Monthly Archives: July 2013
I like debate, I enjoy discussion, but in any debate on theology you’ll eventually come across some variation of “ No one really knows, and what does it matter anyway?” I find this particular point of view irritating and in need of a comprehensive answer, so here is my answer.
It matters because what we have here are two diametrically opposed systems of thought, both of which deal with the most important questions of human reality, and only one of which can be correct. The first system is one based on reasoned careful study of secular data such as history, physics, geology, paleontology and a host of other scientific disciplines which are themselves based on carefully gathered factual information which can be tested, proved or disproved and reproduced at will. This system tells us that the creation of the universe, our race, and all other species was a slow process of trial and error over trillions of years which ultimately culminated in a set of circumstances just right for our development and growth as a species.
The second system is based on a few texts written in an age when superstition supernaturalism and mysticism were rampant on the earth. This system requires that its adherents accept its teachings and principles absolutely, without the benefit of demonstrable facts, or evidence. It values obedience over exploration, acceptance of doctrine over critical reasoning and has throughout history taken the view that all truth comes from itself and no other source. It is a system committed to the suppression of facts which don’t conform to its stated truths. This system has, throughout human history suppressed, persecuted, and even murdered those who have proven, with hard evidence, the fact that their doctrines are incorrect.
If that weren’t enough, there is more than one variation of the second system. Each one absolutely is certain that it is the “one true faith” and so these various faiths war against each other as well as against the secular system. Often these are symbolic wars such as the war against contraception or the war against medical intervention, but just as often these conflicts are literal wars. Whether literal or symbolic the cost of these wars in both material and Human lives is shockingly, sickeningly high.
Why does it matter? Because in an age where we control weapons capable of demolishing whole cities, when we can control viruses of such lethality that they can kill tens of millions in a matter of days, we can not afford to look at the world through any lens but that of hard, proven fact. We cannot afford to have an electorate who believes that the prophesized end of days is close at hand and welcomes it. We cannot afford to have leaders who believe that their god is on their side and so they can do no wrong. In an age when our understanding of ourselves, our world, and the universe has reached heights undreamed of by any age before us we are beginning to have the ability to truly understand the miraculous scope and depth of the wonders of reality. Through our telescopes and microscopes we have the ability to witness wonders and truths which should relegate the posturing gods of the old books to insignificance. But rather than this being the case what we have is a world of religious moderates who are quick to distance themselves from the distasteful parts of their own literature, to separate themselves from the “radical” practitioners of their faiths (who more often than not are doing no more than holding true to a literal reading of those same texts) and instead what was once literal fact is transmuted into metaphor meant to be interpreted. “ Ok so we were wrong about that, but the rest is absolutely true.” or “ You can’t take it literally, it’s meant to be interpreted” become the common refrains of these moderates who hold to their beliefs more out of tradition or apathy than any real faith.
Why does it matter? Because followers of this second system demand the right to have their faith held up in our institutions of learning along side subjects such as math and science, as though they share a level of truth or value. Because whole generations of children are raised to believe that faith is more important than evidence, that if your faith and your reason come into conflict it is your reason that is at fault, that morality comes from faith and without faith there would be no morality. Ignored is the fact that many of the most heinous offences against morality in human history can be traced directly back to faith of one type or another.
Why does it matter? Because we have been ruled by fear and superstition for too long! Because the age of knowledge and reason so long sought by so many is upon us and it is no longer necessary to lean on the crutch of supernaturalism for support. It is important because the world is faced by real problems and god (allah, vishnu, thor etc.) is not going to save us. Science might save us. Reason might save us. A critical, thoughtful educated outlook on reality might save us, but only if we can put aside the antiquated ideas that limit and divide so many of us and concentrate on the simple secular truth that nothing is going to happen unless we make it happen.
True, no one really knows, but isn’t working toward discovery through study, the application of reason, the gathering and testing of observable fact a better, nobler and more productive use of our time and energy than clinging to outdated parables and social strictures because we fear a death we don’t understand or because we’ve fallen prey to the crippling belief that we are somehow incapable of anything glorious in and of ourselves? It’s time to reclaim the power we, somewhere along the line, ceded to some outside caregiver. That’s why it matters.