human nature) that I could maybe learn from. I’m not a biblical bachelor, just a curious crazy. And my idea of “spirituality” is vaguely written on here. Ultimately, it’s based on the premise that we are all, in essence, composed of the same matter. And so, united. And so, we should act like it.
And yes, if everything is divinely inspired then nothing is divinely inspired. Or, as I prefer to see it, and to paraphrase Einstein (unless this is a bullshit quote) “there are two ways to live life: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle”. It’s a matter of perspective in my eyes, which doesn’t change the reality of anything. I’m manic depressive: mania = divine; depression = not divine. Ideas of divinity are determined on a daily basis, in my mind.
Re, brush with death: I’m no authority on the subject, not at all; just stating what I’ve read about/experienced myself. And, well, my point was: where does one draw the line at delusion or truth? Not to infer personal experience is entirely delusional, I mean, it’s all we have to rely on, simply wanted to make a point that subjective experience can often be delusional. I know someone with schizophrenia. Thinks that tidal waves destructing certain parts of the earth are God’s work because of all the corruption in the world. Really believes this. Dreams tell him it’s true. Voices tell him it’s true. No one else can see these voices. Delusional? Or just a spirit talking to him? Where does one draw the line to say that this is merely crazy talk? It’s very hard to discount personal experience, but it’s even harder to prove it outwardly. And, like I said, if it’s comforting for someone, then so be it. I’m just not so sure why one’s own experience should be a point of debate, unless it’s backed up with some form of logic, whatever logic is supposed to entail.
Oh, and re ten commandments, I’m not sold. Honour thy father and mother … what if they’ve raped, tortured, and abused you from birth? Don’t kill? Hitler? Can we kill killers? Killing in self-defence? Is that okay? What about mass genocide? That seems fine by biblical standards. So does slavery, permissive, in loose fact. Don’t steal? … take from rich give to poor? No adultery? What if you’re in an open relationship? Don’t take lord’s name in vain? This one really gets me. Why would a figure of divinity give the slightest of shits if someone used his name in vain? And who decides this? Is it literal, as in, is it dependent on the actual words of someone? Or their intent? ‘Fucking god could = God’s creating. Fucking, literally means having sex, creating. It’s use, as an offensive word, was not always so implied. It’s ambiguous and grey. I am thy Lord. Well, okay, if you say so? I’ll just go on and believe you, nomadic desert wanderer? Did Jesus even outwardly say he was God? Or was it implied? And, commandments seems arrogant – “I command you.” Well, sure, you can command whatever you like. I make commandments to: “Wash the dishes, woman!” If woman is servile (submissive) to man, shouldn’t that be fine? Encouraged, even?
Ultimately, I get that religiosity must stem from faith, or personal experience, because it simply can’t stem from reasoning, and that’s fine. Though, it means then, there’s no use at all trying to impose Jesus on anyone, as Jesus must be experienced internally. Missionaries, by equation – useless. Spread the word? What word!? It’s subjective experience that reveals this truth to me; your “biblical word” is thus pointless. No? Gotta spread the word to let other people have their own experience? Do God’s work? Hmm. If I watch a horror movie, and that night I have a dream about an axe wielding maniac killing me … is this a prophecy? Or just a case of my memory making up stories based on what I’ve seen during the day? Same deal. Expose to someone the ideas of Jesus – an infinite, loving, all pervasive, sometimes a little agressive, fear inducing, very judgmental character – then, by equation, that person’s going to have a helluva personal experience.
Unlike a lot of other atheists (I do loathe that title … I’m not an a-Toothfairy), I don’t think that if you’re religious, you’re by equation, an idiot. There have been, and indeed are, a lot of rather brilliant religious people. I don’t think religiosity is a mark of anything other than a willingness to accept something that’s rooted in faith, and little more. I simply find it difficult to envision how or why humans, so rich in intellect, so rich in reasoning, so rich in “spirit,” would necessarily limit their selves – their thoughts, emotions, instincts, and whatever else – so credulously, and so faithfully.
The truth will, indeed, set you free (kinda).