Monday, April 08, 2013

Your Gap

Smoking has few advantages. That doesn't mean though that it has none. One advantage of interest to me is it's function in networking in an organisation. Smoking selects people from across and up and down an organisation and puts them regularly into the company of eachother.

The thing about this benefit though, is that you could just ditch the cigarrettes, and do everything else the same and recieve the same benefit.

But we don't. Nobody does.

And as Bill Cosby said 'I told you that so I can tell you this'

Religion has few benefits, but one is moral instruction and particularly moral reinforcement. I mean sure now days church is hardly attended, and the first thing that comes to mind when somebody says 'priest' is 'kiddy-fiddler'.

But have you met any Christians? Or Muslims? Or Japanese people?

I mean met them, because generally there will be tea and cake involved, probably orange juice and out-and-out pleasantness. Like all things, it depends. There are of course meaningful differences between the various dogmas, thus not being a homosexual, I imagine that while I find an interaction with a Christian and Muslim virtually indistinguishable, a homosexual might find it a very different experience.

Hindu's in my experience tend to be fine vegetarians, but otherwise show very little evidence of instruction in anything that resembles morality to me.

And perhaps I should clarify, because most religions have a bunch of shit grafted onto 'moral' instruction that I think as our body of knowledge (particularly psychological) grows, has nothing to do with morality at all. For example, many religions frown on divorce. Other religions feel that people enjoying great privelege is the equivalent of evidence that they have earned it.

Thus like there are only limited benefits I would concede to smoking, and that I should point out will be generally far outweighed by it's disadvantages, so too there's only a limited benefit to religious instruction that is far outweighed by the cumulitive disadvantages of religious thinking.

What I mean is that many religions share in common with humanity, a lot of moral thinking - kindness, compassion, courage, humour, reflection, patience etc. that in most cases will get lumped in with a bunch of immoral crap - obedience, intolerence, fear, aggression etc.

If you are a reasonable person, this list of desirable traits, personality traits, should be much much easier to determine and adhere to, because if you are employing reason you can actually just observe how they work.

For example, look at divorce, you have two people whose lives are conjoined and restricted in some way. And I could probably be accused of being uncareful in my language because a word like 'restricted' has negative connotations, but would point out that something like an employment contract restricts people as well and we sign contracts because then we can plan ahead our lives knowing we will be recieving monies and being occupied for the duration of that contract.

anyhoo, somebody in this restricted relationship becomes unhappy, unhappy with the arrangement and wants out. Divorce allows that person to get out. Alternatives is for that person to continue to suffer, and perhaps increasingly so. For them to channel their unhappiness in making life miserable for their partner, family and other people on the periphery of the marriage arrangement. They may also seek extra-marital relations to try and compensate for the dissatisfactory aspects of the relationship. An extreme alternative is to kill or injure the dissatisfactory spouse.

A reasoning person would observe that so much as there can be any reasonable justification for entering a marriage, divorce is a way to allow a person to admit they made a mistake, and minimise the suffering that arises from this (their own and/or others).

An unreasoning person might see the promise of marriage as sacrosanct, and divorce as the breaking of a promise of which all other negative consequences of keeping the promise pale in comparison. I say unreasoning because there is little to no evidence that breaking a promise through divorce is worse than the endurance of an unhappy and toxic relationship.

The above illustration may have been long but its rich. A reasoning being, can in the case of seeing the unpleasantness of a divorce, exercise their moral muscles to show kindness, compassion, understanding, sympathy, generosity etc.

The progression of reason into the realm of morality, moral science, psychology etc. has I feel greater potential to change human experience for the better, than what reason and science have brought to the field of medicine.

Here is the thing, athiests are relatively good at not starting wars, going to jail, not lynching people with brown skin, not firing rockets at their neighbours, not dispossessing neighbours of land etc. And they are relatively good at supporting worthy causes: equal love, anti-war, disaster relief etc.

But while I have met many believers in my time, irrational people of faith, that I would never doubt would take the opportunity to be a thief, to pick on somebody weaker than them, or even to stay home and watch 'My Kitchen Rules' rather than turn out to support a friend, I have met relatively much fewer awesome athiests.

It should be the easiest thing in the world for athiests to emulate all these awesomely nice things good little christian kids and good little muslim kids and polite japanese people exemplify, but we don't. It's extremely rare that you find an athiest that doesn't devote most of their reasoning power at convincing themselves that God doesn't exist, and focus on how to use their liberation from dogma to become the most awesome that people can be.

Religion is a bad source of moral instruction, but a committed one. It's the McDonalds of Morality, there's a lump of protein in there, but a whole heap of shit that is bad for you, but it keeps consistentlyy churning out that food and has a very secure hold on the market.

On paper, emulating all the advantages of religious morale instruction should be easy, religious morality is after all derived from the inherent behaviours of all human beings that have pitted selfish behaviour against altruistic over millions of years to allow humans to thrive as a species.

It doesn't take much reasoning to figure out which behaviours hurt other people and which actually uplift them. These simple observations are what give religious belief so little appeal to so many.

Yet what I find is a great cognitive dissonance between peoples reasons for rejecting the church, belief, superstition etc. and then how they comport themselves in their everyday lives.

Your gap, is to walk away from belief gaining everything and losing nothing.

This is how you should be employing your reason to improve your and everyone else's lives.

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