Rational Religion

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A False Dichotomy?


But, if the Great Dichotomy is between Physics and Metaphysics, right off the bat we have a Special Case.  What the hell do we do about Mathematics?  


On a fundamental level that's as imaginary as god.  I mean it's ALL theory; created entirely in the wetware; preserved in a bunch of self-consciously invented symbols and formulae for recall and future use, but really Out There…  Superficially, it looks as insubstantial as astrology.


But the stuff we can do with it!


 It seems to be plugged into physics on some really basic plane.  We can calculate a moon shot and hit the crater we are aiming at; or orbit whichever of Jupiter's moons we are currently interested in; all with such accuracy that when we don't do it it's big news (and a scandal, like that bunch of non-feasant Mars probes.)


And then, as stated above, there are the Arts and all the rest of what we call creativity.


The only physics about most of that is the electrochemical impulses in somebody's central nervous system; any sense it makes is pure metaphysics, by any definition, until it is finally read out into some sort of hard copy.  After that its effect upon anybody who sees, reads or listens to it is right back in the realm of Smoke and Mirrors.


Which means that most of the stuff that matters to us Higher Animals is metaphysical; all the stuff on the minus side as well as the plus. 


Let's face it:  setting aside the art and the music and the recreations and a few Good Works, the environment we human beings create for one another -- and for ourselves -- is pretty corrosive.    Most of life, for most of the people alive at any given time, is dull to rotten; with a healthy percentage of it bordering on hell-on-earth. 


Subtract the odd earthquake, hurricane or volcanic eruption, and way over 99 percent of our bad times and calamities are manufactured within the species. 


All but about a sixth of the people in the world are poor; so damn poor half of them don't know where the next meal is coming from; or when; or if. 


But forget that.  In about three-fifths of the world simply being born female is worse than being born blind; about on a par with quadriplegia, with a lot of the same frustrations.  That is, the mind can work fairly well, but your latitude is so restricted -- physically and intellectually -- that you might as well be wrapped in a blanket and kept on a shelf; in the dark. 


That's for your own purposes, only, of course.  For the purposes of the males in those cultures it is handier to have you actually mobile and fecund; as long as you don't make any movements not prescribed by custom (and some occasionally pretty draconian laws) and you have your babies on cue and only with the approved fathers. 


Of course, as in any oppressive situation, the oppressor suffers right along with the oppressed.  The males in these female-exploiting societies have to put up with a lot of crap, too; not the same crap, and not as bad, on average, but they are a lot less "free" than your average Swedish guy; or even your average American.  They live with the situation - as their women do - by not realizing how bad it is; or at least not dwelling on it.


The worst failures of metaphysics, and not always unrelated to the above, have to do with what is generally thought of as religion. 


Most people in the world, it seems, believe in some flavor of god.  And most of them believe that so believing makes a difference in their lives.


The second premise is a good deal easier to demonstrate than the first.  That is, the effects of religion - again for better or worse - upon a given population are empirically observable.  The act of believing has real consequences, whether or not what one believes is in any way "real," logical or even sensible. 


On that track, most people's concept of a ruling deity is pretty simplistic.  In the first place, it is likely to be highly anthropomorphic; which is to say that god looks a great deal like you and me; or more like you and me than any of the more fanciful creations of the Star Trek makeup lab. 


(Note that even most of the stuff emerging from the Star Trek makeup lab is erect and bipedal; the dissimilarities to homo sapiens are largely cosmetic and superficial.  That's because we have trouble conceiving of intelligent creatures who are not very much like us.  Also it's hard to find actors to play them.)


I put it to you that, if there were a god, possessed of most of the powers and attributes that most people believe him (or her) to have, our concepts of it would be pretty unflattering; even insulting. 


In the first place, god is apparently way too easily pissed off.


And overreacts abominably. 


Given the wisdom and capabilities Anybody Who Invented the Universe must have, it just isn't logical to imagine her (him, it) behaving like a jealous, petulant, rather emotionally shallow human being. 


Admittedly, we humans do stuff which is abysmally dumb and often patently evil, but the punishments which are rumored to be meted out at the hand of god are way out of line.


I mean...Eternal Damnation?  Even for Adolph Hitler!


(Well, maybe for Adolph Hitler.)


Taking into consideration the abovementioned differences in Wisdom and Capability, that's equivalent to slapping a two-year-old's head to the floor for wetting his bed. 


So, for those of us who have trouble with so simplistic a god; or with a god at all; and those who wrestle ineffectually with such concepts as Truth, Beauty, Reality, Good and Evil; there is a religion which -- making no attempt to Explain Everything Important (You see, already we're different) -- may help you think a bit more logically about all these head-busting ideas. 


We call it the Rational Religion, because that's as close to defining it as we can come...given the limitations of the English language.