Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Questioning God

A contrarian is suspicious of all rushes to judgement. In any society that channels both its good and its evil through every handy institution, religious, scientific, whatever, real contrarians are very valuable even if they are often despised or even hated. Any society? Really, every society.

When I think of contrarians, I think about the common characters from folklore of hermits and wizards and other weirdos. They don't get carried away by mob psychology, though sometimes they do get carried away by the mob to be killed. Still, enough must survive that the ability to stand apart can be passed down through genes or culture.

The value of a contrarian is that a monolithic culture always fails. It lacks the flexibility to overcome inevitable change. A contrarian or two can provide a margin of "odd" thinking that saves the day, though no contrarian should expect to get credit.

Jesus was a contrarian, too. It's not solely that he ministered to the poor - Mother Teresa did that without stepping outside her indoctrination (at least not willingly). Jesus also subverted the savage laws of the Hebrew Bible, not to mention the authority of its keepers. That's what made him dangerous and brought the whipped-up mob to kill him.

Paul was no free thinker, more an institutional revolutionary. Even Protestantism is marked by the dogmatic ossification of Paul.

Both Jews and Catholics have mostly escaped Old Testament savagery through gradualism, as have mainstream Protestants. (Well, Catholics did have several centuries of corrupt sectarian murder to learn repentance, and Protestants joined the battle, too.)

Fundamentalists, far from learning, have retreated to the vicious "morality" of tribal survival that fills the Old Testament in particular. They just don't put people to death for eating lobster. Islamic extremists may have mistaken Islamic society's present mean state as damning modernity and justifying their own retreat to savagery.

Where does that leave me? I'm an atheist. I don't believe God exists. I'm not quite fully to the disbelieving end of The Mystic's taxonomy of unbelief, however. I'm still willing to weigh evidence for the existence of God. But I've concluded that the likelihood of any God remotely resembling a person is nil, and that, based on every piece of evidence I've seen so far, the fundamentalists and even more liberal Christians are dead wrong about a personal God known from this one very local myth, a myth whose each day in the modern world more strenuously alienates it from its rigid ties to the culture of its origin.

(Adapted from a posting on Philosoraptor.)

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