It’s Easter. That celebration the Christians co-opted from the Jews like they co-opted our winter solstice celebration and turned it into Christmas.
I have a few things I want to say about religion, or mainly Christianity which is the one I was brought up in. This weekend seems to be appropriate – and I have the time to write a little. So here’s my first post on the topic. Since it is that Friday today, I’ll start with talking about Jesus.
Jesus was a swell guy. At least when he wasn’t being a racists, which he occasionally was. Despite his anti-authoritarian speeches, he was fairly authoritarian himself, and whoever refuse to follow him is deemed worthless as a human being. Basically you’re bronze-age version of “My way or the highway“. So, yes, you can cherrypick gems from his sayings, like this one from the sermon on the mount; but you can do that from any religious or moral text, or great works of literature.
The obvious pitfall in all this exploration of human thought and philosophy is the error of assuming a given text is an absolute authority. An idea that is fundamental to conservative and fundamentalist Christianity. It is a very dangerous idea. These words were written in a different time – when human rights and individual freedom had little value – at least in comparison to today. Now, the fact that the texts are old doesn’t in itself make them wrong or without value; that would be a logical fallacy. However the larger fallacy is the assumption that they are absolute true.
This should be rather obvious actually. The Bible is horribly inconsistent and self-contradictory. Resolving this has been the work of an entire branch of theology – apologetics – who has bent itself backwards in order to construct convoluted arguments to make scripture appear infallible and consistent. In light of more and more understanding of nature and the universe, traditional apologetics has become more and more out of touch with empirical reality as well as humanist ethics.
For that reason – mostly – I am today a secular humanist. Before that I considered myself an agnostic for many years, mainly out of my post-Christian indifference to religion. My last attempts at getting to grips with religion was by spending time at a prominent church in the evangelical world – studying – soon realising that even the most known Christian leaders of the evangelical movement didn’t have much more of a clue what was going on than anyone else did. It appeared to be to a large degree all about “making it up as you go”. I can never be satisfied with such a feeble foundation for a personal philosophy. Neither could I be satisfied with the sharp contrast between the doctrines of faith and well established scientific facts. Sure, science don’t have all the answers, but neither does it pretend to, and neither does it insist old knowledge must resist new.
As probably most people who have fundamentally changed their views in life will say: I feel like I have been enlightened by the change. But I do not mean that in the sense most people use it when they convert to a religion. I have not seen the truth. I have only learned one important truth. There is no absolute truth to be known, and all who claim they have found that truth, seem to be faking it. Knowledge and understanding doesn’t take away from the beauty of the world, it ads to it. It also ads investigating curiosity, something that religion seems dead set on quenching. This, more than anything, was what I was battling with when I was in my late teens and early twenties. The conflict between scientific curiosity and dogmatic religion.
In conclusion, I’ll add a video of one of my most favourite scientists sharing some of his thoughts on the subject: Richard Feynman.