Sunday, September 25, 2011

Why doesn't she tell us?

If God existed - she could tell each and every one of us personally and unambiguously. She could, but she doesn't. Instead, the people that want you to believe in God take it upon themselves to tell you that you should believe in God. Who do these people think they are? Why would we ever believe the word of someone claiming something for which, throughout all human history, and throughout all time there is not the slightest evidence?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

After 9-11

Before September 11th, 2001, my concerns were largely professional - I was a consultant on a second engagement with a large energy company. I was making good money, my relationship with my wife was solid, and I was approaching the age of fifty - not yet having the aches and pains of old age, with still a small hope of obtaining remarkable physical fitness.

My world view was similar to that which I hold now, but much less intense - with fewer peaks. Yes, I recognized political differences between people, but my dissatisfaction with the Republican Party had not grown to warrant defection. I perceived other people as being moderate, or moderately liberal or conservative - nothing too extreme. Religion likewise seemed a quaint but harmless affectation. Sure there are some door-to-door proselytizers, but there always have been. It didn't seem offensive. I'm not a Christian, and different religions did not seem either scary or weird. Whether there was a correlation didn't concern me. Islam didn't seem that awful either ... and religious extremists of all stripes were remote concepts, not physical realities.

Before 9-11, I was aware that much of the Middle East did not like us. In the seventies, the Iranian Revolution highlighted some of the underhanded dealings and manipulations that the U.S. had with the rest of the world, but I could see then, and still see today, that influence via proxy is often more effective and less disruptive than direct political, economic or military action in achieving world stability and/or national policy objectives. The term "blowback" hadn't entered my lexicon, but I recognized the concept after the Iran Hostage Crisis. From the Olympic Massacre in Munich in 1972, through various hijackings and bombings, I was forming an impression of the world that included the violence that sometimes accompanies factional struggles. I suppose at their simplest, they are attempts to achieve policy objectives as well - independence from oppressors, oppression of independents, or sometimess mere retribution for perceived or actual wrongs.

September 11th, 2001 was a watershed for most Americans.

After 9-11, I saw what extremism truly is. How insane it is. How insane you must be to be that extreme. I also saw that extremism is just an ideology. Ideology - the superset of world views that include religions, nations, ethic groups, political parties, informal political movements, social movements and the like. Ninety-nine-point-nine percent of the people in the world aren't out to kill their fellow man or destroy society, although many percent of us have truly weird conceptions that are not grounded in reality.

I see now how wide the range of conceptions, and biases for action, are on any particular topic. Some people kill other people to prevent abortion - a monstrous double standard if there every was one. Some people kill other people who do not believe that same imaginary being because their holy texts - written by human beings - tell them that they will be rewarded in an afterlife.

People kill other people for insane reasons - that became painfully, woefully apparent on 9-11. It has happened throughout recorded history, but on 9-12, I got it. People adopt wholly irrational beliefs, in deities or politics or social conventions, and are willing to revile, persecute and kill people because those beliefs lead them to the conclusion that the world in general, or their world in specific, will be a better place.

The world is not a better place ten years after 9-11. American has spent over a trillion dollars on the war on terror. Our freedoms have diminished. We ceded our liberty for security, and we have truly gained neither. We are now more like performing circus animals than ever before. We sit up on our hind legs like caged lions and tigers. We spin in a circle because the ringmaster wields a chair and a whip, and has trained us to do so.

As rational, independent beings, we should struggle to form our world, not to be formed by it. There is still hope.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Ontological Argument - Take 3

I can't help myself. I've mentioned before what a piece of Swiss cheese the Ontological Argument for the Existence of God is. Let's revisit the first part of the argument.
1. It is possible that a maximally great being exists.
I pointed out that this was a bare assertion before ... but let's examine this more closely.

The fact that we can imagine something - a maximally great being, for example - is no reason to presume that such a thing exists. We can imagine giants, but they don't exist. We can imagine unicorns, but they don't exist, we can imagine that your neighbor has an invisible fire breathing dragon in his garage, but it doesn't exist.

If we take the construction of a maximally great being, and replace it with any of the lesser, but similarly ludicrous claims above, we can assert an argument that says that anything we can imagine exists, and thus exists "in all possible worlds".

That. Is. Simply. Stupid.

Remember just how improbable the existence of God is.

It's worth remembering every day, every year, throughout your life, throughout the life of this universe, just how improbable the existence of God is.

God has never been seen or heard. No one has ever credibly reported a God sighting. No one has ever reported anything that remotely indicates the existence of God, and had it independently verified so that it could be shared with an awed and humbled world.

Life is improbable - the universe is improbable. So imagining a being so powerful, so knowledgeable, eternal, infinite, all-seeing, is improbable to a degree that makes our unlikely existence seem commonplace by comparison. Explaining an improbable occurrence by presupposing an incalculably more improbable occurrence does not make the first one more probable.

If the God that you conceive of is this eternal, infinite, all-seeing, all-knowing, all-powerful intercessor in human events and supervisor of this universe, and heaven and hell to boot, then remember that he evolved along with humanity, from animist forces, to pagan Gods to one almighty God, and then, curiously (for Christians), back down to three. He changes every day, every year, from person to person, congregation to congregation, region to region. He never stays the same. It's as if we make him up as we go along, and he is powerless to resist our whims.

If believing in God makes you feel good, brings feelings of love, serenity, certainty, security, if it helps you get over the regret, shame and sorrow that you feel about committing some horrible wrong - then be aware that this is why you do it. Just remember how improbable the existence of God is.