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[personal profile] electricpaladin
On Sunday, I was frustrated to find that I was scheduled to work during the Richard Dawkins presentation. Frustrated, because as I was to discover, I don't like what Richard Dawkins has to say, and I don't like how he says it. I found him to be a nasty, snotty man saying nasty, snotty things in a very cultured british accent.

I am a naturally argumentative person. My exploits are well known, and include a verbal battle with Oberlin's own resident evangelist. Honestly, listening to Dr. Dawkins, I felt like I was back in Tappan Square all over again, facing an asshole who was only a little more polite, a little more intellectual, and ultimately just as wrong, only in the opposite direction.

What is it that Richard Dawkins hopes to prove in his newest book, The God Delusion? He is trying to establish that God is, well, a dangerous delusion, religion a pernicious lie (in one of his previous books, comprable to a computer virus of the mind), and this whole faith thing really aught to be done away with. In fact, 'indoctrinating' children in religion is, in Dr. Dawkins's estimation, akin to child abuse.

Lovely, really.

I suppose I have Dr. Dawkins to thank for something, though. Listening to him helped me work out - in a Maimonidean, negative-theology sort of way - something that I believe very strongly. I am against all triumphalist and teleological modes of thinking.

By triumphalist, I mean so convinced of its own rightness that its ultimate acceptance by everyone is either inevitable or at least extremely desireable. By teleological, I mean positing an end point to the universe, a reason for everything, and then reasoning backwards from that, rather than forwards from evidence.

What's entertaining is that both Dawkins and Strobel (author of The Case for Faith and The Case of Christ and so on) fall prey to both these ways of thinking. Both believe that their ideas (radical atheism, evangelical christianity) should/will overcome all other relevant ideas, and both believe that the universe has a point (scientific exploration, Christ).

In reaction, I realize that I don't think anything has a point, or an end. The universe is not beautiful or elegant; it's arbitrary and cold. Our bodies are not smooth, beautiful engines for our enlightened wills; they are ugly, brutal, ill-functioning meat-things. Religion isn't about simple ethical lessons and easily swallowed mythologies; religion is messy and weird and full of incomprehensible crap. The universe doesn't have a point, and if you're looking for the point, you're missing the point. We can't give order to the universe - it doesn't have any - we can just try to improve the human condition and hope for the best.

But I think I'm at peace with all this.

I see numerous holes in my newly-verbalized ideas. How can I avoid triumphalism in my own thought, but at the same time, how do I avoid sinking into meaningless self-indulgent meditation ("that's how things are, such is life, don't try to change it - you can't order the disordered universe!").

Also, I'm still sorting out the consequences. If there is no point, then Judaism isn't my answer anymore, because I'm not looking for answers. There are no answers, because nothing has an ultimate point. Judaism can my question, though. I like that. Not Jew, but Jew? Great, but what does that really mean?

One of my coworkers says my new philosophy resembles taoism. Can anyone confirm or deny this, and if it's true, reccommend any works of taoism for me to read?
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electricpaladin

June 2012

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