Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A friend thought "psychotic" was too strong a word to describe the religious...

Of course, there’s a survival value to religion that arises from not angering religious psychotics that you live among. But the survival value I’m talking about arose around the time of symbolic thinking – the ability to recall complicated commands of an alpha individual in the primate troop. Professor Julian Jaynes of Princeton University (The Origin of Consciousness, 1976) noted that certain portions of the right brain are virtually unused by modern humans. When these areas are stimulated, the subject hears authoritative voices and thunders. The subjects sometimes report that the voices remind them of parents or teachers from the past. I believe this area of the brain has a lot to do with the conscience. Jaynes also notes that ancient literature is filled with hallucinations, and he hazards that people in the past lived in hallucinated wisdom (and folly). Jaynes also notes that the first temples seem to have been built around the tombs of chiefs, suggesting the possibility that people would go to the tomb to listen for the voice of their fallen chief.

I believe the contents of the conscience are personal and these contents vary between individuals. I believe esteem issues and inability to discipline one's reason prevent people from taking their personal ethical positions seriously. Therefore, they recast their personal conscience as God’s will. Unlike their personal conscience, this “will” cannot and should not be questioned. This “will” doesn’t have to provide reasons. Since debate is foreclosed, the only tools of persuasion are unreasonable benevolence (Mother Teresa) or unreasonable violence or threats of such violence. This good cop-bad cop routine is a classic evangelical ploy. Many people overlook religion's over-the-top claims of singular infallible revelation because of all the "good" and community that seems to be generated. However, the goodness seen is not that different from the goodness shown by loving primate groups which operate, I assume, without any supernatural beliefs.

Abraham is considered the father of all three great western monotheisms. Abraham became an example of faith when he listened to a voice that asked him to murder his son upon an altar (Gen 22). Nobody says this, but Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, originated in this mad act. The madness continues and can easily be seen when you deny a religious person the use of his silly and bloody scriptures in debate.

Freedom of speech and thought is only 200 years old. I’m afraid we could lose it if our liberal politeness and courtesy allow these lunatics to say whatever they want without argument or evidence.

Mood for the day: feisty.

Monday, November 05, 2007

On any given Sunday... or Sabbath...

In the three great western monotheisms, the story of Abraham almost taking his son Isaac's life is recited as a show of faith that anointed Abraham as the father of faith. The Jewish version, in Genesis 22:1-18, reads in the King James as follows:
And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, [here] I [am]. And he said, Take now thy son, thine only [son] Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you. And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering, and laid [it] upon Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife; and they went both of them together. And Isaac spake unto Abraham his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here [am] I, my son. And he said, Behold the fire and the wood: but where [is] the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here [am] I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son] from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind [him] a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son. And Abraham called the name of that place Jehovahjireh: as it is said [to] this day, In the mount of the LORD it shall be seen.

And the angel of the LORD called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the LORD, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only [son]: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which [is] upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
The Christians and Muslims have cited this passage with approval. For all three great faiths, this is the gold-measure of faith.

However, to a modern ear, Abraham sounds dangerously psychotic. How come nobody points this out in temple, church, or mosque? Abraham was a madman!