Rational Religion


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Don't Do This Unless You Have To

 

This admonition does not reveal any deep-rooted angst about believing in a Rational Religion, but Iím built this way and you may not be.

 

Not that I don't kid myself a lot; I just kid myself about different things.†† I expect that placebos work on me about as well as they do the average metaphysicist because I want to get well just as much as they do.†† On the other hand, I deal with the scarier realities of life (old age, for example; and my ultimate inevitable death) by not thinking much about them; or rather, by not dwelling upon them.†† There's plenty of time to be obsessed with such unpleasantness when it is no longer avoidable.

 

If you come from a traditional faith you might get pretty vertiginous working without a net.† Even if your best logic tells you that most of the stuff you were taught as a kid is superstitious nonsense, the emotional patterns and mental reflexes you have built up growing up may leave you in deep water if you just chuck it all and jump ship.

 

In the first place, because most religions have pretensions of morality, and because morality has to do with the way we treat ourselves and our neighbors, you divorce yourself from that part of your upbringing at your - and my - peril.

 

If there is a rule of thumb:† Metaphysical takes on physics have a high component of nonsense.† But Traditional Wisdom which deals with human relationships has a much greater chance of being objectively valid than, say, a Creation story or a personal, protective god or an "afterlife."

 

†There are huge exceptions to that, of course.† Racism and in-group jingoism are human relationships which are distinctly maladaptive, at least in a modern context of global politics and economics.

 

But if any part of "ancient wisdom" is not pure smoke, it is that part which draws on our experience of living among others of our kind in an environment which demands our attention and places a premium upon our capacity for memory.†

 

And do not lose sight of the fact that a lot of the smoke has valid uses because individual humans believe in its substance.† It is not incumbent upon you, or me, to believe in it; but we must understand that it can have real, physical effects in the lives of those who do.

 

Of course, it can also blind them to important facts about the physical Universe which we are trying to understand.† But perhaps it is not always necessary for everybody to know these facts.† Most people live out their lives as deluded as habitual lottery players and once they are dead nothing much makes any difference to them; certainly not anything approaching the truth.

 

Objective reality is probably important only to those of us who understand that the Universe is a dangerous place and who feel it is incumbent upon us to understand at least some part of it well enough to control some of its effect upon our lives.

 

I am at the moment alive and relatively healthy because - just during the last half of my lifetime - some people thought it necessary to learn to operate upon the living human heart in order to correct a number of problems which seem to have arisen from the way we choose to live and eat in a modern industrial society.†† Some very well-educated and skillful people replaced parts of my heart with pieces from my own body and from the body of a cow.† Whereas, at the age of 70, I was short of breath just walking upstairs; and actually had a small heart attack after an afternoon of mild exercise using a paint roller; now at 75 I walk, briskly, at least two miles nearly every day -- usually in around† 28 minutes.

 

I have no notion of the metaphysical beliefs of the persons who performed this small miracle upon me (in a Catholic hospital, which I chose to go to because it has a reputation for helping people stay alive).††† I do know that their medical knowledge and understanding is very close to absolute reality; at least as far as my personal physiology is concerned.† I neither know, nor care, whether anybody prayed for strength and guidance before slicing and sawing their way into my person.† Whatever they need, besides their education and expertise, to do their job is their own affair and fine with me.

 

My entire act of faith was to trust them with my life; largely because I felt I had no choice.††† I am very grateful to them, and respectful of their education and expertise; and whatever else they may have used to do their work.