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Even More Religious Shorts - by John Prytz

Of all of those Big Questions central tophilosophical concepts that surround life, the universe and everything, therealms of theology and religions and the nature of deities continue to fascinate.Opinions proliferate in books, articles, videos, conversations in bars andpubs, and in fact anywhere and everywhere two or more humans are in proximity.There's the pro side; there's the anti-side. There aren't too manyfence-sitters. I'm in the anti-camp as the following third installment ofreligious short pieces illustrate.




Theological Dot Points


What Causes Religious Belief?


Do Science & Religion Conflict?


Argumentsabout God?


Fallaciesin Arguing for God?


On The Concept of An All-Knowing God


IsThere Life After Death?


TheologicalDot Points


*Theology for the masses today becomes theentertainment for the masses tomorrow. Think of The Olympians way back when andAncient Greek mythology today, as an example.


*Theology is both Earth-centered as well ashuman-centered. Yet in reality, Earth is about as minor a celestial object asyou care to examine both in time and in space; humans are also quite the minorentity, especially in time vis-a-vis how long Earth has existed as well as howlong the cosmos has existed. Therefore, theology, in cosmic (spatial andtemporal) terms isn't significant at all.


*Had you been born in a different timeand/or place, you'd be singing the praises of Allah, Mohammed and the Koran orperhaps instead worshipping Isis, Horus and Osiris, maybe even The Aten. So,methinks your theological convictions are all a matter of the time and place,of the culture and the society you were born into. It has nothing to do with theologicallycoming closer to truth!


*Not all of the major religions can betrue, but all can be false. As has been famously pointed out, nearly everyonetoday dismisses the concept of many deities (plural) or polytheism. I just gothat one extra yard and dismiss the one deity that's left over as not havingany more credibility than the many deities that are now confined to the rubbishbin that once upon a time held sway over the religious faithful.


*But has it ever really occurred to youthat your entire theological house-of-cards is just a product of the accidentaland random timing and placement of your birth and associated upbringing. Hadyou been born and raised and indoctrinated say 1000 years ago in Japan, Mexico,Australia, Indonesia, Indiaor even what would become the USA,you'd be singing a vastly different theological tune with total conviction. Youknow that's true. Further, that's the most telling point of all.


What Causes Religious Belief?


Are we hard-wired for religion and beliefin deities?


It would appear that humans alone of allthe primates, far less all of the rest of the higher mammals, are hard-wiredto, if not uncritically believe in a spirit or supernatural reality, at leasthave an intense and curiosity about the possibility of one. [Even the mostrabid of atheists must have an interest in the possible existence of deitiesand the supernatural in order to bucket that existence.] The evidence for thatis that nearly every culture from the Year Dot through to the present day holdssuch beliefs or interests. There’s no evidence that chimpanzees, gorillas,monkeys, and associated primates or other intelligent species like whales anddolphins and elephants, etc. have a similar belief or interest in anythingtheological. They don’t appear to have religious or spiritual experiences.


Why have humans and humans alone beensingled out for this facet of ‘reality’? Further, there’s evidence that partsof the human brain can be stimulated to produce spiritual or religiousfeelings, for oneness with a personal God to a more nebulous oneness with thecosmos. Also, those with temporal lobe epilepsy can ‘suffer’ fromhyper-religiosity.


Humans being singled out to have aspiritually inclined brain make little sense from a natural selection orbiological evolutionary point of view. A religious frame of mind doesn't helpfind food and shelter and a mate and avoid predators, etc. It all makes littlesense unless this facet of our mental being was programmed in from the word goby either a really real supernatural deity or deities or else by my postulatedSupreme Programmer who created our Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe.

IMHO the Supreme Programmer has programmedinto us an awareness that there is a Supreme Programmer – kind of like anartist signing their paintings!


Do Science & Religion Conflict?


Not all humans are of course moral, sothat's not a universal. Many other animal species are moral or have ethicalqualities. In fact on average I'd suggest animals tend to be way more moral intheir intra-species behavior than humans are. Regardless, that suggests thatthere has to be some evolutionary advantage in adopting a 'golden rule'. Whenit comes down to survival, being moral and not pissing someone else off morelikely as not will result in a benefit to you when the fertilizer hits the fanand you need an ally. Many an atheist is an upstanding citizen; many areligious believer can inflict the worst of cruelties on their fellows - do Ireally have to give you a history lesson to point that out? Just consider those'moral' humans that are part and parcel of the so-called Islamic State. So,there could be a lot of dispute about our moral compass.


We only have one example of Planet Earthand one example of the human body, so suggesting that Earth or the human bodyhas intricate complexity is arguing from a single data point. Complexity, likebeauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Some mathematics are highly complex tome; not complex at all to someone who has devoted years of work mastering thesubject. Basic arithmetic is something incredibly complex to my cats. No doubtthey must think arithmetic is a gift from the gods because only a god couldinvent something so complex.


The Earth and the human body are ascomplex as is needed to be in order to exist in the way that it does - no moreand no less. It isn't too difficult to imagine the Earth and the human body asbeing vastly more complex than they are. But anyone who has played around withcomputer programming generating 'artificial life' knows full well that fromvery simple starting parameters one can generate incredible complexity. Nodeity need apply for the job. From quarks and electrons you can naturallygenerate atoms of hydrogen and oxygen; from hydrogen and oxygen you cannaturally generate water; from water you can naturally generate ice and vapor;oceans and icebergs and rain. There's nothing supernatural required.


It is not a universal, therefore not asimple truth that we (as in 100% of us) yearn for all of the same things. Ifeveryone yearned for the exact same things, however deep and important they maybe, well that would be the state of our civilization. It would be pretty boringif all of us were monks of eastern religious faiths or philosophers or hippiesand seekers of altered states of consciousness. Not all of us wish to know howmany angels (not that there are angels of course IMHO) can dance on the head ofa pin.


As for giving and getting, would yourather get a pay-check or give your money to the tax-man?


As a bit of a postscript, with respect towhatever degree of morality we humans have, it certainly didn't derive fromGod. God's own morality is non-existent if you believe the Old Testament. Godis the greatest super-villain ever conceived of by humans, which is not at allunlikely given that God was created in the image of man. What's a goodcamp-fire tall tale without a villain to make the narrative interesting?Fortunately, the Biblical Old Testament is just a camp-fire tall tale. It'sjust myths and fairy-tales penned and told by grown-ups for grown-ups. There isno causality between the lack of morality in the fictional tales of God and theon-again, off-again morality of the human species.


Argumentsabout God?


1)When it comes down to providing arguments for the existence of God, I findtotally incredible the statement by religious philosopher Alvin Plantinga that"Well, first of all I'd like to reiterate - I don't think you needarguments. I think you can be perfectly sensible, rational, reasonable,justified, intellectually okay, meeting your responsibilities, etcetera,believing in God without believing on the basis of arguments even if you don'tthink there are any good arguments. I think that's how actually most people dobelieve in God and I think that's a perfectly proper way."


Excuseme, but if you propose the existence of something, anything, then the burden ison you to provide at the minimum some evidence even if you can't provide proof.Evidence can be intellectual as in the form of arguments, but you'd better providesomething to back up your belief. Plantinga does then provide arguments, butonly after being prodded to do so. He'd rather just use his fallback positionthat you don't need any arguments to believe in the existence of God. Of courseI've come to except such nonsense from theologians or philosophers who dabblein religious philosophy. What a crock of bovine fertilizer it is to state thatXYZ exists without the need to back up your claim. Obviously the Earth is flatand I don't need any arguments to back that up!


2)The apparent fine-tuning of the laws, principles and relationships of physicsthat translates into a bio-friendly cosmos is indeed compelling evidence thatthere is an intelligence behind it all, even if most of the cosmos isbio-unfriendly. However, rather than postulate a supernatural intelligence, Isuggest the odds favor a flesh-and-blood intelligence, in fact a computerprogrammer that has designed a Simulated (Virtual Reality) Universe, and we arepart and parcel of that simulated landscape. That simulation would of coursehave to be fine-tuned to allow for a habitable albeit virtual landscape, in theexact same way as our video games are fine-tuned in order to make thegame-playing logical in its depiction of 'reality'. Fine-tuning might be anargument for intelligence, but it's not of necessity an argument for God.


Fallaciesin Arguing for God?


Thereare dozens and dozens of biographies and other historical accounts about famousindividuals like Archimedes, Plato, Homer, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Cleopatra,Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Ramesses the Great, Tutankhamun, and so ondown the line. Now you will note that these books never quote theseindividuals. They don't say something like "Cleopatra said", unlessthey actually wrote or carved some statement or inscription down. You canrattle off many "Jesus said" quotes; how many quotes do you know forany or all of the other above historical figures?


NowI'm not aware or I don't recall Jesus having actually penned any document thathas survived, not carved any inscriptions in stone - unlike Daddy, though forsome strange reason those dual petroglyphs of His authorship don't seem to bein the public arena anymore, or in a museum. So, when it comes to "Godsaid" or "Jesus said", something is clearly screwy somewhere.


Imean there are no qualifiers in the Bible about what God said or Jesus said.You don't get words like "supposedly said" or "allegedlysaid" or "might of said" or "could have said basedon..." or "may have stated his view that" or "or words tothat effect". What God said or Jesus said is not in doubt which is morethan just slightly anomalous.


Nowhere's some pretty solid evidence the New Testament, just like the old, is atotal fabrication - a work of fiction, or rather perhaps the world's firstanthology of fantasy stories. Now in the New Testament (Matthew 4: 1-11; Luke4: 1-13) we find Jesus going walkabout in the wilderness for 40 days andnights. I might have been more impressed if it had been for 39 days and nightsor 41 days and nights, but just another Biblical 40 is just so unoriginal, butthat's another topic. Anyway, Jesus didn't totally lack for company, as he andthe Devil had a bit of a chin-wag. Quotes are quoted regarding theirconversation. Now, did the Devil act as a scribe for Jesus; did Jesus act as ascribe for the devil? Who was taking notes and recording this verbalinteraction? The odds are there were no pens and pencils put to paper out therein the wilderness, so there can be no exact quotations of the Jesus-Devilexchange. That suggests that someone somewhere made it all up out of wholecloth, just as the characters in novels have conversations given in quotationmarks.


On The Concept Of An All-Knowing God


Assuming there is such a being as an all-knowing(omniscient) Maximally Great Being (i.e. - God), this would suggest among otherthings that:


If you are all knowing then you know the past, thepresent, and the future as well since one can, being all-knowing, use the allomni-knowledge of the present to predict the future perfectly.


If God is all-knowing, God has to see what you see; tastewhat you taste; smell what you smell; hear what you hear; feel what you feelboth physically and mentally. God may not think what you're thinking, but Hewould have to know what you are thinking, what you have thought about, and whatyou will think about. You can't even hide from God in your dreams. God wouldhave to know everything that's in your subconscious mind and know other thingsabout you like how loudly you snore and know all about the intimate details ofyour various body odors. Multiply that database by every organism, not justhuman beings that has ever lived, lives now and will ever live.


God knows why I chose a blue tie over a red tie eventhough the rationale for that choice is buried in my subconscious and I have noactual conscious knowledge of why I made that choice.


Now apply that principle to each and every human who hasever lived, lives now and will ever live. This principle could also be extendedfurther down into the animal kingdom.


God knows how many hairs are on my cat from day-to-day;moment-to-moment. That equally applies to every cat (past, present and future)and in fact all animals that have hair or fur.


God would have to know the state of health of each andevery one of your body cells and by extension each and every cell of everymulticellular creature that was, is, or ever will be. The same applies to allof those micro-organisms past, present and future. That's trillions upontrillions of cells to note and log.


God knows which sperm cell(s) will score the touchdown(s)for each and every conception, human or otherwise, that ever was, is, or willbe.


In seeming defiance of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle,God knows the exact position and velocity of each and every fundamentalparticle in the entire cosmos from nanosecond to nanosecond and has instantrecall of the state that existed for any particle at any time in the past andwhat will be in the future.


God knows every typo and misprint in every book,newspaper, magazine, letter, Internet blog, etc. in every written language thatever was, is or will be. Of course God has committed to memory every book,newspaper, magazine, letter, Internet blog, etc. in every language.


God could beat anyone, anywhere, at any trivia contest(past, present or future).


God could read and comprehend any medical doctor'shandwriting that's been scribbled on their prescriptions.


Take this daily morning scenario:


- You wake up (God knows when) and you go to the bathroomto take a morning piss. God knows the volume you passed as well as the numberof molecules of each chemical compound that was present as well as how long youtook from start to finish and what it smelled like. God also knows if you thenwashed your hands! (God also knows those same details for my cats in theirmorning foray to their litter box apart from the hand-washing of course.)


- Then you take a morning shower. God knows thetemperature of the water; how many drops of water came out of the shower head;what your bill for that water will be; how many bacteria got washed down thedrain, the species of each and whether they survived. He also knows what brandof soap you used, how much you used, what it cost, and where you bought itfrom.


- When you get dressed He knows if you put on freshunderwear or not!


- Does God really need to know whether or not you hadeggs or cereal for breakfast and if so how you had your eggs or what brand ofcereal you dished out? God would also know the temperature of your morningcoffee (or tea) at first sip and at final swallow. 


By the way, you might have to add in all the nitty-grittydetails of any and all possible extraterrestrial life forms into God's databankas well.


Are you getting the impression that these are examples ofInformation Overload taken to extremes? Isn't this scenario of an all-knowingMaximally Great Being not just getting a bit out of hand but getting prettydarned ridiculous to boot?


But the icing on the all-knowledge cake is that God couldNOT forget anything, ever, or else He wouldn't be all-knowing (omniscient)anymore. Isn't that a curse rather than a blessing?


IsThere Life After Death?


Thephilosophical logic of or behind Ockham's Razor means that one shouldn't pileon speculation after assumption after speculation after assumption in order toexplain something. Stick with the facts and keep it simple, stupid!


ApplyingOckham's Razor to the Afterlife:


Fact:You have a body and no debate need be entered into regarding that observation.


Fact:You have an essence and no debate need be entered into regarding thatobservation.


Fact:You will die and no debate need be entered into regarding that futureobservation.


Fact:Your body will decay away and no debate need be entered into regarding thatfuture observation.


SpeculativeAssumption: Your essence will leave your dead body at time of death and debateneed be entered into regarding that future possibility.


SpeculativeAssumption: Your essence will unite with another living body (reincarnation)and debate need be entered into regarding that future possibility.


SpeculativeAssumption: Your essence goes directly to an afterlife location and debate needbe entered into regarding that future possibility.


SpeculativeAssumption: Your essence will rejoin your original body when it is resurrectedand go directly to an afterlife location and debate need be entered intoregarding that future possibility.


Sowe see that if we want to minimize speculative assumptions and complications,then Ockham Razor is suggestive that we not proceed any farther than the fourthpoint. In other words, no afterlife is the default and simplest scenario whenit comes to your demise.

Science librarian; retired.

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