Tag Archives: climate change

No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.

Yours,

Frankie


The First Commandment: Thou shall be Ignorant

Right there in the very front, in the beginning so there’s no question of its importance, no room for misinterpretation, god commands his children NOT to eat of the tree of knowledge of ‘everything’* and thus the religion is bound and encapsulated within itself, with no outside influences – however sound their truths might be.

This thought struck me for the first time the other day and it intrigued me greatly because I immediately understood that it was important, no it was crucial to the religion to damn knowledge right off the bat, at its inception: That way there could be no question or curiosity from its followers and any thinking or contemplation done by said person is strictly limited to “a chaotically cobbled together anthology of disjointed documents, composed, revised, translated, distorted and ‘improved’ by hundreds of anonymous authors, editors, and copyists, unknown to us and to each other, spanning nine centuries,” as Richard Dawkins accurately describes the bible.

Now I am well aware of the ‘theological’ discussions regarding this particular transaction in the story of the garden of Eden, I was a christian myself for a long while.   Most interpretations use the story to set the stage for the rest of the bible, ie.  the fall of man, the failure of man to be perfect and hence the need for a redeemer.  Some say it defines man’s life cycle: pain associated with birth, toiling in the soil until death.  There is also significant discussion about whether the whole thing was a set up:  surely an omnipotent god just knew we were going to botch it? Yet, didn’t he have to give us free will at some point in order for us to have the ability to choose whether or not to obey him?  But if he was an omnipotent god wouldn’t he have known we would be unable to resist temptation?  Especially that all-too-human trait of doing exactly the opposite of what a parent tells us to do?  But then he had to allow us a choice….ad infin.

I say not one of those premises is the truth and they merely act as smoke screens.  See, if one is tasked with compiling a workable document for a fledgling religion as were the delegates at the Council of Nicaea under Constantine’s orders, then it makes perfect sense that a well refined story would be utilized at the very outset of the narrative which effectively deters its readers from ever wandering past the pages of that one quilt-worked book.  By so doing, the religion is then set up, indeed, mandated to refuse any other refinements or outside information.   Now the religious leaders have a captive audience.  Now can begin the building of a theological empire whose leaders are given carte blanche control over their flocks because they have been taught that information and knowledge is evil and suspect.

It’s been an effective tool.  The christian religion is entirely encapsulated and absolutely refuses any new information.  Check out what Copernicus went through when he observed that the sun did NOT revolve around the earth.  His successor Galileo was forced to recant his view about a heliocentric galaxy and not until 1992 did the church issue a formal apology on his behalf.  1992!! Darwin’s ideas have been similarly refused even though the past one hundred fifty years have yielded massive amounts of support in their favor.  Yet a christian’s response is almost robotic:  Doesn’t matter, got a commandment to follow, No. New.  Information!!!!!!!

How has that affected our nation?  Well, we have a large section of our population who are dutiful  christians and therefore make for paranoid, suspect, information wary voters whose only source of information comes from the church and select news sources that are proven horribly skewed.  I know ’cause I was once one of them.  Some of those christians have been elected to office and so we possess wholly ignorant politicians who are charged with making long-term policies without caring about facts, they blatantly admit it, and they careen forward recklessly, with blinders on.  So we will continue to suffer the effects of global warming because we cannot accept new knowledge as a nation. And we will continue to be left behind the world in terms of groundbreaking science research, education, and progressive social goals.  We can no longer claim to be number one as a nation on several levels simply because so many of us have obeyed the first commandment:  thou shall be ignorant.

It’s a damning, damning situation and there’s not much to do for it except plod along.  It doesn’t do any good to present facts, send links to verifiable resources, or emphasize one’s historical background in education.  Our brothers and sisters simply cannot fathom or manage any form of outside information or knowledge: they’ve been taught that its evil. I find for myself, that at some level this new revelation allows me to muster a great deal more patience towards my fellow humans. Awareness is everything sometimes. The best we can do is educate when the opportunity arises and try not to sound like arrogant asses at the same time (I know this can be a problem because I’m sure I’m not the only one who has to be conscious of it).

Despite the ironclad direction to remain naive, there are those brave enough to dare step outside the lines and let the road take them where it may.  I know because I was one of them – and every day more and more of us make the choice.

Imagine ….  a movie with a character living in animation until suddenly something makes her real and we see her foot emerge from the cartoon into real grass, experiencing real sounds, amazing smells, and beautiful, beautiful colors for the first time.  She feels the warmth of the sun on her face and the wind gently tossing her hair.  For several long moments we might watch her as the camera circles around her and we witness the overwhelming gratefulness she experiences as she takes in everything and smiles at her newfound freedom, no longer confined to the pages of someone else’s hand. Yes she’s a bit scared and we would see that she navigates through some bumpy roads in this new reality, but we watch her grow more confident each day.  And, at the end of a few years, we might picture her at her computer writing these words of truth:  Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.

Here’s to knowledge and understanding kids; and let truth will out.

Frankie

* I choose to use the word ‘everything’ here since it more accurately depicts the gist of the commandment.  In research for this article it was asserted in several places that the phrase ‘good and evil’ is really used a merism…that is a set of linguistic opposites put together with the effect to mean not just the parts, but the whole. So the interpretation of knowing ‘good from evil’ is a bit off, it really means that adam and eve would have knowledge of everything, including good and evil.


AND SO IT WAS DECREED ACROSS THE LAND THAT, HENCEFORTH, NO MORE AUTOMOBILES WOULD BE MADE.

It was a beautiful coup d’etat, the likes of which the United States had not seen since its Declaration of Independence from the Brits.  It was necessary however, since the shock value alone would send the populace into a dumb silence.  It was also necessary because it gave the nation no choice in the matter, sort of like Cortez burning his ships so that his men were motivated to succeed in the New World, we were now very motivated to ‘get on board’ and implement alternate modes of transportation and improve on those already in existence.

A year of planning and secret keeping of the highest order had culminated in the decree.  Thankfully, and for once, a liberal president and congress agreed to address climate change and agreed to do so in a drastic way.  There was no reason why shock doctrine policy could not be used for good, the reasoning went.  They smartly and also realized that alternatives needed to be presented to consumers and they needed to be viable and appealing because otherwise mass revolt might ensue.  Here’s how the whole thing went down…..

The nation’s leaders knew that the only way to make the whole thing work was to ensure their citizens that their jobs would not be affected, their paychecks left unharmed.  Since we could keep existing cars indefinitely then parts for those cars were still needed….indefinitely.  Auto plants would keep and expand their parts divisions while simultaneously revamping their production lines to electric or ethanol only vehicle.   Automakers were also given first rights to the mass public railroad expansion that was about to occur, and their workers were offered the choice to work on this or stay with autos, allowing them some sense of control over their destinies and also giving them a sense of ownership over the new, improved, United States. Genius.

Current domestic coal and oil production were kept operating, but used only for extant purposes.  As one might guess, gas prices did rise, but our government capped the prices so that petrol companies couldn’t rip off those who decided to keep the auto as their main mode of transportation.  People were given their choice to keep a car or two or convert completely to public means of traveling.  If you didn’t own a vehicle though, you were given a HUGE tax break each year on your income taxes, because the leaders knew that nothing speaks louder to its citizens than ‘tax credit’.  The rental car business took off and an entire new niche was created whereby car owners could ‘rent’ their cars to friends or families in a sort of co-op style system.  Since it worked well and kept the minions happy, the powers that be concluded that they’d forgo any kind of regulations with the new system – hey! If it ain’t broke…..

Most everyone was on board with whole gig.  The western states were especially enthused about the idea because they’d been begging for public rail upgrades for decades (it was the only point of envy the west coast possessed with regards to the east coast, otherwise the west was heaven on earth, thank you very much, and – we didn’t invite hurricanes).   The southern states rebelled, in unison, as is their wont.  The rest of the republic ignored them (as is their wont) and upgraded their railroad asses anyways.   Overall, most citizens were quite relieved that decisive action was being implemented.  For too long we’ve heard the tales of global warming and for too long we – as a nation – have not been leading the world in a more responsible way of life.  Finally we were practicing what we preached and there was a boom of national pride not seen since Neil Armstrong spoke from the moon.

This new sense of pride was reinforced by a barrage of slick and steamy propaganda:  trains were the new way to meet girls, sharing your car was sexy, cabbing or walking to your dinner destination was now romantic as hell.  Adverts everywhere touted our world dominance and leadership in the transportation arena because we love to be No.1!

AND SO IT WAS THAT A SIMPLE DECREE LED A NATION TO PROSPERITY AND PRIDE IN ITSELF ONCE MORE.

Oh, and it also saved our earth.  Best. Decree. Ever.