My Reasonings on Some Issues of Faith
I want to start out with some ideas that have bounced around my melon for a while. I admire the author of the book The Year of Living Biblically, A.J. Jacobs. In particular, I liked his Ted Talk about that book. In that project he explores some of the issues he encountered while trying to live as close to the Bible as possible. Some of the big lessons he learned was not to take the Bible literally, give thanks, have reverence (he is agnostic by the way), don’t stereotype, don’t disregard the irrational, and one has to cherry pick the Bible. I couldn’t agree more. The points I want to focus on are the “don’t disregard the irrational” and having reverence.
When A.J. Jacobs talks about not disregarding the irrational it’s in the context of rituals, he compares two examples in which he gives the example of an alien anthropologist who looks at a birthday celebration in which people blow out candles of fire on a birthday cake and the biblical rule of not mixing fibers. Would the anthropologist conclude one to be more irrational or both as cultural artifacts. He argues that both of these would be seen as cultural artifacts that give our lives meaning and I happen to agree with this. The only thing I would say is that these cultural artifacts are non-rational as opposed to irrational. Irrational has the connotation of going against reason. Jacobs makes the distinction and urges people to adopt or maintain the rituals that are edifying and not harmful. I personally don’t find fault with this, but only find that the use of irrational problematic. I argue that anything that goes against reason should be considered very heavily and probably dismissed. I say probably and not definitely because altruism on an individual level makes little sense, but should be considered heavily in cases where one’s life may end to save another, on an evolutionary level altruism makes sense as a population dynamic that could have helped in the survival of mankind. One could easily see that a person sacrificing himself to save his family, tribe or encampment could raise the survivability of that species against more powerful predators. There are times when irrational things such as getting one’s ears pierced could be considered irrational and harmful, but not to the population and to the individual, very little, unless it gets infected I suppose. I would venture that rituals that cause harm to others to be the rituals to avoid on the simple basis that the other person may not be a willing participant. I think many of us intuitively know this. This brings me to some of the first negative interactions with beliefs that cause harm. If no one told me about hell I don’t believe I would have come up with it on my own. This belief of an eternal conscious torment is an irrational belief that humanity can do without. I will argue further on this in another post, but suffice it to say many a deconvert from Christianity will tell you that this belief alone was responsible for much pain and loss of peace of mind. It is what fuels my OCD at times. What I want to draw your attention to is that this belief is irrational, meaning it goes against reason on many points which I will elaborate on another post.
On the idea of the sacred I think science supports this very much. When one looks up at the night sky and is humbled by the vast distances and strange objects, one realizes that life is precious, and for now, a rarity. I get the sense of the sacred from this. Many astronomers and scientists have a sense of awe that borders on the religious even if they are agnostic or atheists. I like Jacob’s idea of a reverent agnostic or atheist. I think I would classify myself as such.
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