Hope or faith

May 23, 2010

Ever since those desert bronze-age peoples invented the notion that eternal life is a reward for exemplary moral conduct or just for following a weird tradition, life on Earth has been hell. As if that weren’t enough, they preach that moral rectitude can only come from faith (????) and therefoooore faith in God is the greatest good anyone could aspire to.

When talking to believers, every time I say that faith is no more than an excuse to get some people together so they can laugh with friends, flirt safely, promote their prejudices, check the progress of the lucky ones and have a barbecue, I get to hear a sermon that usually starts with “That’s absurd! Faith in God is the only reason I get up in the morning. It’s what drives me on!” If I object that what actually drives them on is their gregarious instinct, their need for community, I then hear something like “You’re mistaken. Faith is our greatest gift. Without faith, there’s no meaning to life.” or words to that effect.

I don’t usually meddle with armed people. But when I meet someone with a crack in their brain, the sort who will “pray” for my soul, I tell them a little parable to demonstrate that no believer would give a second thought to faith if it prevented them from living in a community. I tell them this:

Imagine you’re face to face with your God on the day of the last judgement. He looks you up and down, and then thunders:

God: Congratulations, My son. Thou wert an exemplary jew/christian/muslim and art now in Heaven with Me.
You: Oh how wonderful, my miraculous merciful God!
G: Yes, now thou shalt live eternally by My side and shalt enjoy My infinite divine blessings.
Y: Oh grandiose gracious God. I’ll sing your praises for ever more!
G: Excellent, that is what I like.
Y: What a magnificent marvel Paradise is!
G: Oh, hast thou noticed? Thank you, thank you.
Y: Sublime sovereign of the Universe!
G: Hohoho…
Y: I can hardly wait to see my mom and dad again. I miss them so much.
G: Er… No no. They are not here.
Y: Pardon?
G: I only saved thee.
Y: Weren’t my parents saved?
G: Mmnnnope… They fell short.
Y: Oh, how sad…
G: Mm.
Y: Erm… Where are they?
G: In Hell.
Y: Aaaarrrrghh…!!!
Y: Well… My rejoicing at being with you is far greater than any pain, however atrocious. What about my uncles and aunts?
G: In Hell as well.
Y: Even Aunt Hazel, so chaste and faithful?
G: Yeah. I did not save her either.
Y: Not even her?
G: Nnno. Only thou wert saved.
G: Neither.
Y: Mike…?
G: Naaah…
Y: Jennifer…?
G: Hell.
Y: Oh no!!!… That’s impossible!!… Even Jennifer…?
G: She married an atheist. Thought about sex all the time.
Y: ¡¡NOOO!!
G: Yep.
Y: Well, at least someone from my sinagogue/church/mosque…?
G: No one. Only thou wert left.
Y: Wow…
G: Thou seest now how things are. How they were.
Y: Jesus! I’ll take some time to get used to this.
G: Well, in eternity, everything will eventually be ok.
Y: What about Father Gregory, from that little church?
G: Hell. Only thou hast remained.
Y: Rabbi Metzger? The ayatollah Khomeini?
G: No way.
Y: Well, at least I’ll have the company of saints, like… er… St Francis…
G: Nah nah… He could not take his thoughts off food.
Y: St Benedict…
G: Hell. Most impure thoughts.
Y: Well, I had them too.
G: Yes, but thou repentedst in time.
Y: St Agnes…?
G: She doubted me at the last minute.
Y: Oh. … Pope John XXIII?
G: Envy.
Y: Maimonides?
G: Incest.
Y: Abraham? Don’t tell me he…
G: People would embellish everything.
Y: Mohammed?
G: He complained a lot, but it was useless.
Y: Wow…
G: Has the coin dropped at last? In all the history of humanity, THOU art the only person worthy of coming into My kingdom: only thou hast been saved.
Y: But the probability for that to happen is infinitely small!!!
G: What dost thou know? It was I who invented probability.
Y: But but… And the little children, oh my most merciful God? Surely those who died in their infancy…
G: Hopeless. I reincarnated all of them, and they all got lost.
Y: Oh, how painful. This is so different from how I was told it was going to be. It was so nice at the temple, with my family and friends… I thought we would just go on being together here. Erm… Couldn’t you create a little wee loophole in divine law, so Paradise gets a little more er… populated?
G: What is done is done. And My law is inerrant.
Y: And your divine love, oh my God? Why would you destroy those whom you love?
G: My love has been and will be infinite for all whom I did create.
Y: So?!
G: So what?
Y: What of your divine pardon?
G: I have pardoned all. But pardon does not cancel accountability.
Y: Do you mean… you mean that from all of humanity’s history, only **I** will enjoy eternal life with you – without my parents and brothers and sisters and children, without my friends or saints or believers, with no company at all, only me, just me alone here for eternity?
G: Yes, thou hast deserved it.
G: Come on. Do not fret. We shall have a lot of fun, thee and Me. We have all of eternity ahead of us. There is so much to talk about. For instance, didst thou know that I am not only infinite and eternal, but also incalculable?
Y: Uh. Mm.
G: Wilt thou not praise Me?
Y: Aah. … Oh incalculable incandescence!
G: There. Is this not fun?
Y: Erm… Yep.
G: mmMMM?
Y: Yes, yes, this is so much fun, oh divine divertedness.
G: And I am also…
(continues eternally)

Actually, I never get to tell the whole parable. Halfway through, I start getting the God-would-never-do-that response. Believers will NEVER accept either that their God might do just that as anything else and, most tellingly, that Heaven CANNOT be a boring place, that it’s GOT to have entertainment value somehow. Believers can forgive the most outrageous acts from God, as long as he’s entertaining. The notion of a tedious God is the ultimate abomination, even on Earth. No boring religion ever survives. Monotony is an unpardonable sin.

the radical agnostic (2)

April 19, 2010

Radical agnostics have a hard time accepting that the words “believe in God” have any meaning whatsoever.

Is there a God?
believer: Yes.
atheist: No.
agnostic: I don’t know.
radical agnostic: …?!?!?

Here’s a typical exchange between a meddler and a radical agnostic:

M: Is there a God?
RA: …?!?
M: So you don’t believe in God.
RA: …?!?!?
M: Well, are you a believer or an unbeliever?
RA: …?!?!?!?

To the RA’s ears, the “dialogue” sounds like this:

M: Vbzntglfng mnhfns?
RA: What? Uh?
M: So you don’t blmpqrkgn in vnzlms.
RA: Huh? What? Eh?
M: Well, are you fngzbljnmkpxs or xzbvfnglrtspfkgl?
RA: Come again? Well what? Eh? Wh…?

Radical agnostics are probably human specimens with a beneficial mutation in brain chemistry.

Throughout any debate, you can notice this: all you need to do to be heard is to make your words into a story.

Isn’t it interesting that everyone shuts up when a story is being told? Why do people interrupt someone in the middle of a proposition but very seldom in the middle of a story? Religions are successful not because they are logical structures, but because they are made up of stories. All animals stand still and stare as a story is unfolding before their eyes. We’re no exception.

isaiah 40:22

March 3, 2009

It’s pretty clear to me that Isaiah meant a flat circle. But I see the evidence in the phrases ‘SIT upon the circle’, ‘STRETCH out the Heavens’ and ‘SPREAD them out as a TENT’. Is it plausible that he visualized those images while thinking of a spherical planet? Of course not. His Earth was as flat as the floor of a tent.

And worse: if the Bible had been inspired by an omniscient being, one would presume he would have a better sense of style rather than coming up with such sloppy metaphors for a spherical Earth.

If the Earth WERE flat, apologists would use ‘circle’ as proof that the Bible knew all about it from the start. That’s what *apologists* DO.

It’s high time those desert religions stopped pestering the rest of the world. Give me the Greeks any day.

the radical agnostic

April 9, 2008

If there is any peril in having a reality-based outlook at a time when religion seems to be on a lot of people’s minds, I think it comes from those who have yet to learn the main lesson of the 20th century: diversity and nature are more important than personal conviction.

I call myself a ‘radical agnostic’.

A radical agnostic couldn’t care less about questions of providence, creation and the existence of God. However, the radical agnostic is bold enough to admit that after all there just miiiiight be a God who’ll ultimately round up all ‘reality-based’ outlookers and send them packing down to Hell.

The existence or inexistence of God, the transcendence or non-transcendence of dogmas, the need or non-need of tradition are questions that don’t make a jot of difference, cosmically speaking: our ignorance is so mind-bogglingly vast, and the possibility of finally bridging it so utterly remote, that both believing and disbelieving seem like acts of arrogance and presumption.

Indeed, religious beliefs get special help from arrogance and presumption. The radical agnostic sometimes suspects that “I believe” actually means “I want”:

“I want in God (to live well, not to suffer, to go to heaven, to live eternally, my enemies to suffer, &c).”

… and it’s no wonder that all religions seek to deny the very thing that promotes them: while their survival and growth depends mainly on family and ethnic ties more than on any inherent truth or strength in their dogmas, they at the same time try to cynically sustain that ‘believing’ is an expression of selflessness capable of helping to congregate white and black, rich and poor in a common ideal. Hmm. And you’d better start believing now, or else…!

Yes. Ironically, the message spread by gospels of all religions is, “believe, or else your soul won’t be able to reap the fruits desired by your animality,” fruits such as happiness, pleasure, memory and relief from pain. Forget spiritual rewards: belief is the hope you’ll get your animal urges satiated.

Atheists, of course, get their fair share of arrogance & presumption. Saying things like “I know there is no god.” has the same logical & presumption status as “I know what’s happening in Alpha Centauri right now.”

I may sound like I’m against anybody who’s not a radical agnostic. But I think diversity of nature is the key concept here. In spite of all I’ve said, I think humanity may slowly come to recognise that different people believe different things simply because they are differently constituted; therefore, arguing endlessly about what’s true or logical or believable will be seen in a more benevolent light for what it is: just a harmless pastime. Nobody knows anything, and humans will have to evolve into something greater than human before anything new is actually learnt.

I stand by my epigraph, always: “You’ll never get any further than plausible.”