Sunday, June 22, 2014

So It's Religion You Want?

In spite of the dire predictions of doomsayers about the inevitable effects of allowing things like Science, Democracy, Teaching Women to Read and Racial Integration to carry on, religion today seems more popular than ever.

Religion's greatest strength is the fact that notions about god and an existence outside the knowable physical universe (e.g. life after death) are unprovable, and therefore un-disprovable.  Many religious people don't seem to grasp the importance of that, and go around trying to generate proof for these notions by all sorts of means, some honest and some, hypocritically, less so.  Being unable to be proven and unable to be disproven are two sides of the same coin, and so making your god-hypothesis a provable concept also risks making it a disprovable concept.  Being disproven and discredited is what normally happens to it next.

The hypothesis of the existence of a transcendent being or beings not bound by ordinary natural constraints is in its essence an unfalsifiable hypothesis.  I prefer the word "untestable" since it provides a clue about what you're supposed to do with hypotheses generally.  When your proposition is untestable, then you do not have to listen to anyone who claims to know that your proposition is not strictly true.  You are free to believe in it implicitly, because for all practical purposes it is true, being indistinguishable from the truth by any means available.  Like Russell's Teapot, it is untestable.

If it's religion you want, then you really want your religious propositions to all be of the untestable sort.  That way you do not ever have to surrender them to the force of evidence, reason, proof, or fact.

A strict Empiricist such as myself might question the utility of even having such beliefs; but I am well aware that no human activity, science included, is possible without an irrational, unempirical, intuitive belief in the value of creative actions taken before evidence of their benefit can possibly be known.  Therefore we do not dismiss untestable religious beliefs out of sheer arrogance, but choose instead to "live and let live."

However (and you knew this was coming, didn't you) . . . religion is too frequently not content with untestable beliefs about their god.  They foolishly begin inventing doctrine, creeds, and stories with which to adorn their god and which are often quite readily testable.  It is these adulterations that I adjure you to accept only conditionally.

Many religious movements want you to accept god as Omnipotent, that is, possessing all power.  At the same time, they want you to feel obligated to certain performances, which this "omnipotent" god somehow "needs" you to perform.  Your skepticism of these requests is well-founded.

The only sort of god that needs you to fight, give money, vote a certain way, hate someone, commit crimes or generally make a nuisance of yourself is either a non-existent god invented by cynical humans to manipulate weaker-minded humans, or is not an all-powerful god at all.

For instance, politics is all about the acquisition of power.  An omnipotent god already has all power, and therefore has no use for politics.  Therefore anyone trying to get you to be political on behalf of an omnipotent god is obviously full of shit.

Any real god would not be in the least bit inconvenienced by the existence of infidels, their expressions of blasphemy or heresy, or by people not wearing the right clothes on the right day of the week.  The agenda of any real god, if he even has an agenda at all (being eternal, why would he need one?) would be impossible for any mere human to subvert by anything whatsoever that we could possibly do or not do.

But if religion is still what you are after, then consider this.  Wodan, Master of the Wild Hunt, God of the Saxons, God of Poetry, God of Wednesday (and god knows Wednesday needs one), God of Beards and the God of Men (meaning males specifically), does not care who you vote for or what you wear.  While he may not be omnipotent, omniscient or omni-anything (OK - we'll leave the door open for Omnivorous), Wodan is comfortable enough with his godhood to be rather amused by blasphemy, if he takes any notice of it at all.  Just a suggestion - do with it what you will.

A voice in my head objects, saying "It is a worthless religion that does not require something of you."  Fine - we'll address that.  Since Wodan or any other god will get on perfectly well with or without you, the question is not how you can help or serve god.  The real question is what you can do yourself.  The size of your vision limits the size of your actions, which limit the size of your life.  Your life is to be your religion, serving the vision that you create.  It isn't going to live itself; it needs you.  You are fully empowered and fully authorized by the consciousness with which the universe has endowed you, specifically, and you are the only means in existence through which the matter of this universe can experience what it would be like to live your life.

So get out there and start livin' it.