Sunday, February 20, 2011

Holy Oak Tree!

Recently, a disgruntled Alabama football fan poisoned the cherished oak trees at Auburn University, their arch rivals. The trees were a rallying point for celebrating Auburn's success at football where the Auburn fans would 'decorate' the trees with hundreds of rolls of toilet paper.

Pause. . .

Well, that's sad for the trees to be sure. What this shows though is what can happen when you swear your allegiance to something that is not real. Football is real enough but to live and die with the idea of the team is a different story. Being a fan is truly a weird thing. The team is different every few years, the uniforms change, coaches come and go, new stadiums are built. So, what is the thing that keeps you being a fan of a particular team? The idea of it. WE are the good guys. Everyone else is evil. Starting to sound a little familiar?

Also, the poisoner in question (now a prisoner?) is 62. That's little old for rah, rah, sisss boom bah, don't you think? I suspect, like many die hard fans, he never attended Alabama. Also, I'm interested in the whole idea of the trees themselves becoming 'holy'. The trees got connected to the football team which people had somehow become intimately connected with. (Excellent marketing?) So by association the trees were 'holy'. I say 'holy' in the same way that a chunk of ground, or a rock, a wall, a tasteless wafer, or a building can become holy by association with deep feelings about things that aren't real. To attack the physical object then is to attack someones cherished beliefs.

If one were to spit on the wailing wall or take a leak inside a mosque think of how much worse the repercussions would be while in fact it would really be about the same level of defilement as the killing of the oak trees. In fact the oak tree incident may be worse because there was the actual death of the living trees. When it's YOUR team, or YOUR wailing wall, or YOUR mosque things take on an elevated sense of importance that is way beyond what the true effect or importance is.

Oh, and none of this applies to Cub fans. We truly are the chosen ones as everyone knows and Larussa is Satan!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Chain of Questions

Let's take Christianity. . .

Jesus was born to a virgin and rose from the dead. In between he made water into wine, fed a multitude on one box of Triscuits, brought Lazarus back from the dead (and left several more most certainly dead), walked on water, and cured the occasional cripple.

There is nothing actually written by Jesus himself or by any of his contemporaries. Despite the red type in the New Testament (I always thought that was extra special when I looked at the bible as a kid) Jesus has never really been quoted. His words were the words of the devout put down for him (for them?) several HUNDRED years later.


For example, when someone says, "I believe in life after death", you get to say,
"That's pretty out there. Why do you believe that?"
"Well, it was said to be true and promised by Jesus himself. "
"Actually, we're not sure what he said, are we"?
"It's in the bible."
"Who wrote it down?"
"It was written by the hand of God".
"Yes but somebody had to actually write it down."
"His hand was guided by God."
"That's a pretty strong claim. How do you know that?
"It's in the bible."
"Do you see a circle here?"

My point is that there is no way a theist can allow a natural, logical stream of questions - A stream of questions no more complicated than those that you'd dive into if it were negotiating the purchase of a car or a home loan. Questions on theism and faith all end in circles and pure belief. Of course the "counter argument" is that skeptics don't know everything either.

This is like saying, Soriano is a bad left fielder for the Cubs and having the counter argument be, 'lots of people have dropped baseballs.' Well, sure but still . . .

Indeed. I'd be the first skeptic to admit that I don't know everything but several have beat me too it. In fact society's general lack of knowledge in several areas is the only thing I'm NOT skeptical about. Lack of knowledge while on the quest for answers, data, and trying to understand the universe, to fill in those gaps is quite different from denying that such knowledge is possible. That reason itself is impossible. When a scientist is just short of an answer to his question he does not revel in it. He does not make it the cornerstone around which he builds his world view. Around which he builds his church. No, that would be giving up. He marshals on. He strives for understanding. He* strives to pull back that shroud of darkness and really see.

Do you see the difference? The scary theist revels in his lack of understanding and uses that to invent gods. They use that to infect our school boards. They use it to build huge money making edifices called churches. They use it to build fences: We own marriage. We own only white people. They use it in a feedback loop to reinforce they're own lack of understanding. To make it "good". The 'good' people all misunderstand together.

This in the face of the skeptic striving, with a moderately functioning brain, for understanding in what is surely a reasonable universe. To actually use that small brain, to not be afraid, to keep following that chain of questioning, bravely, wherever it might lead.

The devout Christian (or other) will always take the moral high road based on their 'faith' but I see them as people who have given up. They've surrendered that which makes them truly human - their reason. It is the only thing that separates us from the other mammals.

*Sorry to keep saying "He". You get what I'm going for, right?