Rational Religion

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When to Trust Ancient Wisdom


General rule of thumb: don't.


Unfortunately this is too general.


By far the greatest percentage of Ancient Wisdom, isn't; wisdom, that is, though ancient it may be...  But enough really important stuff has been around for a long while to make us cautious about tossing just anything mossy into the bin.


You have to do this on a case by case business, which is more work than operating categorically, but I warned you at the beginning that a Rational Religion isn't as easy as pure metaphysics.


There are some categorical guidelines.


If it has to do with physics, chemistry, biology, even astronomy - the "hard" sciences - the Ancients mostly didn't have a clue.  The only parts of these disciplines they were any good at was measurements, which involve careful observation and mathematics, and mathematics is weird stuff. 


Perhaps because I do not do it well, math, to me, is one of the cardinal mysteries.   It is simultaneously the least and the most theoretical of the sciences, and the temptation is to regard it as not a science at all but as a specialized environment in which all the other sciences exist.


But it is an environment entirely within the human mind.  It is all theory; all metaphysics.  It embodies a huge percentage of what we actually know and can prove, and it is written down in millions of words and symbols and an entire separate language of its own, universally accessible to any speaker of any other language who takes the (considerable) trouble to learn it.  It may be as close to Universal Truth as the human intelligence is capable of approaching.


And it has no substance, of its own, whatever. 


Even as shaky a science as paleontology can point to its bones and its stratified deposits.   Mathematics does not exist unless somebody is actively using it; for an observation; for a measurement; for an insight


Back to the topic:  If your Ancient Wisdom has to do with human relationships, it is deserving of more respect and a good deal more care before being discarded.


Humans have been relating with one another for a long time, now, and we have learned a few things about the process in the process.


But because so much of our relationships is cultural; which is to say that although something exists almost universally in our society there is no guarantee that a given other society has even heard of the concept; the only way to judge the truth of any bit of social wisdom is to research how widely it applies.


Or how good a job it does of making our lives more livable; or would, if more people lived by it.


Another specific guideline is; do not throw away anything bequeathed to you by your ancestors until you are sure you have a better model to replace it. 


Nature indeed abhors a vacuum and the informational lacunae in one's central nervous system are especially abhorrent. 


It is true that most of what we hold in our heads does nothing but take up space - or occupy synapses - but its value as a simple placeholder is not to be underestimated. 


If something is there, we don't have to wonder.  And wondering can be extremely troublesome to an intelligence which seems to prefer certainty, even if certainty is made up out of whole cloth. 


If one observes that some item, or some entire stretch of information, that one has been taught, is apparently nonsense in relation to the rest of the Universe, one still has to organize and formulate an alternative theory which it is more comfortable to hold.


One cannot simply say, "This is a crock!" and toss it, without filling its place with something else.  And in choosing what to fill it with, be most cautious about settling on something even more absurd; even damaging to yourself or your species. 


The world of cults exists because most of the "accepted" systems of belief do such a bad job of answering some of their natal inhabitants' questions and satisfying their desires. 


Jumping from one bad set of answers to another is not the answer.