Friday, August 31, 2007

On the Obsolescence of Religion

Religion, Pretty Lady has it on excellent authority, is Obsolete. All those religious people out there should just stop their silliness, already.

You heard Pretty Lady. Just give it up.

Pretty Lady was terribly relieved to hear this, because now that human society and culture have transcended the need for transcendence, we will all get along just ducky. There will be no more wars, no more Hard Times, and no more disease, death, and devastation. Science, she has been assured, will take care of all that.

Yes, Science, defined as 'a method of empirical research into the qualities and functions of the physical universe, which involves the formulation and testing of falsifiable hypotheses,' has solved every single problem confronting the average human being. Should a benighted human need guidance, consolation, or a bulwark against Despair, this person need merely to apply to the nearest library, where all the information he ever wanted to know regarding quantum physics is readily available.

Of course, there will be no more need for consolation, because nobody ever loses loved ones through death anymore; neither do they fear their own deaths. Science has cured it! Similarly, Science has managed to perfectly balance the global economy, so that not a single person ever goes hungry, unsheltered or unclothed, and is never late on the rent because they own their own homes, free and clear!

And when we get into conflicts with our neighbor, Science comes in and sternly tells us to stop it. There is no reason to complain, because Science has made us all happy, happy, happy.

No, there is no need anymore to maintain a state of mindless Faith that no matter how black things appear, we need not succumb to the paralysis of Despair. Science has answered every hope we could possibly imagine. It has brought peace to our hearts, money to our wallets and love to our homes. It has brought kindness and understanding to the bitterest and most foolish of souls; it has amended inequality everywhere. It has caused complete surcease of sorrow, of pain, of agony.

So, darlings, if any of you has a problem that Science cannot solve, you are merely Delusional. Pretty Lady rather suspects that you are even Not That Bright. She might go so far as to say that you need a remedial course in Basic Logic; at any road, you are not her problem. She has no problems. Science has taken them away.



The Aardvark said...

Sweet Erlenmeyer Flask...
I feel so FREE!!!!!

(See, I have passion, too.)

Chris Rywalt said...

I was with my psychiatrist the other day and I told him that I was feeling frustrated and overwhelmed by the futility of it all. I explained what was going on in my life to put this feeling in context.

"And I'm supposed to make you feel better?" he asked. He went on to say that my feelings were a perfectly rational response to my situation and that nothing like antidepressants could help me, since they can only make you feel normal.

I suggested that I therefore need recreational chemicals, which made him laugh before he cautioned me not to start that now.

But Science has indeed solved my problem: I'd feel fine about my life with a high enough dose of ecstasy, or maybe cocaine. Or maybe I just need to smoke a bowl twice a day.

Better Living Through Agriculture!

Pretty Lady said...

Pretty Lady highly recommends Ecstasy, Chris. She took one, once. It was the best investment she ever made; it saved her five years of therapy, and the baseline effect lingers today.

Simply, she took the Ecstasy, and forty-five minutes later, everything was Fine.

Of course, that Fineness included a profound sense of spiritual interconnectedness, as well as a vocation to explore this aspect of human existence in an in-depth way, so go figure.

Also, she never took one again, and never will take one again. You call, you get the message, you hang up.

Anonymous said...

You are sounding a lot like Vox there PL... just more flowery.

The absence of religion in all it's forms would not guarantee no war, grief, etc. etc. Humans are humans - always will be - with or without any number of your Gods and gods.

But the absence of science would certainly guarantee a life of misery in mud or grass huts, with no clean water, no toilets, no grocery stores, no medicines, no heating in winter and A/C in summer, no automobiles, trolleys or airplanes, no trendy 5th Avenue stores... nothing that allows places like your precious New York to exist.

So quit picking on science. It's not your enemy.

Pretty Lady said...

Who said I was picking on Science, dear Bobert? Science is my Friend.

What I am picking on, dear Bobert, is the ludicrous notion that Science is a substitute for Faith, insomuch as it covers the same ground, when it obviously does nothing of the kind. Science and Faith may coexist quite comfortably, and even complement one another; they are both tools for negotiating one's way through a mysterious and uncontrollable universe.

The trouble arises, truly, when one attempts to use these tools to control other people, which neither of them were intended to do.

Science and religion are like surfboards. They enable one to traverse a gigantic and unpredictable sea, with some degree of efficacy and thrill, depending upon the level of skill with which one uses them. What they do not do is flatten out the waves.

Anonymous said...

we will all get along just ducky

Am I late to the party? Well, at least it's not a problem. After all, all problems have been outlawed.

Anonymous said...

I always have these amusing visions of a scientist about to be beheaded by a "faithful" Muslim and he says to himself, "this ignorant God lover just doesn't get it"... Or maybe that's not what he says.

Pretty Lady said...

EN! I was just listening to 'Chove En Santiago' on a repeat loop yesterday, and wondering where you'd got to. How are you?

Desert Cat said...

You call, you get the message, you hang up.

Heh. I feel much the same way about 'shrooms. Utterly ecstatic, orgasmic, terrifying, etc., and not an experience I necessarily need to repeat again.

A bowl on occasion is a good thing though. Twice a day would be a bit much, unless I really really did not need that motivation for anything...

Chris Rywalt said...

I have on occasion thought it would be interesting to try ecstasy; but then I remember that my serotonin system is already hopelessly screwed up and I'd better not mess with it.

The thing is, at this point, I've sort of built up a reputation of being straightedge. So any of the people from whom I could procure these substances are off-limits because it'd bring me down in their estimation. So I really can't experiment, even if I wanted to.

I was at a party recently where, much to my surprise, a joint was being passed around. I'm 36 years old and I've never been to a party with pot. I was trying to figure out if I wanted to try it or not. A few minutes later I saw the host putting the roach out in a plastic cup of liquid.

I assumed he had put the kibosh on it -- "No pot at my house, are you CRAZY?" -- but weeks later learned, to my wry amusement, that he'd supplied the joint, it was "very good shit," and that he'd put it out because no one seemed to want it.

This is what happens around me. I have some kind of party dampening field I give off. Other people tell me about parties where the girls all took their tops off, or the birthday girl did a striptease while everyone else stuck dollar bills in her panties, or there was some kind of naked bodypainting pagan ritual, or everyone tore off their clothes and jumped into the hot tub, or whatever. This kind of thing never ever happens when I'm around. I swear, if I ever set foot in a strip club, it'd turn out to be Overcoat Wednesday or something.

Pretty Lady said...

I do not wish to play the role of Drug Pusher, Chris, but when I tried Ecstasy, I was at one of the lowest serotonin moments of my entire life. I was broke, unemployed, spending my mornings dressed in business clothes waiting for temp agencies to call me back, and had spent that particular day huddled in a fetal position on the floor, sobbing in terror and despair. Ecstasy returned my serotonin levels to an "I can cope with this! No sweat!" level, instantly and permanently.

And your 'Mister Straightedge Reputation' excuse is a bunch of hooey. Get over it.

Chris Rywalt said...

What Ecstasy does, biochemically, is release all of your brain's serotonin at the same time. Which is pretty much guaranteed to make you feel really, really good.

Until all of it is gone. Then it takes a few days to build it all back up. And during that time, you're essentially clinically depressed. For a normal person, that might be okay, and maybe not even noticeable. For someone who is already low on serotonin on a regular day, it could mean jumping off a bridge.

And I mean that literally. I've been close enough to swerving into a tree at the side of the road that I don't need to mess around with my brain. I just got it working again! Mostly.

And my reputation is not a bunch of hooey. You have no idea how much of my self-worth is bound up in my self-image as a sober, boring individual. It's all I've got left at this point.

I just read about Picasso's banquet in honor of Henri Rousseau. Rousseau was much older than Pablo and his friends, and during the party he fell asleep. While noisy and rambunctious revelry went on all around him -- André Salmon ate Alice Toklas' hat -- Rousseau snored, and candle wax dripped on his head, "though from so considerable a height that it did not hurt him, but formed an unnoticed mound."

That will be me.

Anonymous said...

Chris, you ever try turning to God?

Chris Rywalt said...

Please tell me, Starbuck, that you've never read anything else I've ever posted anywhere. Because if you had you'd have to have noticed that I'm an avowed secular humanist.

A small part of me -- a very small part -- envies (as much as I envy anyone) those with faith. I sometimes wish I had faith. But 36 years on this planet have showed me that I'm just missing the faith gene.

So the answer is no, I've never tried turning to God. I'd have more luck turning to other fictional characters, like John Yossarian, or Rabo Karabekian.

Anonymous said...

What the hell kind of name is Yossarian anyway? And while the God you don't believe in is nice, kind, and caring, the God John doesn't believe in is a Big Jerk.

Chris Rywalt said...

Yossarian is an odious, alien, distasteful name, that just does not inspire confidence.

Anonymous said...

Also, it's Yossarian's name. And it's Assyrian.

(Quick: Name three famous Assyrians.)

Anonymous said...

Everyone has faith, it is a matter of what you put that faith in. You seem to put your faith in humans and human achievement. I don't, I did at one time, but I did see that humans are so wrong most of the time.

Tell me, has your faith in humankind done anything for you at all? Has it given you joy? Or peace? how about hope? Does this human kind guide you when you need it?

Anonymous said...

"Science and religion are like surfboards. They enable one to traverse a gigantic and unpredictable sea, with some degree of efficacy and thrill, depending upon the level of skill with which one uses them. What they do not do is flatten out the waves."

That is actually one of the wisest things I have ever seen said. (Or heard. Whatever.)

Chris Rywalt said...

I don't think it's true that everyone has faith. I don't have faith in humans and human achievement. I have a working hypothesis. Right now I've seen no evidence that any being greater than humanity exists and therefore should be included in that hypothesis.

It is, in fact, the direct opposite of faith, which is belief without proof.

It annoys me that so many deists try to claim that humanism is a religion just like Christianity, only worshiping science. Science is not a religion.

k said...

I have great respect for science. I have great respect for faith.

I've seen firsthand some of the many, often devastating, problems caused when humans misuse either one.

Believing that science will cure all of humanity's ills is one of those great misuses.


In my own direct experience, it's been almost without fail the actions of those unversed in true science, in rational thought - people who took science *on faith,* or created pseudo-scientific belief systems or arguments, what have you - it's been those people that misused science that way.

Having unquestioning faith in science is ridiculously unscientific.

And no surfboard at all. Nope. Eaten by sharks, those are.

I find it nearly impossible to feel sympathy for such victims of their own willful ignorance.

Arielle said...

That was one of the most entertaining blog posts I have read in a while!

Anonymous said...

Hi Pretty Lady,

I get the point that science (at least currently) cannot replace some of the things religion makes people feel. (Though statistics and polling data prove that people can still be happy without religion)

But later in her blog Pretty Lady puts forward the same old idea that science and religion can wonderfully compliment each other, and that there's no contradiction between the two. While that's a nice idea that we'd all like to believe, it is not at all correct in my opinion. In fact, science disproves much (if not all) of the metaphysics of religion. One example: Any neuro-scientist will tell you that what is referred to as the "soul" can be proven to be just the parts and actions of the human brain. Scientists can manipulate chemicals in the brain to make people feel different emotions, someone who has a part of their brain removed or damaged will have a different personality, we know neurons make up our memories, physical alteration to the brain can even eliminate things like empathy. The point is, everything that we are, emotion, memory, thought, awareness can be physically pinpointed, altered and manipulated. If these things weren't physical, we couldn't use chemicals and scalpels to change them.

I think people who want to believe science and religion compliment each other, just want to have their cake and eat it too. Not that I blame them; I'd also like to believe that, but the facts don't support it.