As glad as I am that most Christians are not fundamentalists that want to kill me, I often wonder how they justify their more moderate opinions without forcing themselves to appeal to secular values, the very same values that stand against the dogma of their book.
Human rights are not very well represented in the bible itself, so it seems odd that someone could read it as the unalterable word of god and see human rights within the pages. More often than not, we learn our values from the society we live in, and impose those values onto whatever we'd like to believe. Jesus is the perfect character to exonerate in this case because Jesus' reputation is really quite good, even among people who don't generally care about him. From the grim crucifix all the way to the "Buddy Christ" and "Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This" he's quite popular, and is generally held up as the ultimate good guy who not only was supernaturally awesome, but also a regular dude just like you me.
Too bad it misses the big picture. In the context of the bible, Jesus is god reincarnate, which means that he is a representation of god (an eternal god who can punish and reward you in the afterlife). If Jesus is god, then he can't die. This means he didn't make any sacrifices for anyone's sins, did he? He lived on and continued to judge others based on whether or not people followed his example. Seriously, this is not much different that the bullying god of the Old Testament.
How can anyone read human rights into this story? Regardless of some of the wonderful nuggets of wisdom that Jesus' character can sometimes offer (though they aren't very original, even for the time), he's still the same sort of prick that can't stand to see anyone doing good and disobeying authority. To read this story and interpret it as a universal morality is to miss the point of the story and not see the forest for the trees. The big picture of the story is quite clear, and quite unpleasant.
But perhaps I'm reading the bible wrong, right? Well, who's reading it right then? How would we decide which bits of wisdom in the bible are correct and which were not? How would we decide with which scope we should view these stories? Is there some way we can test these bits of wisdom to decide which parts are good and which are bad? YES! It's called science, but if you're going to do science, why bother using the bible as a source material for your hypotheses? It doesn't make sense, because most of the phenomena in the bible are not observable in the real world.
My overall point is that moderate Christianity (and other forms of moderate theism, though I'm not as familiar with many of those viewpoints) is great because it's closer to secularism than fundamentalism, but it misses the main reason why secular values are important: evidence and reason! If you're going to support secular and humanist values, you ought to be able to back up those values with good reasons. Using your own moral values that you've learned in modern society to modify the message of your bible is not good enough. At some point, we have to admit that our society has evolved beyond the morals of the society the bible was written, and come up with new moral values based on what's happening to real people today.
There's no harm in learning from our historical mistakes, so the bible has value in that sense, but here's the big problem: if people everywhere are still to believe that the bible is the word of god, and its interpretation causes this many schisms, the bible is fucked up! If you're a Christian, here's my advice: Pray to god for a new book. One that's clear, makes logical sense, and appeals to modern human values. A supreme being ought to be able to do that, shouldn't he? If not, then it's better to abandon it as moral philosophy. If you're not comfortable with throwing it out, you can at least acknowledge its genuine problems, and stand in the moral high ground waving the flag of the enemy.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
That's how to find the truth. Far too often, we forget parts of this equation.
Some will observe an event, make a guess about its cause, and then make a conclusion about what it is without testing and analyzing the results of the test. A good example is when someone sees an unfamiliar object in the sky, postulates that it might be extraterrestrial is nature, and then makes that conclusion.
Others will forget the first 3 steps, and simply analyze a subject and make conclusions in a vacuum. A good example of this is when a religious person interprets the meaning of scripture, making moral conclusions and applying it to their life without ever observing or testing the existence of god
Many others will simply skip the analysis. They'll observe something, test it on themselves, take the results as they are and conclude based on that. A good example is the hiccup: Someone who has the hiccups hypothesizes that by holding their breath the hiccups will go away. Then when the hiccups go away, the conclusion is made that the holding of breath was the cause. Not necessarily. This is called 'confirmation bias'. It may well have been something else.
You can also skip every step that does the work by forgetting to observe, test or analyze. This is called making shit up because you like the sound of it. For example, "I feel in my heart that human beings are one with the universe, and nothing you can say can change my mind." Beware of anyone that says "nothing can change my mind" because that's a dangerous thought indeed.
These flaws in procedure are VERY easy to understand. The people making the mistakes (myself included, more often that I'd like to admit) have a lot of trouble letting go of these flaws, especially when they relate to the very core of their being. We are far more happy being wrong when the comfort of the lie is so much more appealing than the truth.... I'm pretty sure that sentence is grammatically incorrect. Hopefully my message is understood through the flaws.
My point in this post is that most of the time, we follow the procedure outlined in the title of this post. Observation: Two object dropped at equal distance from the ground fall at different speeds with respect to each other, but at the same speed with respect to themselves. Hypothesis: a universal force acts on both objects, and another force causes the difference in speed. Test: control for one variable and test for the other. Analyze: look at the data, cross reference with similar experiments, have your own experiment replicated by others. Conclusion: gravity is a separate force from wind resistance.
That's a pretty bad explanation, but if you remove any of those steps, you've got a problem. Forget to observe, and you'd have no information to draw from. Forget to hypothesize and you'd end up running toward the nearest conclusion that anyone could come up with. Forget to test, and there's no way to determine true events from false ones. Forget to analyze, and you may never see the flaws in the experiment. Forget to conclude, and no one would ever agree on a shared experience.
It's very, very easy to miss something here. Recently, I've read blogs that completely forget the first 2 or 3 steps in this process, and attempt to determine reality through only the lens of Christianity. I've read news stories that skip the middle steps and forget all the work involved in making good medical decisions. I've read awesome blogs from people I respect, yet forget to analyze their own biases, only to find myself represented as a villain when I should be an ally. FUCK your biases, and fuck your conclusions if you lean on them.
If you want to get to the bottom of something and make social change happen, do the work. If you'd rather skip the work and go straight to the conclusion by your own illogical means, don't expect anyone to take you seriously.