November 2013



This is a repost of https://hedonix.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/what-if/

Lloyd H. Whitling

What if we all have been trained from birth to see good and evil as reversed? By that, I mean we’d see what was created to be good as evil, and what was created to be evil as good? Not that I am a creationist, but: Does that sound ridiculous? What if people had been trained that way for thousands of years, until now we take them for granted? What if everything in our lives and in what’s around us has been adjusted to accommodate a reversal of how good and evil gets understood? What if what was once attributed to God and Satan has been reversed, so people are now addressing Satan as “God”? Would that not make our first question sound ridiculous?—or, will it just get pooh-poohed and everybody go on as if it should never be asked?

“But,” comes the reply to that, “we can plainly see what is good and what is evil and know it by application of common sense. How do your questions get past that?”

What if we have also been taught for all our lives how we cannot trust our senses, that they will inform us wrong, and so we cannot apply common sense to such a question?— and that science makes a wrong assumption from the outset by basing its conclusions on sensible observations that are, in fact, derived from illusions? What if we are convinced that to even ask such a question as we did at the start, is a part of what is evil, designed to steer us away from the ancient writings? What if we have always been informed that we are inherently evil in our own selves, from birth—and so must be told about the good and, through instructions and punishment, learn to accept such teachings without question? How is our common sense going to be of anything different than what those teachers tell us and show us in ancient writings they have apprised us as truth?

So, even now, would not our common sense about it depend on what the teachers chosen by our parents have taught us is right and wrong? Would not some of us see differently according to what we had been taught, so that sometimes we see evil in what others see as good, and each side think the other guilty of heresy? Could they not justify, according to the view of the ancient writings they had been taught, that we are guilty of heresy and not themselves, so that no agreement could ever be had about what the ancient writings mean?— or even, many times, of which ancient writings should apply? Would not both sides try to apply them upon each other in the same manner in which they were taught them in the first place, by insistence and punishment, even to the point of war?— and let that side which is most truly God’s side win? What if both sides call something evil ‘God’?

What if the existence of every god depends upon the beliefs about them promoted among the people by teachers who have mastered the art of persuasion, so that their existences, all, are only found in the support such teachers raise? What if the teachers’ efforts falter, and the people stop believing?— would such gods disappear from prominence and fade away until all that is left of them are crumbling statues and faded paintings? Is that where all the naked cherubs and adults that once adorned public walls and gardens have gone, banished as ‘evil’? A god named God, once pleased enough to have called his accomplishment good, must cry about the disgust his humans feel about their own bodies! Has he faded back to let Satan take over reign of his unappreciative followers?

And, what if what some of those faded gods had promoted as good what is now taught to be evil? What if, over the passing of generations of human beings, the course of history would show that what had replaced those ancient gods had always also sooner or later been replaced, so that all that had ever been allowed as good had now become viewed as evil according to the teachers who spread their names and words among the people? What if the gods whose edicts we now follow are also doomed in that same way?— or even, as can be seen within the ancient writings, doomed to evolve so that what we are told about them by one end of those writings is vastly different from what is said at the other? What if we discover, sometime soon, that none of it is true and both sides are wrong?

What if the first gods were those of people unconscious of their own nakedness, and that increased sharing of a consciousness of evil led the people into feeling increasingly exposed, so the evolution of religion had evolved away from what the first god had declared good, to a state where what had been good to see got punished in the latter stage for its exposure? What if more than half the crimes and lewdness of the latter generations were nothing worse than a widespread emanation of a desire to shed the unnatural evil state and return to what the first god had declared to be good?— and that the evil teachers who rail against the good were made by such acts to climb upon their pedestals and pulpits and demand that laws be made against them, and that such laws as they had already caused to be made should be more harshly enforced, so that insistence and punishment should be carried forth in evil’s cause in the name of good?

What if an early promoter of the cause of good had set himself against evil in his own time, and demanded that we should care for ourselves the same as we do our temples, that we should live simple lives free of amassed wealth and possessions, that we should give of our excesses to the poor that they, too, might live good lives free of the evils of hunger and need? Is evil that powerful, that good stands no chance to win the evolution and reign among our species? What if the evolution into evil of all such messages has caused his to be buried beneath the dross from later teachers, even before the book was written, until productivity and amassment of wealth and possessions has now become the standard according to which we are expected to live, according to which we assess each other, so that our houses as well as our temples have become ornate and gaudy, and the walls of wealth put on display are built of amassment of debt, are false, and therein the evil lurks to strike us down when we answer to the stress of it, and relax our vigilance.

What if, in earlier times, seeds for a second prosaic vision of how we should understand our existence and all that surrounds us took root and slowly spread, as vines, into all of humanity’s endeavors and, by trial and error, grew until the priests took note of it and had it declared evil. What if centuries of human torture, burnings of live bodies, and persecution only served to stir wise persons into making assessments of this newly declared evil, until it was seen to be useful, actually pacific, and to actually work where common sense as taught by the priests said it should fail? What if the priests and those politicians they supported used technologies advanced by this new vision to make weapons so they could show how it is evil, and demonstrated that by using them to destroy heretics around the world? What if this new heresy, which offered them so many advantages in their causes of insistence and punishment, were to also evolve at their behest, so that evil promoted evil as good, until now it can threaten all of humankind, all of the forms of life that have for millenniums roamed and evolved upon this Earth, with extinction.

What if those who declare that to be a form of good, saying it would signal the return of their missing god, should vie against those who declare that kind of ending to be the totality of evil, and win? What if that must be the ultimate test for good and evil, and what if humankind must make up its mind whether barren planets represent the good because of their vast majority in numbers, or if a lonely planet teeming with a plethoric variety of life-forms represents a good thing in the midst of prehistory replicas of catastrophes. What if we should someday observe how evil seems to displace good in every kind of way we’ve observed, and that good requires guarded protection and nurturance, not cudgeling insistence and punishment, if it will survive?

You may or may not believe in a god, it doesn’t matter, the end will be the same if you think about these seriously asked questions, and bother to search out the changes in common beliefs over the course of time. Ask yourself, “What happened to the bare-breasted lady who once stood behind speech-making American presidents? For what original reasons was marijuana made illegal. Start with that couple of questions, and work your way backward through time. You will discover how common sense, good, and evil evolve the same as everything else. Evil owns the biggest claws, the sharpest teeth, the zeal of raging hunger. It will consume our world until all it finds edible is gone, then turn in its own self to render our world barren. Mark my words: we have only fear on our side. Make use of that. Be very afraid of losing due to uncaring ignorance and pacific apathy.

 

 

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I have delved into many subjects related to the ways religion influences and befouls human relationships, in my books, and on this blog. I investigated religion as a form of illness, as a hidden aspect of human thought, and its many other disingenuous features. The hypocrisy with which Americans extoll our freedoms does not allow for acknowledgement of how freedom slips away at the hands of planted politicians muscled into positions to do damage at the behest of billionaire zealots. We have no tests to show the effects of poorly and maliciously conceived laws, nor to warn us when laws get salted with ordinances that have no relevance to them. I wish to first increase your understanding of my views, and then suggest a kind of test for moral laws (laws dealing with human behavior) to pass before any consideration for enactment. Some may complain this would make it harder to get laws passed. Show, don’t tell me how that would be a bad thing.

My intention, here, is to portray how religion is a most obfuscated, misdirection-driven, vacuously-understood subject of common interest that affects, in some way, almost the entire population of our planet, man and beast. It first was given a position of privilege because it was considered a source of good. It has lately forcefully demonstrated its great potential to cause misery and harm to large numbers of people in one single act as one arm competes with another for territorial dominion. All kinds of apologia get used to justify its arms as innocent of any certain horror with distracting fingers probing at the one arm to be considered guilty, the way an octopus might defend itself against charges of murdering a fish it had consumed. Each arm bears a different name and gets further recognized by place and various differences in features, but all serve the same kinds of purposes, the most important and, perhaps, least recognized being to feed and defend the beast, and to secure its territory in the way evolution demands.

While that may be easy enough to see by any unbiased observer, it sheds no light on the guilt or innocence of the horrified onlookers scurrying to stay out of the way. The obfuscation of religion’s multiple definitions, their conflation into each other, the avoidance of equally valid but arguable other definitions, the separation of gradients into seemingly unrelated labels that range all the way from opinions through faith into fanaticism, all serve to hide the true nature of religion behind which it, in turn, hides in plain sight. We must learn to understand how religion includes all that we, as individuals, believe. All aspects of an individual’s belief interact within the brain to form that individual’s pool of real and false knowledge upon which opinions get formed and from which actions and attitudes result. The edifice we may go to for services may represent religion to us, but it is not religion. We may or may not worship a god, including a god named God, but that god is not religion, the worship is a religious act but not religion, the prayers may be a religious act but still not religion. The Bibles and Korans we may carry with us may be religious artifacts but are not religion.

Religion includes all those things and more. We can see in a typical dictionary how religion presents in two forms known as organized or institutionalized and personal religions. My religion will not be the same as our religion even though we proclaim the same name for it and attend the same edifice. In general, those who consider themselves religious recognize that as a fact, and understand and accept it. Among those who refuse to acknowledge that fact are the atheists whose indignation causes them to do a mad dance while they shoot themselves in the feet. Those who refuse to acknowledge that fact are the atheists whose indignation this idea may inspire. I am an atheist. I fully concur with the sentiment that denies atheism is a religion. It is not; however, atheist individuals are as busy at supporting their religiously held beliefs as anyone else. Atheists who deny esteeming unfounded beliefs are hurting their own interests to do so—but, that’s the nature of religion.

Many dictionaries avoid the full description of religion offered by the Merriam-Webster 11th Collegiate Dictionary:

Main Entry: Re-li-gion

Etymology: Middle English religioun, from Anglo-French religiun, Latin religion-, religio supernatural constraint, sanction, religious practice, perhaps from religare to restrain, tie back — more at RELY

Date: 13th century

1 a : the state of a religious <a nun in her 20th year of religion> b (1) : the service and worship of God or the supernatural (2) : commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance

2 : a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices

3 archaic : scrupulous conformity : CONSCIENTIOUSNESS

4 : a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith

Many instances of cheap or free dictionaries offer only a variation of the first definition in both parts. It is context, however, not importance, that determines which definitions apply. Atheists typically express statements to which definitions 2, 3 and 4 apply while arguing to defend against accusations of holding beliefs and against acknowledging  anything other than definition 1. Reductio ad absurdum reigns in our midst! It goes into incongruity to argue in support of an idea while insisting you don’t believe it. If you don’t believe it, why should anyone else you would want to convince of its truth? Do you still doubt that and continue to wonder why atheists fail to be convincing? Why not try out the opposite tack and follow this page to its conclusion, while quelling your religious impulses along the way.

To do so, you only need to agree with this: It is belief that drives religion and elicits the complex of features from which it forms. That is it. It simply means that if you believe something, you will act (or wish to act) accordingly. What you act out (or wish to act out) signifies what you believe. That is your religion, clear and simple. All religions are not about gods, whatever yours would have you believe. Think Jainism, or the pure form of Buddhism.

Religious, however, in Merriam-Webster’s contextual definition 3 for that word, means

3 a : scrupulously and conscientiously faithful b : FERVENT, ZEALOUS

leaving only that context to apply to that word. But, fervent and zealous make it clear when applied at the personal level of interest we have here. Normal humans will only be scrupulous, conscientious, faithfully zealous about what they fervently believe, and also against what they fervently disbelieve—unless they fear the social consequences of acting otherwise.

As an atheist, a person without an institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices, I believe in Nature and trust that the practices of science have proved themselves worthy of a careful kind of zealousness and defense. I say careful because all that calls itself science does not apply the method, and has been publicized as science without deserving that label. That kind of science does not deserve belief nor defense. I also subscribe to a form of ethical hedonism as a moral philosophy for which I have developed a set of rules. I know what I believe. I know that when good evidence shows it to be untrue, I will believe that instead, once convinced. That is my religion. It grows as I learn, and fills me with pleasure.

Why is this important to anyone?

Many of the morals laws enforced in the United States at all the many layers of governance originate from the majority creed and infringe upon the rights of various individuals not part of that creed. To exacerbate that situation, the government has taken upon itself authority to determine which religions are ‘real’ without any tested standards to guide itself. By doing so, it has violated the constitutional injunction against establishment by limiting the right of smaller cults to compete against the majority, and the right of newer cults to compete against the older. An arm has effectively been established as a result, with few growing wise to its creeping covert insinuation over a span of decades. One brick at a time, the wall has been rebuilt into an alter while a cuckolded public smiled and praised its beauty. Hundreds of thousands of individuals have been imprisoned for innocuous actions, their religious rights violated, at immense expense to taxpayers who received no benefit. That cheats the public at no expense to the institution such embezzling practices enriched.

Science has foolishly abdicated its role by refusing to acknowledge any natural indicators for right and wrong, good or bad. It leapt from its throne of Nature’s authority and gave no bit to religion’s bridle, allowing free rein to heinous crimes committed in its name, after each of which one arm slapped the other while innocents scurried away to avoid inclusion in the body count. Any moderately aware American can think of at least three such incidents involving at least two religions.

It seems that, over the millenniums, humanity has settled on what gets called the ‘Golden Rule’ and its inverse, the ‘Silver Rule’, found in many cultures all over the world, as universal moral determiners. Morality is, after all has been said, about the wise practice of justice. That occurs when we become wise enough to realize that how we treat others governs, among wise civil people, how they will treat us.

The problem is that very few people are civil or wise, and most (driven by need or greed) will not much consider how events will play out in a distant future, and will opt for a more immediate scenario. From that, for the sake of justice, arises a need for rules and laws. Also for the sake of justice, I would suggest that lawmakers settle on how the principle of reciprocity given voice in the Golden and Silver rules must function in a modern secular society, and evaluate laws involving interactive behavior accordingly.

The Wiccan Rede offers in a concise form an effective moral statement pertinent to individual behavior in all circumstances, written to cover innocuous activities (paraphrased in a modern form): “If it harms no one, do what you will.” Applied as a team, all moral disputes should reach a quick conclusion using these three rules as a unit. True, to some it may seem silly, especially to those who remain oblivious to the damage done by current practices. Consider the nature of that damage and realize the serious nature of this quest. True, too, many will be offended by some results of applying that team of rules as a standard. Will it be worse to offend someone otherwise unharmed, or to ruin a life by enforcing injustice?—or, do we truly value others differently according to their beliefs?

I will end with some potential actions for you to consider, using the Team of Rules as a guide:

  1. A man habitually works in his yard while naked in full public view.
  2. A woman habitually works in her yard while naked in full public view.
  3. A person uses marijuana while alone on his/her own property.
  4. A person uses marijuana on doctor’s advice to deal with glaucoma.
  5. Everything related to sexuality seems problematic:
    1. Abortion: When does life actually begin?
    2. Should that be a factor?
    3. What about its effects on the world—if prevented? – if not prevented?
  6. A person’s smoking of tobacco leads to lung cancer:
    1. He holds society responsible for his care.
    2. He sues to hold tobacco producers responsible for his care.
    3. The government holds him responsible for causing his own illness.

Bickering over those actions and others like them will likely go on for as long as human beings respond to emotional feelings. Should that condition ever become common, there will be no more poetry, no music, no sweet words expressing love. I will be dead before much longer, so I won’t care. Those of you who plan to live forever might want to reconsider what it would be like to live in that kind of world, and use the three suggested rules to ferret out the actual consequences of all such actions, and apply them according to the actual needs of justice. Let whatever gods are involved deal with eternal consequences for the innocuous.

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