Tuesday, October 07, 2008

A Response to Bill on Religion and Absolutism

PREFACE: This doesn't make sense [necessarily] in the context of what exists here. I'm posting it simply as a response to another discussion I'm having. Furthermore, it's not meant to be a complete idea, it's not self contained and argued for, it's contentious and makes some assumptions. It's writen as a response to a Friend I've been having a discussion with, and he doesn't like his thoughts out in the open.

Ok look, once again I’m not saying that rocks are not rocks, or that bikes are not bikes, or that water is not wet, or that 4 apples are not 4 apples; all I’m saying is that, relative to us, the truth as we know it in those matters is not absolute, it’s systemic.

It’s Systemic because, in order for something to be true as we know true requires a “system of proof”; to prove, it needs a “means of decision”, a “method of resolution”, a way of coming to a conclusion that something is true. This method must exist before the truth in order to prove that it’s true.

At this point I feel that you’re making the fundamental flaw of mistaking the finger for the moon. That is you’re placing your notion of truth as being an object of existence outside the mind. But truth and existence don’t exist outside mind, they’re nothing more then words which point to certain aspects of finite human experience.

In this way if I say something like, “millions of years ago when T-rex roamed the earth there were hard rocks on the surface of the planet just as there are today.” All I’m saying is that, had humans existed in the capacity they do today, with the same thoughts ideas and language, they/we, would experience rocks which we’d call hard. So in this way truth is systemic.

However, outside the human mind there is no truth, there is no existence; to say that there is is to make a Systemic statement of truth relative to you being there. What rocks are outside human perception is not something we can ever know; after-all, we cannot know things as they are in themselves, we can only know things insofar as we have the sensibility and/or perceptibility to do so. To assume that things are exactly as we perceive them void of mind is nothing more then a belief, not a truth, because we can’t prove it.

Things may exist, and things may be true in some way or another outside of mind (human mind) but it can hardly be assumed that they do in such a way as we perceive it. In this way things are not simply what they are, they are what they seem to be… to us, as we exist and perceive things.

Now, the problem arises when (for example) people apply notions of absolute truth in every day life, as in religion. Some people believe that the bible is absolutely true, and further more represents examples of absolute morality. Truth, once again, has existence only propositionally as in, “this car is red.” You cannot say, “car is true.” Because of course objects don’t carry the property truth. That a car is red (or has color) is nothing more then a method of differentiating things in the world relative to our perception of it and based on it’s usefulness. That is, we don’t tend to make differentiations where it’s not useful to do so. For example, it’s been said that Eskimos have double digit names for the color white, where we (in the south) have just one (so are they seeing something we’re not?) . What we ultimately call something, (in this case the red car) is completely arbitrary linguistically; we could have called it anything, but we agreed and have been socially programmed to call things by certain names and identify certain aspects of human experience in certain ways.

So then, back to religion; let me start with an example I’ve used before. Let’s suppose I say to a certain individual who knows nothing about religion, Christianity, god (say someone in Siberia), “The devil has control of my life.” He wouldn’t know what the fck I was talking about. However, if I said that to a fellow christian here in states, they’d have a pretty good idea what I was trying to say. That is, I don’t have control over my impulses as they relate to my “sinful” nature; where of course sinful nature has been identified with certain biological impulses and debaucherous behavior as identified in the bible.

Now at this point we’re all fine and good, we’re just talking, we’re communicating and as Christians we understand each other. The problem arises with the anomaly in that sentence, which of course is the devil. Christians, with they’re notions of absolute, would like to think that the devil actually represents some physical and/or objective thing that exists in some other worldly transcendental realm, and not just a figure of speech (it exists absolutely outside the mind). Likewise with God and what the whole of the bible says about morality; that all these things are absolute and if you don’t communicate in such ways (and have belief backed by those words), then you’re wrong, you’re going to hell, and you’re a bad person.

But once again, all we’re talking about is words here, words that simply represent human experience. What difference does it make what words I use? The difference is, even though certain fundies believe in the absolute nature of they’re beliefs, they’re using those beliefs in a pragmatic [practical] way, to serve an end; in many cases this end is a socio political one. That is, religion is useful at creating a society which is a homogenous whole, but as we go on, people get fcked up along the way and start to mistake the practical ways with which they speak to be an absolute truth of the way of things. But his isn’t so at all, clinging to old forms of thought (where-as it’s useful to retain the strength of old) is futile in the long run and leads to war and persecution.

Think about it in this way, religion (as language and ways of speaking about the world relative to spirituality) has never changed. Science changes everyday; what we once thought was true 100 years ago we no longer think is true today. This isn’t because our experience of the world has necessarily changed, it’s because old forms of thought are no longer useful in dealing with the new problem we’re continually faced with… That’s evolution. When science changes, no body bats an eye, nobody cries, no body frets, we shrug our shoulders and say, look at this new stuff we know, and move on. But when one tries to change the absolute notions of religion, people pull they’re guns out. The reason people question it so much today, is that it’s simply no longer adequate in it’s current form to deal with the problems people face today relative to the new ways in which see and speak about the world. What we need are new myths and new religions and/or a transformation of old myths and religion. Furthermore we need an understanding of what underlies these things, which is not absolutism; in this way, our religions can evolve, (metamorphose) along with our culture and avoid any dogmatic hangups and mistaking fingers for moons.

The other issue is that science and religion deal fundamentally with 2 difference aspects of the human condition, (they’re not necessarily compatible) yet they continually argue against each other for absolute superiority. Part of this is due to the fact that at one time there was no difference between religious truth and scientific truth; however as science started measuring the world and changing, (evolving), talking about truth in different ways, religion stayed the same and now exists in dogma. Spirituality is lost among many people because science has pulled us all away from it to the obvious fault of our dogmatic religious culture of absolute idealism.

But again, there is no absolute truth, no ultimate right or wrong; what is good, and what is not good, need anyone tell us these things? The issue is that people ultimately seek that truth from these absolute sources and get lost in the lingo, they mistake the finger for the moon and then the slaughter begins. As apposed to simply coming up with new forms of thought and speech to meat the current needs.

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