Thursday, 19 January 2006

No Religion, Too

I thought I should improve the visibility of the ongoing discussion I have with Uri (?), which started with my Narnia “review” and has now progressed to the more recent Losing my Religion blog entry. Why? For the benefit of whoever might be this blog’s second reader; and because I can.
I’ll start with my reply to Uri’s first comment to my Losing My Religion entry, continue with his reply to my reply, and finish with my reply to his reply on my reply to his comment on my blog entry…

Posted by Moshe Reuveni to Going Down at 1/18/2006 11:27:04 PM
Dear Mr (or Mrs) Anonymous,

As always, it’s a pleasure to hear from you. Feel free to remove your animosity cover, for by now I am curious to see who the one that actually reads my blogs is.
I have a few answers for you. Nothing that would make you think I’m a wise man or anything, and nothing that would even remotely convince you that I’m right (I don’t even think for a moment that any of us is right – I think it’s all a matter of opinion), just some further elaborations.

First, concerning the idea of LotR being the book I live by, or aspire to live by, or even remotely thinking for a nano second of living by: To put it simply and clearly, I find this idea totally ridiculous.
To date I cannot think of anything that is better than the civilian democracy most Western countries live by today, no matter how much I like LotR. Sure, we have our deficiencies: The USA is ruled not by its individuals but by big companies; Australia still has the queen as its all saying ruler, even though she doesn’t really use her powers; and as you yourself mentioned, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
If anything, there is this song you must have heard of which so far puts the ideals I am dreaming to paper best. Allow me to quote it –

Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...

Imagine there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace...

Imagine no possesions,
I wonder if you can,
No need for greed or hunger,
A brotherhood of man,
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say Im a dreamer,
but Im not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

I admit: I’m not sure how I would cope with “no possessions”, and I also think that the communist like society depicted in the song has already proved to be quite a failure because some people will always abuse the system, but as utopian visions go I still think this one is the best.
And another LotR related point I would like to make is that LotR is not my favourite book; the book that owns this title by a very wide margin is the first Amber fivology by Roger Zelazny. However, I am sure you’d be able to crucify my ideas with that book quite easily given that you’ve so far failed to understand that me liking LotR has nothing to do with me aspiring to live by its ideals.

Regarding your point about fights and violence taking place in a world devoid of religion, I have to agree. Conflicts have always taken place due to limited resources.
However, I do think that with religion around, the “us and them” factor is emphasized.
Would the medieval Europeans go out to conquer the land of Israel from the Muslims if it wasn’t for their religion? They would have probably settled for more relevant wars which would not have been as futile.
Would Al-Qaeda exist if it wasn’t for religion? Probably, but they would probably be a significantly less militant anti globalization movement.
It’s just that religion seems to be the icing on the cake with these conflicts. That little extra that gives it an extra, yet fully redundant, edge.

I also agree that I take a lot of things by faith. As far as I’m concerned, the world could be flat, and it could also be that I’ve lived my entire life in one small area and that whenever I took off for a flight I just spent some time in a box that put me down on the other side of the airport.
Or to put it another way, it’s hard to determine when to start believing and when to stop.
The borderline that I have decided on is, as I mentioned, similar to the one used by banks when you go and ask them for cash. And no bank will give you cash based on a 2000 year old story that was put into writing a long while after it was circulating around as a word of mouth thing (the way the old testament did).

As far as forcing myself on other people, I think you have twisted your arguments.
True, I do pollute, and quite a lot. Not only with the car, but also with the clothes I wear (that take lots of chemicals and water to make) and the things I buy.
Yes, I have a lot against our culture of consumerism (especially during its Xmess peak period), but I also cannot say that I have much in the way of alternatives. And I definitely think that in a few hundred years, when they look back at our period, they will regard us as the big polluters and abusers of the earth. Sometimes I tend to agree with JRRRRR that maybe the internal combustion engine was one of humanity’s worst disasters.
However, I do not think that I impose myself on others, or at least not to the point of offending others. Allow me to explain:
When I fart, I release toxics that are quite harmless compared to cigs and cars’ smoke. However, there is not a person around that would tell you he/she is not offended by the smell. As a result of me not wishing to impose myself on others, I do my best not to fart around people.
The same applies to cigs: Their smell is offensive enough for me not to want to be around it. But cars are different: By the time their exhaust fumes reach you, it’s diluted enough to the point you don’t feel it much (One reason why most Western countries ban two stroke engines is that this does not apply to them; have you tried mowing your lawn with a two stroke mower? It’s hell on earth!).
Another reason why your argument doesn’t apply is that absolutely everyone but a couple of weirdos in Nepal uses internal combustion to move about; yet only 40-50% of the population smoke and a significant portion of the others oppose it. When was the last time you saw someone complaining about “fuckers using internal combustion for transport”?

But yes, I am definitely bothered by what I and we do to our environment. We are wasting precious gifts the earth has given us in the shape of incredibly complex molecules of oil by simply burning it, this contaminating the environment and leaving hardly any of it to our children. The same applies to other resources: Think about uranium, the product of ancient supernovas, yet we just carelessly abuse it.

Anyway, it’s getting late and it is my wedding anniversary tonight. So I’ll conclude by saying that I just didn’t get the point of your feedback. If the purpose was to convince me that I’m wrong, it failed. If it was there to present an alternative view, I didn’t get it either. Please clarify…


Posted by Anonymous to Going Down at 1/19/2006 08:20:22 AM
I was going for a layered approach, trying to respond on several levels at once. A necessary thing when replying to your 2351 work post.
Obviously I failed, so I’ll try to clarify.
1. LotR – I had two points here, and neither of them was that you think it’s a holy book:
a. I think you’d be more tolerant towards a person who lived his life by a non-Bible book.
b. The fact that a book contains anachronisms or things you don’t agree with does not make it necessarily wrong for people to want to pick good things out of it (to counter your Bible criticisms).
2. Pollution – I’m not really sure I want to go there. I was merely trying to point out that you accept things on faith. We all do. It’s just that you seem to think that you’re not. You’re bank criteria is interesting. Did you ever run into stupid thickheaded bureaucratic clerk who wouldn’t help you just because some silly thing was missing?
What would you consider a proof, BTW? If an angel came down from heaven, wings and halo included, and delivered the words of God, would that be sufficient? I assume that in that case you’d figure you were either losing it, or that somebody was trying to trick you. Can you think of a way you could be convinced?
For some people, the world itself is all the proof they need. Why is it easier for you to believe in a series of amazing coincidences that led to creation of life than it is to believe in a guiding hand? And can’t you accept that it’s just a belief either way? And that yours is no better than anyone elses?

And finally, I give you the words of Jesus Christ (from the book of John), Tolkien and Monty Python, and the best you can do is John Lennon?

Happy Anniversary!

And now for my latest reply on the reply for the reply:
Where shall I start?
I fully admit to being nasty in the past towards religious people, but I don’t think that is the case anymore. I do, however, allow myself to be sarcastic towards them, often to the point of annoying them, but that is mostly done because I’m an idiot that can’t take control of himself rather than because I truly want to offend them. I also do fully admit to being nasty towards religious people trying to impose myself upon me, but nowadays this usually comes down to me writing letters to the newspaper saying that Tony Abbott, the Health Minister, is an idiot.
But this is all what I consider to be missing the point. My point was that I know I’m nothing special amongst people and I know that the best thing I can do to minimise myself imposing on others would be to commit suicide here and now; but I’m not doing that because I’m a selfish meat devouring ass, for a start, and also because the fact I’m not bound by any religious interfaces means that I can do whatever I feel like whenever I feel like. That said, I think that overall, with the help of my self developed code of conduct, and barring the occasional traffic offence and some recent tax evasion adventures, I’m a fairly decent member of society who is fully able to mingle into a tolerant society. I think I can safely say I am a better member of the human race than other more famous members who acted by the rule of their god – Joshua, Hitler and Bin Laden.
Yes, I take a lot of things by faith, but I’m also not asking much either: I didn’t go around asking for proof that god exists; whether that entity exists or not, why should I care? What effect will it have on my life? If god had wanted me to act in a certain god loving way, he should have designed me accordingly; instead of slacking during QA, he should have made me a god fearing person. There are plenty of ways in which god can prove to me he exists, starting from informing me of tomorrow’s winning lottery numbers, but I’m not asking for that.
Another question that always hides in the background is – what form does god take in the first place? You can what the bible says, but you can also come up with dozens of alternatives, from Shpinoza’s to eternity. My point is that it doesn’t matter. Why can Wabby the dog lead a happy life without going to church even once? (Sorry for side stepping there, I just thought it’s a funny question) Sure, life on earth is really amazing and if people think it’s proof enough for them to believe in god then good for them! Since I tend to believe in life on earth too, despite the quality of Australian commercial TV making me strongly suspect that, you could say I’m a believer too – and you won’t be too wrong; it’s just that I don’t see any reason for me to associate myself with a certain specific framework. It’s organized religion in its current manifestations that I have a personal problem with, not faith. As I said before, I find it redundant; do feel free, though, to believe in whatever works for you, and I truly wish you and everyone else for that matter all the best.

And finally, regarding your ranking of famous personas: Who are we to rank these people in the first place? I find it all a highly subjective exercise. As far as I’m concerned, the most important people on earth are my mother and my father, without which I wouldn’t have existed, period. But let’s have a look at the group we have here:
Jesus: Don’t know him that well, but he seems like a nice and peaceful chap, although rather naive. Between you and me, I would say he's just a jealous guy (pun intended). You can credit him as the most important person in history, and you wouldn’t be off the mark, but I would prefer to hand that credit over to certain Roman officials that were out to find a way to regain control of their empire. That said, he certainly doesn’t relate to me in my day to day life, and between him and the Dalai Lama I would tend to pick Tibet.
Tolkien: Isn’t he a bit of a weirdo? He wrote a damn good trilogy, yes, but his other books were quite boring. Still, books count a lot.
Monty Python: I like them a lot, and Jo is mad about them. So yes, they gave us the most accurate depiction of the history of Jesus’ era in Life of Brian, and between them and Jesus I fully agree with “blessed are the cheese makers” (for they enable us to eat pizza; mmm… pizza…), but let’s not get out of proportions here. For a start, they wouldn’t have gotten anywhere if it wasn’t for another favourite Beatle of mine, George Harrison (I like them all, but for some reason I tend to like Paul significantly less).
My point is that between these folk, I would tend to pick John Lennon any time, any day. But don’t exercise about it: As I said, it’s highly subjective and highly context related; for me, the Working Class Hero hits home more often.

Going back to my Narnia review, which was the cause of all these replies on replies love affair:
I have never dismissed Narnia because it had religious motifs ala Christianity. The main reasons why I was less than satisfied with it were:
1. The “everything is set for us in a big master plan” attitude it presented viewers with. This view contradicts my basic views, since I see no master plan around me but I do see how my actions and the actions of those around me affect what goes on. In fact, that is one major reason why Amber is my favourite book: It’s all one big argument for free will and action against fatalism. You can argue that what I’m saying in here is anti-religious, since if there is a god he/she/it/they have total control of what will happen to me, but my initial arguments did not reach that far.
2. It is quite obvious that the Narnia film is Disney’s attempt to earn some money our of the LotR phenomenon. It was designed and contrived to cash in on viewers’’ sentiments created by the trilogy’s film and further evidence for the over commercialization of our society. The film did not feel as if there was never a serious attempt at hand to make it a truly good, high quality film.

Talk to you soon… And thanks.

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