25 November, 2005

A Round Up Of Rocking Your Face Off.

Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame explains strong atheism as an ideology. It is quite funky. The only point I don't cuddle up to with a licentious gentleness not seen enough on this Earth is that there's any need to actively believe God does not exist to enjoy reality. It is enough for me to recognise that He cannot in any foreseeable future be suggested to exist by empirical experimentation. I think some models of God could in principle exist, but pending the downfall of science as a useful methodology, using Him as an explanation for a natural phenomena is an added and untestable hypothesis; a hindrance to understanding clung to for ideological reasons. Anyone therefore using Him as a justification for any action worries me somewhat, that they must respond to the outside world by relying on a persona which they or others have almost certainly made up.

The universe is a remarkable and glorious thing, and there are people who are good, kind, reasonable and intelligent. Understanding why people act kindly; the rationale behind their behaviour, can make their actions all the more wonderful, allows us to understand how and why they are good, allowing them to serve as an inspiration. Understanding the world and its horrendously complex intricacies only makes it all the more wondrous and fascinating. For instance
male giant squid mate by impaling the tentacles of females and injecting them - and often, in their frenzy, themselves and other males - with packets of semen. Science!

There are bad parts to the world, too, and I think it is most appropriate to begin to deal with those parts with understanding them to the best degree that mankind can. It is certainly preferable to the alternatives, such as hiding from them or assigning to them mystical, ineffable properties.

The Raving Atheist brings us news of the insidious hatred within a faith-based charity. If people use their religion in order to serve the greater good of humanity, then all the more power to them, though I wish people were able to acknowledge that they simply enjoy helping others. Events like these serve as a reminder that religion, even in a form often associated with the alleviation of suffering for the downtrodden, can always serve as a vehicle for prejudice. Religious people are still people, after all.

I get the impression that this opening of a gate between Egypt and Palestine marks something joyful for Palestinians and Israelis, but am delightfully ignorant about the whole mess. I've been loosely following the Israel-Palestinian conflict for a while, but remain completely baffled and overwhelmed by the duelling political stances of journalists and pundits.

Have I mentioned how much I love Sadly, No!? Deutschland uber alles!

Lastly, I would like to take the time to remind certain idiots that Christmas was made a federal holiday in 1870, precisely because the founding fathers were entirely in favour of the vile antiChristian nonsense that is wishing other people a happy holiday. Bill O'Reilly is anti-American.

(Thanks to The Evangelical Atheist for Penn's ridiculously good article, and Sadly, No!, for sharing Kaye Grogan with the world.)

-The Rev. Schmitt.


Sarah said...

What my history professor said when he lectured about the first Great Awakening was that religion was kind of concerned with propriety. Religion teaches the people how to act, manners and such, in a way that is beneficial to the colonies and society in general. And then the Great Awakening happened and religion was about piety, the total surrender of life, in essence, to the Lord.

Now, I used to be a Christian before I became an ambivalent, and I would say that religion as propriety is not a bad thing. Church taught me how to sit still and listen at a young age, how to sing, and some social skills. Ole! Then I went to a more pious church and that's when I started having problems with it. Especially with the people paying lip service to the ideals of Jesus' teachings on love, while they support all this shit that runs counter to it, bashing gays, supporting the death penalty, and the like.

This isn't fully relevant to your post, but it was fun.

The Reverend Schmitt., FCD. said...

I'd say your comment is pursuant to one of my points, and definitely is fun.

My response is that I think there's a large problem with religion-as-priopriety, and you touch upon one of my main problems in your post.

There is a horrendous amount of nuance involved in considering ethics, and no religious text - however comprehensive - will be able to cover all of the caveats to particular axioms. It takes a community of people to adapt religious teachings to a given culture, its knowledge, and its practises. These communities will select which teachings to emphasise, how to interpret them in a given social context and with the filter of contemporary understanding. They will also, of course, choose how to enforce these rulings. And this is done with a backdrop of dogmatism - people within the community are going to strongly resist change, object to any new ideas being introduced to religion, as most religions establish themselves as being based on inerrancy and Truth.

And this is before you get to the problems of nonbelievers and those who intentionally seek to adopt religious practises for self aggrandisement, or in order to insinuate their own ideology.

Which isn't to say that religious people can't be good - I would suggest that the vast majority certainly are. Just that I wish they'd find or admit to have better reasoning for the way they behave.

-The Rev. Schmitt.