December 12th

These blog posts are thinning out to say the least, partly because I'm busy, and partly because I've already said a lot of things I wanted to. Which is better, repeating yourself endlessly, or staying silent once you've said your piece?

Quote of the Week

  • "This house has been far out at sea all night, |The woods crashing through darkness, the booming hills, |Winds stampeding the fields under the window |Floundering black astride and blinding wet |Till day rose; then under an orange sky |The hills had new places, and wind wielded |Blade-light, luminous black and emerald, |Flexing like the lens of a mad eye." - Ted Hughes, Wind

Friday, 20 March 2009

Agnosticism Now

Most of you will know by now, that I’ve left Christianity, quite suddenly to some. The truth is that the cause of my disagreement with God has been there for a long time now. Every time I hear the news that a confused teenager has gone out and shot twenty people, or that every thirty seconds a person is dying of Malaria, I see that reason, and I can’t ignore it – there is so much wrong with this world that either God doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t care.

Now some would like to tell me that by turning my back on God, I am abandoning all that I have ever stood for. This isn’t true. I believe in a world where people should be rewarded for their hard work, and compensated for their misfortunes. I believe that if we put in the effort, and if we are ethical, moral people, we are better people than those who would lie and steal to achieve their aims. I believe that each individual should want to serve society as a whole, but that society should never (and should never have to)tell people to help it in ways they are not willing to. In the end, I believe that one should be able to live, with the greater good of society in mind, and die, content that society in turn has returned what it has received from them. I believe that many religious people here share my view of an ideal world.

Coming back to the reason I have decided to leave the Church. I feel that we, as a people, have betrayed each other. I wonder at the purpose of the Bible, and whether people spend so much time reading it that they forget the reason it was written – I think God, if there is one, gave us the bible as a code of conduct – and that if we stuck to the guidelines that God had set down for us, we would:

  1. find inner peace and be one with God, and
  2. bring about a utopia for all, where the world is filled with joy and idealism, where peace reigns not only within the soul but everywhere – the land of milk and honey.

(NB: I assume this is true for the major religions besides Christianity.) The first object of the code, people excel at. We are so at peace with ourselves that we ignore the glaring sins we have committed, and either forget or ignore the second, greater objective. This is my first criticism of the vast majority of religious. (My second is that the religious are frequently too busy trying to convert others that they forget the two objectives that the Bible seems to be telling us.) If God exists, then I think he will forgive my frustration with him – he told us that if we conduct our lives well, we would be given utopia. But what he didn’t tell us is that we need to build it on our own. He expected us to work this fact out for ourselves.

This is the third possibility – that God, for whatever reason, has decided that we are to do the work he set for us, and that we have to earn our keep.

My current line is this: I am going to do as much as I can for the downtrodden of the world. God isn’t going to do it directly. Again, the three possibilities are that he doesn’t exist, can't be bothered, or he’s waiting around for me, and people like me, to do something about it.

If it’s the first then I suppose I would have lived up to the objectives I’ve set for myself – that I as one of the more fortunate people should give to society as much as I can give, willingly and with no regrets.

If he really does exist but cannot be bothered, then I suppose I would rather not believe in a God who could stop all this nonsense, yet chooses not to.

If it is the latter, I suppose God would meet me at the end of my life, and tell me how this was all part of his grand plan. And maybe then I would decide whether to believe in a God who would rather people save themselves, even though he himself can.

My path to agnosticism begins here, and I am turning my back on God for the time being, but not on what God says – that the world as it is needs fixing, and that we shouldn’t expect anyone else to do the fixing for us.

[EDIT: I am not turning my back on God, but on our religious teachings on God and the way God operates – things will become clearer to me later, and I would rather be active and practical than ponder over the same thoughts repeatedly. I believe I made that statement with a great deal of frustration, and therefore didn’t quite check what I wrote. Thank you, Mum, for pointing out my typo.]

Monday, 16 March 2009

Muse

Ladies and gentlemen, if you do not like to ponder "Life, The Universe, and Everything!", then this post is not for you.

We know that molecules are governed by formulae. We have used these formulae to build up an understanding of the world on a larger scale – calculating how long a line is, designing a battery, analysing a cell in the human body, breeding the perfect racehorse etc. These formulae have not only allowed us to understand the world, but to rule it.

But once we get to humans, the rules break down – nobody can predict the actions of a single person; no matter how we they know about people they will always continue to surprise. Which is probably a good thing – if we knew how to predict people then life itself would lose all meaning. Would you really want to live if you knew that someone with a calculator knew (not commanded, knew) exactly what you would do?

What really scares me is this: once you zoom out to look at populations rather than individuals, a new set of formulae comes into play – they are different of course from those that govern molecules, but they are formulae nonetheless, and they are frightfully efficient. What would you do if I told you that advertising companies could tailor an advert to increase their sales by a very specific percentage range? Somehow, on a large scale we lose whatever freedom we have created out of exact rules. It is almost as if whatever we do as individuals seems to make no difference to the grand game that governs us as a species.

And that, my friends, is very frightening indeed, because if this is true, then whatever choices we make are not going to make a significant difference to the world. And knowing human nature, someone out there will try to find out this magical set of formulae, to influence entire populations for their own ends. I won't use the words "mind control" because they're too clich├ęd. This is more subtle, more insiduous. It directs populations, yet abandons the individual to make sense of a world where they seem to have so much choice, but whatever they choose makes no difference to the final outcome. I pray that this will never come true, yet somehow I feel that it already has. I leave you with a movie quote for you to mull over. It may be from an action movie, but it is a powerful one nonetheless.

The truth [is]...that you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.
And you thought that The Matrix was just another action movie.