Sunday, July 8, 2018

My struggles with religious belief.

    One of topics I tend to obsess a bit about is the nature of religion and its role in society. My readers may react very differently depending on their presumptions. It is one of the those topics that is very difficult if not impossible to discuss with some people. I think I understand why this is. But I still have trouble emotionally interacting with these people. It is my problem not theirs I suppose. Let me try and explain.

    • It is astounding to me how resilient religious belief is. It almost seems as if we are hard wired to believe in some form of supernatural, and that while many of us are able to transcend this, many are not. 
    • In the modern secular world, many religious groups have adapted. Their belief systems are in various degrees adaptations of moral codes as filtered through the metaphors of scripture. They are not literal believers. If they have a belief in revelation it is a loose one - for example, that God reveals things in mysterious and often symbolic ways. And they are willing and able to disbelieve the factual claims of the scripture. With these people I have no, or very few, problems. 
    • For those who believe fundamentally - by which I mean, believe in the revealed word as recorded in the relevant (for them) scripture - for these people belief relates not only to morals, but also, crucially to facts. For example, there are factual claims about matters such as the age of the universe, the occurrence of events (including miracles), the development of language, etc. With these people I have great difficulty. 
    • There is no evidence that you could ever bring that would weigh with them against the claims of that scripture. Any such evidence, no matter how compelling, can be and is dismissed as mistaken or a puzzle sent by God. For example, the claim that the world is about 6,000 years old is reconciled by saying that appearances to the contrary were created by God. (Some respond by interpreting the claim liberally to be symbolic - so a 'year' could be much longer than a year. But many insist that the literal meaning of the words are the correct ones.)
    • This mindset is pretty scary. It is a mindset insulated from any prospect of refutation of core beliefs no matter how repugnant or incorrect factually they may appear to us.
    • This is why, while I recognize the many socially beneficial and aesthetically pleasing aspects of organized religion, I also fear its potential for incredible evil when it has the power to compel. This requires eternal vigilance. Theocracies once very common, still exist in many parts of the world and these are usually horrible places to live in.

    • As a Jew I also believe that, though Judaism, in many respects, avoids most of the worst cases that would operate in a world in which Jewish Law were the absolute authority, it is also true that in such a world there would be much to object to - especially regarding some of the more extreme varieties of interpretation of Jewish law. And I also think that, as oppressive as the dispersion was for Jews, the fact that Judaism became a rabbinic religion in a world of strangers, prevented some of the worst developments that might have occurred had it continued to be a temple religion based on the rule of the high priests. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Feeling romantic and grateful

If I were Steve Horwitz I might write something like the following. But since I am not, and since it is much too soppy, I won't.
They are welcome to it; all that stuff
it’s never enough
All the parties and the clothes
for what purpose who knows?
Our own little heaven, just you and me
together, with our not so little family

The power of love.