Monday, July 11, 2016


Seen in an Internet meme:

"God is not a Christian, God is not a Jew, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or a Buddhist. All of those are human systems which human beings have created to try to help us walk into the mystery of God. I honor my tradition, I walk through my tradition, but I don't think my tradition defines God, I think it only points me to God." ― John Shelby Spong

God is just more thing people have created, and the main purpose of theology going back hundreds of years at least, and probably thousands of years into the past, has been to keep people confused about that very thing, to insulate them from that uncomfortable insight. A few years' worth of contact with New Atheists has left me much more sympathetic with people who just wish to be left in peace to continue to go to their churches, mosques, synagogues and other temples, but I still have just about no patience at all with theologians. Go ahead and worship God if you want to, just don't try to tell me that it makes sense to do so. (And let's not forget those who actually don't believe in God anymore, but still attend religious services for other reasons: for the music and art, or because their friends and family are there, or what have you. Our society's discussions about religion are not nearly open enough yet for us to have any idea how many people might be in this category)

I don't want to pick on most people any more for going about their religious habits and rituals, because it's just mean. The main reason people believe in God or gods is because it is comforting to do so. Subjecting the idea of God to real, honest scrutiny, and seeing that it just doesn't make sense, can be very painful. It certainly has been very painful to me. And if the leading alternative to belief, for the rank and file believers, is something no better than New Atheism, then in some cases it may be better, kinder, just to leave the rank and file alone.

Moving from the rank and file believers to the theologians, the official and unofficial representatives of the world's religions and those who rebel against those representatives, but have in common with them that they spend their entire careers studying and describing an omnipotent Being or beings which don't exist, which means that they're very free to just make stuff up as they go -- many of them, perhaps most, can be placed in one of two camps: firstly, there are those who also believe, and who use their studies to keep themselves blissfully confused as they keep their flocks confused; and secondly, there are those who do not believe, perhaps have never believed, but who see what a glorious scam it can be to exploit beliefs which are so widespread, beliefs which are at one and the same time so powerful and so fragile. In the first case you've got the blind leading the blind; and in the second case you've got shepherds more interested in shearing their sheep than in protecting them. Neither case is good.

And besides their congregations, those who seek out what they have to offer, there is the question of how much they will continue to interfere with those of us who aren't buying what they're selling. We pay lip service in the US to the concept of separation of church and state, but we're far from actually achieving that separation. One thing which is even farther from being achieved is the separation of church and academia, which leads to non-fact-based approaches to biology and climatology and history and every other field of inquiry.

Well. Here we are again where we've already been so often. The insistence on fact-based approaches to biology and climatology is gaining public support because it's becoming more and more obvious that we're going to need such approaches in order to survive as a species. When it comes to disciplines such as history, the interference of theology is much less widely understood, and therefore much more ingrained and tenacious. Two or three centuries ago, theologians absolutely controlled almost all of the universities in "Western civilisation." Since then, science has done a somewhat better job of freeing itself from that domination than have history and philosophy. Indeed, there is still a lot of crossover between theology on the one hand, and history and philosophy on the other. This has led some New Atheists to throw out the babies of history and philosophy along with the theological bathwater in which they sometimes swim, which in turn has led to a lot of New Atheist stupidity. See posts labeled new atheists in this blog. Religion doesn't poison everything, it hasn't been free of benefits, but it has crunked up a lot of things as well.

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