Monday, February 11, 2008

The View from the Other Side of the Line

My blog is just brushing the skin of the teeth of 20 hits per day. When I dug deeper my suspicions where confirmed that the recent spike comes courtesy of the friends of Henry George. A classic organisation with arguably one of the best products in the world and one of the worst marketing departments (at least in Australia) despite numerous celebrity endorsements an unbelievable amount, including Einstein, Henry Ford, Winston Churchill and everyone in between. Also posthumous claims too, but if you read the list I would rather be on that list of 'crazy people' than off it afterall.
So it seems that if this blog was about getting hits it would be in my best interests to turn it over to Georgism or Resource Rentals.
But the funny thing about Georgism in Australia is that it becomes almost religious, and walks close to the fine line between what is more important: the idea itself, or he man who had the idea.
I am always in favor of the former over the latter. Even with my own ideas, and one of the posthumous endorses after all is Ben "Electroman" Franklin who never patented a single one of his inventions or innovations for the simple reason that he made them to benifit society and thus allowed them to spread. Or perhaps the even simpler reason that he was already quite rich despite not having slaves.
And that's Georgisms lot, which I'm told should really have evolved into the more accurate and relevant field of study known as 'resource rentals' and be looking bigger picture not jut into wealth vs poverty but needs to walk hand in hand with true cost economics if it is to actually conribute to preserving the biggest loser of environmental problems, humanity itself (the earth will recover where we will not, it will have simply lost 100,000 years or so of the Suns lifetime to spawn a life capable of surviving beyond the sun's).
But there is an interesting problem that crops up here and there and everywhere for people who think (and may actually 'be') onto a superior idea, and that is intellectual intimidation, smugness and just plain old unpleasentness.
One can read on wikipedia the following wrap up of Dawkins BBC series unfortuntely named 'The Root of All Evil'

Critics said that the programme gave too much time to marginal figures and extremists, and that Dawkins' confrontational style did not help his cause;

And I'm prone to agree, Dawkins while being the right mind in my opinion for the issue was definitely not the right host for the documentary, he is the vey antithesis of a charismatic evangelical, throw ontop of tat an editor's suite whose incentive is ratings and the whole effort gets skewed.
But where I found difference from my own family and close friends, was that in his interviewing technique Dawkins tended to fly off the handle when the faithful he was interviewing suggested things he took offense too, and that he seemed intolerant and disrespectful.
But fundamentally having read The God Delusion I thought I knew exactly where he was coming from, and I have a friend that in my opinion is the most ethical person I have ever met, also an athiest raised catholic and one of the best at the art of arguement who also may be construed to show similar disrespect. And I have seen said friend scold someone else for using intellectual intimidation before.
There is clearly a difference, and it coms ack to my favorite plague of the developed world - entightlement vs earned.
Religion has not yet earned respect, yet respect of religious beliefs is something we are told continuously. If there is one message to take away from any reading on any subject of religion, and particularly arguements of the athiests it is that religious beliefs have not earned the respect of reason, and certainly are not entitled to it.
I could demonstrate this by making up a legitimate and equally disprovable religion right now. But others have done so before me. I remember upsetting Bethany and Louise in Year 9 geography by insisting my work experience was going to be 'God' and 'creating' animals out of leggo, I kept remarking 'this is easy' and they got upset and kept saying things like 'you are not god tohm, you could never be god. Go is perfect' and so fourth. Putting a cathedral ceiling not on my ambitions but their own.
Similarly I had a friend at IH who claimed to be a devout buddhist, and under the human institution that was her religion, she probably had some ritual or certificte equivalent that said she was. And she would say 'Nobody can be buddha because the buddha was perfect and nobody else can be.' which from what I understand is completely counter to the main message of the Buddha.
And I am expected to respect these people.
I have to say that I subscribe to Sam Harris' idea of Conversational Intolerance though I'm not sure if the name is right. But just like in a court of law, the Judge will not tolerate the presentation of arguements that aren't based on evidence, so too should be discussions of religion.
but the nature of this intolerance, a quite reasonable intolerance, draws a line in the sand, an unfortunately me and my fellow intolerants are on the side labelled 'bad people'.
But who are these bad people? A lot of them are truly beautiful people. Despite my studies into effective communication and management, I can be labelled an idiot when I recently ruffled a friend with this judgemental statement - 'I am worried that you find The God Delusion tedious' or something to that effect, maybe it was because I had read their honours thesis (referencing and footnotes is what I would cal tedious reading) and thus couldn't comprehend any reading that was less tedious than university readers as 'tedious'.
But anyway my worry all abouns from this place of the religious taboo, that I think should no be tolerated.
It is as simple as this, I have no taboos. Nothing I believe right now is not subject to questioning, yes I cannot percieve of any arguement that would persuade me to believe any religion over the alternative of none, I have inclings towards how a mishandled introduction of land tax could fuck up the environment, but the point is that anything I believe is open for debate at anytime.
This is not so for faith. I worry about people of faih because faith holds on o something that is 'an absolute truth' and an absolute truth, is a cage for thought.
Thus I know that nomatter what, a believer (in bullshit) ultimately in the long run poses no threat to actually ouperforming me. Sure they may outlast me, they may outpopular me. But in terms of sheer effectiveness and control cybernetc studies teach us (until disproven) that in any system the component with the most choices controls the sysem. And I have far more choices than someone of faith.
This is comforting for dehumanised people I don't know, but a worry for people I care about.
Labelling people who want people more choices and more control over teir own lives, dreams and so fourth. Who believe like Nietzche that 'there is not enough kindness in the world to waste it in the giving of it to an imaginary person' that wants people not to sit in Church building up stockpiles of good intentions but to devote even half that time to actually affectng positive change. People who think that an idea should be weighed on its merits and what sound judgement exercised.
People who want people to be responsible, to be able to further their understanding of moral issues progressively. Who want children to be able to choose what they believe, not be mutilated or segregated from birth. Who want children more over to be childen, not the property of their parents.
Southpark in their series 'Go God Go' whilst illustraing the desire for a Nntendo Wii quite acurately, did a real disservice by missing the point of Dawkins message. It even unintentionally quoted the God Delusion 'Why can't science explain How things work, while religion explains why?' I agree generaly with the notion that a show shouldn't leave its viewer base too comfortable. And generally speaking Souhpark and John Safran are two parties that do this really well. But for all the good preachy messages Southpark puts out like its attempt to screen an image of Mohammed the prophet similar to this one:
tohm - there are no taboos in my mind
Dawkin's was very thorough in saying that plainly and simply - religion has absolutely no authority to tell anyone 'why'. For example if you ask why it is taboo to create an image of Mohammed under the teachings of Islam, I'm pretty sure the intention was that Mohammed was not to be deified, that Alla only is god. Indeed to convert to Islam is relatively simple one must simply believe in ones heart that 'there is no god but god'.
I might if unlucky be killed for depicting the Prophet Mohammed, lose a couple of friends at least. But when I see Bill Maher talk about organised religion on CNN, or read Dawkin's or Sam Harris books asking athiests to speak out, or watch Southpark and laugh at their takes on scientology, mormonism and other religious taboos, or read Bertrand Russell or Thomas Jefferson, or Noam Chomsky, feel compelled to speak out, knowing that nothing will improve if I don't.
It is simply unethical not for me to intoleranty challange beliefs that are based on thought processes that are substandard, that can and do often lead to inhumane and unethical acts.
One of the most ironic experiences of my life was going to see father Bob preach. His message of the day was a teaching from the bible to 'go out with great urgency' and address the problems of the real world. It is ironic that people feel the need to go to church to be inspired to get out of church and spend their time more productively. My friend I went with even said '[they] were inspired' by the sermon. That father Bob is preaching nietzsche out of the bible may suggest to those of faith that maybe the other side of the line isn't such a big awful scary place after all.
When I look across that line from the other side at people who would kill me for what I believe, people who would stop being my friend beause of what I believe, people who would not let me fraternize with their daughters because of what I believe, and then look at all the people on my side of the line, who ask nothing more than that people respect reason and all that it has given us, trying to apply reason to advance the state of the world, trying to strive for greater moral living standards and wonder why my side of the line is labelled the ignorant, close minded, bad peoples group.

'reason has liberated us from superstition and given us centuries of progress. We abandon it at our peril.' - Dawkins The enemies of reason

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