Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Partisan Religion

Here's something that may or may not be controversial.

BEFORE I START: The best satire I've seen on religion was actually done by My Little Pony (Friendship is Magic).  Despite the total lack of subtlety, it's genius in its execution and clear in its message.  If you'd rather watch a nice cartoon than a ranty blog post then that's the way to go.

One thing I've never really understood about people is why they're so reasonable until the topic of religion comes up.  And then, suddenly, any gray area goes monochrome.  Fervent defenders of their beliefs collide with aggressive atheists, and occasionally the other way around; moderate voices are drowned out and generally we find a clusterfsk of logical fallacies, heated words, and Godwin's Law.

Here's my stance on the issue; take it or leave it.

There's never been proof for religion.  It's largely based on false correlations (it rained because God said so!), or recursive proof (the Bible is right because the Bible says so!), or twisted archaeological findings (we found a cup!  It must be the Grail!  Therefore Jesus is the son of God!).  Hence, why we associate religion so much with faith.

Likewise, and this is the controversial part, there's never been proof for science.  Theorems that we hold to heart are consistently refuted by further advancements (Earth is flat, anyone?).  More importantly, though, science is limited by the scope of our observations.  If we can't see it, or hear it, or feel it, or taste it, or smell it, we can't ouch for it.  It explains reality strictly by how we see it, and it's restricted in that sense.  Lastly, it relies on the assumption that our capabilities for observation are 100% reliable.  In other words, we assume we're not actually sheep with seven legs in stasis chambers in our respective comas, dreaming up physics and chemistry and cybernetic thumbs.

You'll notice that we require a bit of faith on both sides.  In religion, there's faith in holy texts, in artifacts, or sometimes in the sheer hopefulness of such a thing.  In science, there's faith in our observations and our cognitive abilities.

So I recently found this wicked space alien and its locked up in my room right now.  You can't see it or feel it or smell it or observe it in any way but I swear it's there.  Can I prove it?  Well, er no.  But can you disprove it?  Likewise, you can't.  So does that mean there's a 50% chance the alien exists?  For heaven's sake no, it just means you can't tell.  At all.

"Well if we assume our senses and observations are reliable (I mean we have to, what else do we have?) then science triumphs!"  With the same logic, we could assume the holy texts defining religions are reliable.  And then, the religious ace-in-the-hole says, all science is made by God.

"Well religions cause wars!  Science sent us to space!"  That's totally bloody irrelevant; science isn't suddenly more true because it's done more in a better light.

Let's be reasonable.  Religious advocates are notoriously unreliable (Howard Camping cough) and Jehovah's witnesses are pushy and rude.  It's hilarious to beat them down with rapture jokes, etc.  But just stop claiming science to be "right" and religion to be "wrong," because honestly, it just makes you look like a hypocrite.

For point-of-view and bias arguments and all that shiny analytical stuff, I consider myself part agnostic, part Theravada Buddhist, and part whatever-I-make-up.  Hence, I do not believe in a god in the general sense, nor do I believe in the upfront sides of religion.  Take this rant as you wish, I'm just sort of miffed at arrogant people who take one side and immediately assume the other side is blind as a bat.

1 comment:

  1. In The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, Julian Jaynes gives some pretty good supporting evidence for a theory that all gods were hallucinatons from a time during which the left and right sides of the human brain worked almost like two different people. It's scarily believable. It's probably summarized on his website or something. I mean he's dead but there's a website for the Julian Jaynes Society.