Rational Religion

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The Problem With Dialectic...


 The Battle for Believers, it would appear, is between physics and metaphysics:  i.e. between what we can empirically or experimentally prove, or reliably predict by observation  -- and what we make up inside our own skins, and believe in perhaps rather more strongly, because it's ours.


And because we can't prove it.


Numerically, or course, the cohorts are grossly uneven.  Understanding and living one's life according to the rules of physics takes special dedication, because although the rules don't change much within the average human lifespan, the answers change from minute to minute. 


Just read Science News for a few weeks. 


And believing in one or another of the myriad metaphysical universes probably has even an evolutionary advantage.


Making up fanciful stories about the world and our lives in relation to it comes "naturally."   Too much dedication to reality can be a major downer.   The Universe, and our too often rather pitiful lives within it, are not to be examined closely, at peril of becoming terminally depressed. 


We have evolved to have hope, even in the face of the grimmest circumstances.   If we couldn't kid ourselves that "things are bound to get better" we would all go jump off a cliff and save ourselves a lot of pain. 


Mother Nature can't allow that, of course.  We have to reproduce, and nurture the kids so they can grow up and reproduce.  "Why?" doesn't enter into it.  It's all purely existential.  We have evolved this way and so that's the way we are. 


So throughout all of our sentient history and even long before - when we were only becoming sentient - it has been necessary for us to make up these fictions about ourselves and the world, and to live by them. 


It is probable that by the time we were able to communicate abstract thoughts, we had been thinking abstractly for some millennia.   


I know, I know!  There is a dominant school of philosophy which maintains that thought, itself, is not possible without dialogue --i.e., the Dialectic.  So abstractions without conversation would seem to be impossible.  




So where do music and painting and the Arts in general come from?   It's pretty hard to deny they are rooted in abstractions, and they don't need words at all.  


Philosophers need words, and that prejudices them, I think, even as they struggle to invent new words for abstract concepts which have come to them.  Pre-verbally?  Like music!


Come on, Guys...you can't get around this by saying that painting and music are a form of "language." 


The whole idea of language is to be able to define things as specifically as possible so we can agree what we are talking about.


"A picture is worth a thousand words."  ?   Well, not exactly


A painting or a symphony exists holistically; by itself; without any talking whatsoever.  And it means to each person who hears or sees it something which is beyond words; and most probably very different from what it means to any other person.


It is also probable that by the time some people were painting on cave walls deep in the bowels of the Pyrenees, SOME people were already struggling with the idea of reality.


But they have always been greatly outnumbered by their fellows who preferred the easy-to-believe stories in which they were the heroes and heroines and everybody else was marginal; or patently evil.


So there are always many more conventional metaphysical thinkers in a given human population than objective realists.  And the realists are always in danger of treading on some taboo or shibboleth that gets them in trouble with the majority metaphysicists.


You see!  Already we Rational Religionists have achieved one of the most important milestones in the genesis of any new faith.  We can identify ourselves as an embattled minority and use that status as a unifying strategy.  Us against the world!


It is always amusing to see conventional religionists, in a country which prints "In God We Trust” on its money, trying to assume the martyr's mantle; as though they were discriminated against and in danger of being hauled into the Coliseum and thrown to the lions.


Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians are especially prone to this posture; and in truth, some of them are so acutely angled off the wall that they really are in some kind of minority; but hardly in danger of being martyred, unless they form up in "militias" and start shooting at Federal marshals. 


Their greater peril, and just as odious to them, I would imagine, is in being laughed into insignificance.