Things that go Bump…

I see on the news, and read on here regularly, about people’s elected representatives coming out with a line of utter nonsense. For example, a recurring theme on WP is the very serious subject of gun control. And yet, these people, wherever they may be, are elected. So, I’m left wondering, are people just dumb?

Funnily enough, as it is Wednesday, Fandango has just published this week’s provocative question. There are a few frills this week, but he is basically asking the question: do you believe in ghosts? And he notes that according to a YouGov poll, 45% of Americans believe in ghosts. 45% also believe in demons, while 46% believe in other supernatural beings.

Funny, that first paragraph came to me in a blinding flash, and I cannot now think of the link between it, and Fandango’s question 🙄.

But I shall pay the guy the courtesy of answering his question. If you hadn’t already guessed, no, I don’t believe in ghosts. I’m afraid I couldn’t even tell you the difference between a ghost and a demon. As for other supernatural beings, I’m gonna have to dig out my copy of Ghostbusters, to even be able to name what they are.

What I do think, however, is that there are things out there that we don’t understand. In fact, there is a kind of pathway along our understanding of things, and we’re barely a step along it.

Plenty of examples. Think back to medieval times. We might gasp in awe at that spooky green flame, but today,as every schoolchild knows (should know 🙂) that there’s just some copper in there. Or (and I remember the line from Highlander, so it must be true) whether stars were just pin-pricks in the curtain of night.

Indeed, cosmology is a good example. Compare what we once thought with what we now think, as we chip away at the big problems bit-by-bit. Or, that only a hundred years ago, we learned to fly aeroplanes. Now we have space rockets. Heavier than air, be damned!

So, we can celebrate our achievements. But, at the same time, there’s plenty of things we don’t know. Medicine is an easy example. I don’t want to get too heavy, but when I started asking questions after the stroke, it was not long at all before I started getting the we don’t know answers. How can they not know? When so many people have experienced a stroke? It’s not as if it is rare. But look inside the brain, we don’t have a clue.

I’m not going to write a long post here. People believe in ghosts, in demons, in gods, for that matter, because they don’t understand things. I don’t mind if they don’t understand – I probably don’t, either – it is just their conclusions which make me wonder, are people just dumb?

PS – You have no idea how long it took to find an image which did not look like a klansman!

Religion

I already follow several WordPress blogs. They’re quite interesting, although I need to be careful about how much time I spend on it. For now, it’s still the bedding-in phase, so I’ve chosen to follow a few. I’ll unfollow later if it all gets too much.

Somebody posted yesterday about religion. It’s a subject that I don’t normally touch. I’m settled with my view, I’m not interested in changing anyone else’s view, so it’s generally a subject I find pointless to discuss.

But I do have a view. Don’t we all? I don’t think my view is particularly offensive toward anyone, so I decided to share it.

I think somebody’s “faith” boils down to whether they believe in intelligent creation. If you say “yes”, then I guess you’re ripe to believe in some religion or another. But, in saying “yes”, you open up further questions, like what happened before he/she/it created the universe? When did he/she/it create it? What have they been doing since? I mean, these are all questions a child might ask, but they’re nevertheless perfectly valid. Things like how they stand about evolution, for example, a subject where evidence exists which might well contradict the teachings of a religion, I must admit, I’m happy to take the science. In fact there is an inverse link, I think, between our scientific knowledge and religion. As one increases, the other gets smaller, and it becomes apparent that we use religion to explain those things we don’t understand.

So just on that basis, I guess you could say I’m an atheist. I’m not even agnostic. I’m not particularly open-minded on this – it’s a nonsense to say you’d buy something if only it could be proved, safe in the knowledge that it can’t. In my case, I have pro-actively considered the concept and rejected it.

But notice in the last paragraph, I deliberately referred to “faith”, not “religion”. That’s because I think that religions, almost universally, offer good blueprints on how to live life. So in that respect, they have value. If you’re a Christian, you might wish to turn the other cheek, or to love thy neighbour as thyself. You could probably argue that those aren’t bad attributes for somebody to have. Although they could believe those things whether they believe in Christianity or not.

But not quite universal. Some very current examples include a guy exploding a bomb, or picking up a rifle, or driving a car into a crowd of people, for religious reasons. Think a bit harder, and you realise that history is littered with other examples. The crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and so on. Even slavery was, at one stage, justified by being “god’s will”.

And there’s the rub with religion. Some people will use their beliefs to harm other people, where my philosophy is more “live and let live”. But in the spirit of being tolerant, I do realise that religion could positively influence somebody’s behaviour.

In being tolerant, however, I do draw the line – every time a Jehovah’s Witness knocks on my door, saying “I’m sufficiently confident that my beliefs are superior to your’s, I have decided to come to your space to tell you about them”. As far as I’m concerned, the height of arrogance. (In fact, I’d advise anybody to ask them why they feel that their beliefs are superior to your’s.)

So there we have it. So am I going to rot in hell for eternity? An intelligent creator would surely have better things to do than to pick on me!

Secularity

A few days ago, it was the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination. As a result, there were various commemorative posts on social media.

My own view is that while King’s views on equality are laudable, there was/is absolutely nothing to stop somebody holding those exact same views, but in a secular capacity. Furthermore, King muddied the waters when he claimed to be “doing God’s will”. (The commemoration included footage of him saying these exact words – it was suggested that he may have been speaking metaphorically somehow but I was unconvinced – I’m not even sure if someone could say those words and mean it metaphorically.)

I don’t really buy arguments about doing God’s will, because if somebody claims to be doing God’s will, it’s tantamount to them saying that they are not fully responsible for their actions, because their god was at least partly responsible. I don’t know. Maybe that’s how some people think? Certainly, I think if I were religious, I’d want to be even more careful in case somebody was trying to hoodwink me into doing something, in the name of my religion, something I didn’t particularly agree with. A “just” war, a crusade, for example. Plus, I think it is a logical step from what King said, to being a part of something like Islamic State, and cutting people’s heads off, all in God’s name. Sure, King’s words were a way away from that, but I think they were along the same path.

So, for those reasons, I don’t think you bring God’s will into things. I think if you simply argue in terms of wrong and right, that resonates with people. The big issues that MLK tackled, in particular, make it dead easy to argue wrong and right.

Anyway, my words caused a storm in a teacup. I was criticised by some people because I was blaspheming, by others for being racist. Other people jumped in to defend this view. I don’t really say anything in order to garner popularity, but a good sanity-check to hear other people echoing my view.

It was disappointing to hear a couple of people just saying “shut up” (I’m paraphrasing a little), as if even bringing up the subject was taboo. I chuckled because it reminded me of the stoning sequence in Life of Brian, but all the same was disappointed. It kind of reminded me of the time when even owning a bible was considered blasphemous. Blasphemous, of course, because as soon as people knew what the bible contained, they were able to argue and dispute its meaning. Except that was 500 years ago – for some of us, in any case. Somebody else piped up that they were bored with the thread – although I kind of put that down to their attention span as opposed to anything I’d said. Quite why you read a thread, then take the trouble to write a comment to say that you’re bored by it, I’m not sure. I don’t know what they were expecting to see. If I were in the business of politics, it’s a useful bit of insight that some people just aren’t able to follow a coherent argument, and not at all surprising that New Labour mastered the soundbite so effectively, at least until it became hollow.

But despite several tens of people agreeing with me, it was the half-dozen who disagreed whose comments I focused on. I think that disagreeing, and dissecting exactly where I might disagree, is far more useful, far easier to learn from and perhaps develop arguments. And who knows? I might be wrong.