Archive for January, 2011

Note to Evangelicals

Posted in The Narrow Path on January 26, 2011 by RWZero

I have to say this.

Dear Evangelicals; I am extremely familiar with a certain interpretation that is given to people’s unbelief. It goes something like “they disbelieve so that they can do whatever they want,” or, “they want to escape a responsibility to God.” I wanted to take a moment to say how wrong you are, and have always been, about this.

A) Do what, exactly? I see only two things in this culture that the general population indulges, but that you abstain from: noncommital sex, and drugs. And most of the evangelicals I’ve met have already outdone me in the sex and drugs department. You should realize that there is pretty much nothing to be gained by becoming a godless libertine.

B) What responsibility, exactly? I don’t see you imposing anything unusual on yourselves whatsoever. Attending church counts for nothing, and the limited charitable actions you engage in are often inferior to those of the hipsters in Kensington Market.

C) You have to be absolutely insane to think that anyone having a moderately developed intellect would willingly give up the possibility of eternal life and a relationship with the creator of the world for some extra sex, drugs, and saved charity money.

Death

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 20, 2011 by RWZero

On a snowy day at the very end of my time in academia, I found myself hunched over a laptop with two colleagues. We needed U.S. population statistics for a particular project, and we had found them. They were compiled in a spreadsheet.

The graph was simple. Population on the vertical axis, age on the horizontal. My friend grabbed a slider at the bottom of the screen and began the animation over time–an arc of dots sprayed up from the left hand side, dancing about with hundreds of perturbations. Sheer stochastic joy. As the baby boom hit, the dots soared up like a wave on the sea, and rolled onwards. But as these dots crawled towards the right hand side of the screen, the flow began to dip. The jerkiness disappeared, and it was replaced by uniformity as they began their descent along a straight and steady line. They plunged downwards until, finally, they all crashed into the bottom of the graph, like pennies funneled into a wishing well.

My colleagues stared glassy-eyed at the left-hand side of the screen, watching the trends. And after a moment, I joined them.

Outlooks

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 18, 2011 by RWZero

Let the reader note that as I write here, I am more likely to properly express what I think than what I feel. If I were to attempt to express how I feel about it, I would not succeed.

Now, as to things that people can believe. There are only so many things you can believe, and I have serious problems with all of them.

There is no God

While I don’t have any evidence (where “evidence” is something that one distinguishes from everyday experience) to prove that there is any sort of a God, this statement seems, to me, vastly overreaching. I am aware of the common lazy materialist retort that the appearance of design and purpose can be explained by such and such evolutionary adaptations in human beings, but I have always found this–and continue to find it–quite stupid. This seems to be nothing more than a story that people tell themselves in order to give this all a comforting sense of narrative that leaves them with some control. I am not content to observe that the things going on around us can be causally linked all the way back to some inscrutable beginning of time and space–as if we have whittled existence down to a few unsolved problems. In my mind, this makes it seem all the more troubling, and all the more like something done on purpose. We do not merely lack an explanation for the origin of the universe, but why the laws (which have no good reason for existing) inherent in such a universe produce sentient beings. This ludicrous, oft-recited analogy of an indefinite number of dice rolls producing a very lucky stroke (and a bewildered winner thinking he must have been divinely selected) does nothing. It presumes the existence of dice, it presumes the existence of the rolling of the dice, and it presumes that it is possible to roll a human civilization Yahtzee at all–all so that Greta Christina can come into existence, blog about the Yahtzee, and pop back out of existence. I cannot accept this. To my mind, none of this stuff should be here at all. This should not be happening. But since it is happening, I always found it more satisfying to presume the existence of a transcendent Mind, or “Being,” as an explanation for the whole thing (not merely as a first cause), rather than the existence of senseless, lawless laws of physics that, effectively, have the peculiar quality of studying and experiencing themselves.

The problem with believing in some definition of God, however, is that you have to believe something about this God. And what?

There is a God, but He is Not Interested in Human Affairs

I’m not sure how anyone can say this with a straight face. If there is a God, then this God is responsible for making us, and he damn well better be interested in human affairs, or he could have (might I say would have) left us out of it. Some people take the liberty of pointing out that we are “insignificant” in the grand scheme of the cosmos. Despite what what your elementary school training may have taught you, physical size has nothing to do with significance. I am inclined to believe that we are alone, and that we are quite possibly the only game in town. This idea that we are a mistaken ink blot in the corner of a cosmic painting that was created for some other reason is repulsive to my mind. I did not ask to be here, and if there is a painter, I feel quite strongly that it takes a little more than a slip of the wrist to paint me into this chair.

There is a God, but His Purpose is Concealed from Us and He Perhaps even Hates Us

I never used to consider this a possibility, but I now sometimes fear that it might be the case. My problem with this is similar to that above. If there is a God, he should leave us something–anything–to latch on to. Even one little inkling of what we’re supposed to make of all this, what we’re supposed to do, or what we’re supposed to hope for. For God to hate us, it seems as if we should have had the opportunity to earn it.

Certainly, it makes even less sense that there would exist a God, but that none of the world’s extant religions (whose chief concern is the search for God) would be remotely correct.

There is a God, and he is the Christian God

Almost all the experience and evidence in the world seems to point against this being the case. Ironically, the Christian conception of God involves a great deal of deception and blinding on God’s behalf (one must become like a little child / the wise are blinded, but the truth is revealed to little children / etc. etc.), but it would appear that if this is indeed what’s going on, he has blinded pretty much everyone on the surface of the earth, myself included.

There is a God, and he is Allah

A read through the Koran tells me that Christianity preceded, and profoundly influenced, Islam.

There is some Other Kind of God

It only gets worse from here.

Nobody Knows

While it may be true that nobody knows, being totally unaware of the truth does not prevent something out there from being true.

This is, in short (and devoid of all true exploration of the subject) why I have a problem with all of the simple responses to the God question.

Segue

Posted in Primary on January 17, 2011 by RWZero

I will henceforth write a limited and self-censored trickle of thoughts that have lately been occupying the whole of my mind. It is not a secret that they are largely derivative of the topic[s] that originally began this writing project. They are mostly unpleasant. Some of the sentiments expressed may inevitably be regarded as arrogant, under the presumption that they were written in a societal mindset with the intent of conveying upon oneself the appearance of perspicuity or intelligence. This presumption is true in most cases, and has been true of most of my own behaviour throughout most of my life. Such behaviour is perhaps necessary to win friends, influence people, attract girls, maintain necessary levels of self-esteem, love and be loved. But it does not apply here.

First Cause

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 15, 2011 by RWZero

It is remarkably clear, or at least very difficult to dispute, that the beliefs and worldviews of people consist commonly of nothing more than this: that they believe and espouse simply that which makes them most comfortable.

Deny this outright, if you will. Reflect upon the motivations of such denial, and deny it again, if you are able.

 

This

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 9, 2011 by RWZero

It is sometimes said that “this is all there is.”

I will believe that when somebody explains to me what this is.

Demarcation

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 2, 2011 by RWZero

I should state my position that, while I cannot be called an atheist, I am unsure that Christians would presently identify me as one of their own, except in the fact that I continue in my efforts to behave as I hear Christians mean to behave. And this should be noted by those who consider themselves exceptional solely on account of their propositional beliefs. Christians are the kindest and most loving people I have ever known. And they are also the most awful people I have ever known. I call some of them awful not because they are different than others, but because they are exactly the same, and they believe otherwise.

The label of agnostic is fettered with a certain stigma of apathy that I am unwilling to shoulder at the moment. I am so deeply disturbed by what is turned up by an uninterrupted inquiry into one’s own existence that I cannot risk such a perception. It very much does matter to me. Nonetheless, it is my position that the suspension of all judgement is preferable to the results attained by certain lines of thinking, and that alternatives should be continually sought.