Thursday, June 30, 2011

"F-ing Magnets, How Do They Work?"

Is anyone except me slightly irked when people legitimately make things up and, when ask for an explanation, treats their made up idea as  if it were some sort of profound mystery? This complaint is related to, but not the same as yesterday's post about philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Humans have a natural curiosity that drives them to solve mysteries, this much is clear. What I consistently fail to grasp, however, is our insistence upon creating "mysteries" and "miracles" where there needn't be any at all.

Let me give you a simple example. The phrase "God works in mysterious ways" is one of the most irksome cop-outs I have ever encountered. When entering into discussions about God giving humans free will for example, we often hear questions asked about why God supposedly intervenes a certain times in the lives of humans or why God allows certain "natural evils". This line of questioning generally comes back with the "mysterious ways" reply. I rarely know how to respond to this nonsense, not because it's a good reply, but because it's a supremely bad one. In such a situation, the theist is making an assertion that things happen for a reason, that is, God's plan. When asked about the rationale behind said plan, however, the best the theist can do is give an elegant version of "I don't know". How the heck does this explain anything? Why not simply admit that you don't know in the first place? What's the use of tacking on random claims of divinity that are no more than pious assumptions? And of course, when natural disasters are explained in purely materialistic terms, the miracle squad will inevitably cluck endlessly.

There were some who did not understand why certain rational minds made ICP's song "Miracles" into such a big deal. It's just a song, right? Wrong. Though the Insane Clown Posse's messy lyrics demonstrate a juvenile view of the world combined with willful ignorance, they do, in fact, display an attitude that is depressingly common among believers in the supernatural today. The difference between the ICP and theologians is that theologians are far more eloquent and thus, sound much more convincing.

That may seem like a very harsh claim to make, after all, there are a good many very intelligent theologians out there. However, I don't think the comparison is undeserved. I was recently reading an informational website run by a certain religious group who shall, for the time being, remain nameless. The subject was the inspired nature of the gospels. After a very long (and admittedly poetic) description of the depth and mystery of God's hand in scripture, there was a rather short and snippy paragraph about how scholars who use "scientific" methods to investigate scripture and thus, question the traditional interpretations, are only seeking to mislead the public. The origin of scripture could only be divine.

The sad fact is that the sentiment expressed in that essay was IDENTICAL to that of the song "Miracles". The ICP raps defiantly, "f*cking magnets, how do they work?/ And I don't wanna talk to a scientist/ ya'll motherf*ckers lying/ and gettin' me pissed!" What is the cause of this rampant anti-intellectualism? At least most people that I know of think the Insane Clown Posse is nuts. But people actually TRUST priests, pastors, rabbis and imams. Sometimes I wonder if people actually listen to what their religious leaders say or if they just see and hear pretty words strung together such so that they can't possibly be wrong.

Sadly, no matter how beautiful an idea is, that idea could still be wrong.

There is a simple answer to why parts of the Bible contradict each other and/or make no sense. As far as we can tell, it is simply a book written by scores of people over thousands of years. Please note, PEOPLE. There is no secret divine mystery to any of it and there needn't be one. Sure, there are things we don't know about the origins of the Bible, Qur'an and Torah, but that's exactly why we looks to historians and archaeologists. These people dedicate their lives to discovering these truths. Many of them are believers with no intention of "lying" or "misleading" people. No matter how much of it you do, pulling ideas and pure logic out of the air will never lead you to truth. Not without evidence, that is. Yet this is all apologetics is and ever will be. So let's stop making excuses.

I always loved the House quote about how, if the wonder of something disappears once that something is explained, there never was any wonder to begin with. It's so true. We need to stop adding Gods and spirits where they don't belong. We need to stop clinging to ancient ideas simply because they're beautiful or profound-sounding or... well, ancient. The more I read about ancient wisdom, the less wise it sounds to me. What use are imagined mysteries when there are so many real ones?

And remember, no matter how many assumptions we add to an argument, we know what will have the last laugh: