Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Fear and the Evolution of the Revelation of Reality

I would imagine that as long as humans have been able to converse they have wondered about the events they could not explain or understand. As their mental capacity expanded, they became more curious and more intrigued with these unexplainable occurrences. At some point in time they began assigning names and personalities to these events. They named the god that caused thunder to rumble above them during electrical storms. They had no scientific knowledge of what was happening to cause the frightening sounds, so they attributed it to something they could grasp, someone like themselves that they could not see.

Now these many years later, educated people know the reasons for the lightening and the thunder. We are no longer ignorant of it’s origin. We know there is no god driving his chariot through the sky.

Science has explained so much to us that the people of history did not have the luxury to understand. Science has removed the need to attribute to gods what is a naturally occurring event.

Today with all the scientific knowledge we have and our ability with due diligence to have more, the need for gods is increasingly growing unnecessary.

We are discovering that knowledge of earthly events is the result of natural occurrences and not the result of the will of some supernatural being.

This, I believe, is what is making the religious Right so angry. They feel their god’s reputation as the all mighty one is being eroded. Rather than acknowledge that we can discover and understand the causes for events, they would rather deny that knowledge exists. They seem to refer to knowledge as something that is “elite” and those who rely on that knowledge as “elitist”. With these labels, they have tried to destroy the bountiful treasures that stem form education and knowledge. Why would they do that? Why fly straight into the face of reason?

The Right, rather than take responsibility for their actions and deeds, find it easier to attribute everything they do to their “God’s will”. As long as their actions and beliefs are “God’s will”, they never have to explain themselves. They shun anyone who can present them with facts, as facts are often the enemy of their beliefs.

As the scientific world moves forward to explain more and more events, the religious Right sees that much of the world requires less and less need to assign that which they do not yet understand to a whimsical, supernatural god. They fear a world that is evolving into a world that is not fearful of the wrath of their god. Without the need to attribute to a god what is not understood by man, they fear they will be held responsible for their deeds, not in heaven, but right here on earth. They fear the evolution of science and the revelation of the reality it brings.


Blogger SB Gypsy said...

It's their conservative mindset, their need to submit to authority, their fear of having to be responsible all unto themselves for their own life. So, their fears and needs have sucked the life out of our societies for lo these three thousand years.

Time to revamp and rearrange, to my mind.

July 12, 2006 5:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bingo -- it's scary to adapt to changes that threaten the old order. That's why fundamentalist movements of every stripe thrive in an era of rapid change. It's the same mindset that inspired the Luddites to rise up against the Industrial Revolution. And it's repeated with the Luddites'modern-day heirs, men like Ayatollah Khomeini, Jerry Falwell and even the Unabomber.

Not only do they fear being held accountable for actions in this life rather than the next, they are afraid of losing their privileged status in the current system. It's not surprising that the forces arrayed against knowledge and change are led almost exclusively by those who benefit from the predominent partriarchal construct.

What is surprising is the success they've enjoyed thus far even though we've never had more access to information. I vascillate between hope and despair on that account.

July 12, 2006 6:16 AM  
Blogger Reflections said...

I consider myself an amature scientist and yet I believe in god. This battle has gone on since the secrets of life began and religion formed. It is a matter of choice, like political parties. I would hate to see the outcome if we had only one choice about most things. I don't think I am bright enough to come up with an argument that I could win in any event that would change how people view politics or science. It could be that there is room for both thoughts. I will blog about this topic later today.

July 12, 2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger billie said...

you have said it so much better than i ever could. i posted yesterday on how i can't fathom how anyone can believe in christianity. i am willing to concede- at this point- that it is easier to believe in god than jesus. how anyone can believe- in the 21st century- in someone supernatural is beyond me.

July 12, 2006 6:36 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

people grasping at an idealology that is becoming irrelevant. it would be sad if it wasn't so fucking dangerous.

July 12, 2006 7:34 AM  
Blogger SecondComingOfBast said...

So you're saying Thor isn't really up there driving that chariot through the sky, killing giants with his magic hammer? Huh!! Next thing you know you're going to be trying to tell me when he stamps it on the ground he doesn't really turn into a lame doctor. Really now, Martini, would they put things in comic books if it weren't true?

July 12, 2006 7:39 AM  
Blogger Big Tom said...


I just wanted to say thanks for visiting my site and leaving positive comments.

I get so many flames. When people like you visit and say nice things it really makes a difference.

P.S. Whatever happened to Roxanne Pulitzer? Is she still blowing the trumpet?

July 12, 2006 7:54 AM  
Blogger Jim Yeager said...

Going by their own general idea of God, I'd bet most of these fundeys would fare better if they were called to account for their actions in this world instead of the next one. How they love claiming to speak for God. If only they knew what the Bible has to say about liars and false piety...

July 12, 2006 7:55 AM  
Blogger Peacechick Mary said...

It's interesting that the attributes most commonly associated with the rabid right are the same for bullies and rapists. Refusal to take responsibility for their own actions; no accountability; illogical and unreasoned statements; acting on an authority not their own. In every case, they must receive consequences for their actions.

July 12, 2006 9:02 AM  
Blogger Shutterwi said...

What I have never understood is that the very people who hand over the responsibilities for their actions to "God's will" have SO LITTLE faith in the possibility that it IS "God's will" that guides the hand of a scientist for example doing stem cell research.

It's only "God's will" if it results in something they agree with.

Or it's judicial activism if the case is decided against them OR court rule if it's decided for them.

Listen to the mainstream repugs screaming about the Hamdan v Rumsfeld decision.

July 12, 2006 10:09 AM  
Blogger concerned citizen said...

pat, ditto on that.

i was coming over to say i have been visiting your blog but, politics is not something i comment on much unless religion is involved.

Well, here you are talking about religion!

I'm reviving a an old post of mine on this subject, in light of seeing the issue discussed on a couple of blogs. (& wanting to have a post up while i'm on vacation)

July 12, 2006 10:19 AM  
Blogger Edward Copeland said...

Marx nailed it when he called religion "the opiate of the masses." When you get to the extremes of any religion -- Christianity, Islam, etc. -- nothing good usually comes of it. Janeane Garofalo once express her mystification at the endless religious wars in the Mideast saying that to her it was if they were fighting over which John Grisham novel was the best.

July 12, 2006 10:20 AM  
Blogger Darius said...

The religious right seems to be taking us back in time.

There are plenty of believes who left behind the "God of the Gaps" a long time ago - just talk to any div school professor (they're almost all clergy as well) at Yale, Harvard, U of Chicago...

The God of the Gaps refers to the idea you're talking about: if God is used to "explain" gaps in scientific knowledge, this is also a God who's in retreat.

I don't understand how the religious right managed to grow and flourish in our lifetimes. Re. evolution, for example, its legitimacy in education was established in the early 20th century - the "Scopes Monkey Trial."

But it's like half the nation is managing to pull us back toward the Middle Ages.

I've already begun mentally preparing myself to see them restart the argument that the sun revolves around the earth. I expect to see it in the papers before I die - the insistence that this theory be taught in the schools because it's unfair to teach only that "secular" idea that the earth goes around the sun.

July 12, 2006 11:43 AM  
Blogger glenda said...

When the status quo is attacked or abandoned, it does make those conservatives defensive. The word conservative defines a person as one who likes the status quo, does not want to change. hey will fight to keep tradition my area that translates as people putting the rebel flag on their pickups.

July 12, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger Pax Romano said...

It's a sad and scary time when the mightiest nation on the earth wraps itself in a flag and crowns itself with archaic mythological beliefs (i.e. Christianity).

July 12, 2006 12:23 PM  
Blogger Pogo said...

Great post. As a lapsed Presbyterian church attending Catholic atheist who grew up in the bosom of the Southern Baptists, and something of a science/astronomy fan, I get my weekly dose of "I can't believe all these smart people around me actually believe this." Of course, my wife and son are among them,but neither would try and push their beliefs on anyone. I was confronted with it early in life when the issue of evolution came up in my HS biology classes and my mother denied that the big E existed. My father, an engineer who was an aquiescent Presbyterian who was no fool, refused to engage in the argument. No amount of argument over the years about the evidence that supported the theory could shake her faith that since the Bible didn't talk of evolution or common ancestors, Darwin must be wrong. Of course, her understanding of evolution was the simplistic perception that we came from monkeys, and she just couldn't buy that. (On the other hand, she was a bigoted southern woman who would not allow a bad word to be said about any black people she knew personally, believed in a woman's right to choose and in charity). I never understood, and do not now understand, why she (and the other semi-literalists) could not reconcile the processes of nature with their faith in a higher power without resort to the Genisis explanation of the origin of man. She probably would have ascribed to intelligent design theory if she had known about it, but that arose after she became too old nd disinterested in such things to give it much thought. I apologize for the rambling noodling, but I suspect my mother is pretty typical of at least one branch of what we refer to as the religious right, but not the branch we worry about.

July 12, 2006 12:31 PM  
Blogger Pogo said...

Oh, and she made wonderfully crispy fried chicken in an old cast iron skillet that my sister still has.

July 12, 2006 12:33 PM  
Blogger isabelita said...

Seems to me these days, world-wide, religion is not an opiate for the mases, it is a meth amphetamine for them. If the various religious forms actually calmed people down, religion might be useful...

July 12, 2006 1:29 PM  
Blogger Durward Discussion said...


The problem with religion as opposed to faith is that religion simply makes God too darn small.

I believe that there might be something out there that could possibly have had a hand in creation and might have some great cosmic plan in mind.

I do not believe that he/she/it gives a fig about everyone's day to day activities and moral status, if only because he/she/it is too busy keeping track of novas and black holes to worry about who might win a football game or the lottery.

I suppose that religion does provide guidelines for how to treat our fellow man, so does a science fiction novel I once read about a world so civilized it only had two laws:

Thou shalt not offend
Thou shalt not be too easily offended.

Pretty well covers all of religion and law.

July 12, 2006 2:02 PM  
Blogger blueINdallas said...

I'm not a biblial literalist & as far as the right wing is concerned, that probably makes me a heathen. Go heat up the tar & pluck the chickens. (Then fry 'em up in a cast iron skillet.)

July 12, 2006 2:19 PM  
Blogger blueINdallas said...

Nor am I a biblical literalist. :)

And, I love quantum physics...books like The Self-Aware Universe & The Dancing Wu-Li Masters. I just think God is everywhere and that's my experience; if others observe the world differently, that's their experience. Kind of a wave/particle - Schroedinger's cat kind of thing; it depends on the observer, but everything is potentially possible.

July 12, 2006 2:25 PM  
Blogger eProf2 said...

PoP: Here's the cartoon from Bizarro for today's papers. I think it fits your point to a degree.

Pogo: You're mother is smiling at you for sure.

Today's Bizarro

July 12, 2006 2:57 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Such an interesting post and the comments are just as good. I think moderation is a key in anything..and the same goes for religion.

thats all I have..nothing deep..

July 12, 2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well said!

The world would be a much better place if there were less religious administration and more do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

For those who believe, no explination is necessary. For those who do not believe, no explination will suffice.

When I get to heaven will I see Pat Robertson, Jimmy Swaggert, Jerry Falwell, Jim Baker, or will I see Martin L. King, Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi; someone please tell me, because I probably won't get there.

July 12, 2006 4:00 PM  
Blogger Lew Scannon said...

I think it's because religion has been used to control people for so many years that once people begin to become enlightened, the right wing lose their grasp on their base. Most forms of Christianity, especially fundamentalism, is not based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, rather it's based on controlling groups of people.

July 12, 2006 5:35 PM  
Blogger Frederick said...

I think I was a Quaker in another life. Prehaps even Herman Husband. Not all religion is as bad as I once thought. Of course I'm starting to be of the suspicion that I've been a Buddhist all these years and didn't even know it.


July 12, 2006 6:01 PM  
Blogger enigma4ever said...

ah Fred....I am a Quaker ain't half bad....we all need something to keep us sane and grounded and whole...and believing in Peace, Humanity and Courage of Man,especially in these times.....I pray that People that are Extreme are taught lessons before more people are hurt or killed....and yes, that would mean Certain Right Wing Cretins at 1600 who think God ONLY talks to them....

July 12, 2006 6:38 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

ignorance is not necessarily stupidity ... but willful ignorance in the face of evidence sure as shit is ... nice post ... amazing how many frickin' medieval mentalities are about in the world today ... with power no less ...

July 12, 2006 9:03 PM  
Blogger The Future Was Yesterday said...

Such an excellent many excellent comments! It's always a pleaure to come over here! I've been either surrounded by or immersed in "Christian Fundamentalists" all my life. Nearly all of my family are Fundie Extremists; as you might guess, ties are strained at best. On the much more pleasant side, I'm married to a Scientist, so I get a visual and graphic picture of the differences nearly every day.

It's been my experiences that not only is "God" used to explain what they don't understand, as you posted, but he is also used in place of personal effort and responsibility. Ex: A family member asked to stay with me while they looked for a job. I said fine. For months, when inquiring about the job search, I heard "It's God's will" while lounging in front of my TV eating my food while I was working. I became tired of that, and asked them to move out. Weeks passed. Then two months. Finally, I took matters into my own hands, and changed the locks on all my doors, and asked them to step outside. Once out, I went in the house, and shut the door. Problem solved!:) They threw a shit fit and asked me "Why?" My answer; "It was God's Will." They had a job three weeks later.:)

Many Fundamentalists are truly retarded. Others just need a good kick in the ass to bring them back from excuseland to reality.

July 12, 2006 10:45 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

The fundies are frightened and have always been.

I find myself apologizing for being a Christian (or at least a believer in the teachings of Jesus).

The God the fundies fear is nothing I recognize.

July 13, 2006 1:42 AM  
Blogger Michael Bains said...

That was a beautiful description of the problem, POP.

Dogma makes life seem easier when it's hard or confusing. Science is the most honest way to acknowledge what IS going on though. Religion has striven to make us good and Science is slowly replacing it as the way to truthfully know how do so, and this scares the crap outta lots of folks who would rather just say "I already know."

Well it scares the crap outta naturalists a lot of time, as well! But just being born makes THAT inevitable. I'd rather be honestly scared and hopeful and amazed and frustrated than have an utter delusion as the cause of any of those feelings.

It makes progress towards my confusing goals of happiness for me and mine and everyone else as well so much more likely to be achievable while we're actually alive.

July 13, 2006 2:49 AM  
Blogger Blueberry said...

You can be a believer in the supernatural and myths, and you can be a rational thinker... just not at the same time. The brain (mind) is complex enough to be able to maintain conflicting beliefs while the individual struggles to suppress or encourage one or the other of them.

Then along comes an influential force (like a preacher, book, parent, or just something in your mind) that preys on the person's fear and superstitions, telling them it's all or nothing, they must give themselves 100% to "belief" and give up "thinking" which is now called "doubt".

Brainwashing. Tough to overcome, especially when surrounded by others who are similarly persuaded.

July 13, 2006 4:27 AM  
Blogger glasshill said...

"God is subtle, but he is not malicious" - Albert Einstein

there is also something written at the beginning of The Prophet (sorry I don't have it handy to quote it exactly) but basically it says that if Jesus of Nazareth were to walk with the Jesus of Christianity today they would find they would have little in common. Jesus' teachings inspired Gandhi, who inspired Martin Luther King Jr all who had a deep faith in God and used it not to their advantage but to the advantage of the world.

My first degree is in biology, and I studied very (frightenly so) closely, on a cellular level, the mechanics of reproduction - fascinating really. What I also learned was that the most science PhDs instead of being agnostic or atheist, came to have a strong belief in some higher power after studing 'the miracle' of life.

I don't believe faith in God, Goddess, or whatever is the problem, it is using it not as a personal compass to enhance your own spiritually and to do good in the world, but as a weapon as many do - which IS very sad.

July 13, 2006 6:40 AM  
Blogger Blueberry said...

Our UU pastor, a person I admire deeply, speaks a lot about 2 types of religion: one based on love (as in the example of Gandhi, MLK jr, etc.) and another based on fear. They are as different as can be, and the latter type is very destructive in many ways.

July 13, 2006 11:39 AM  
Blogger Endorendil said...

It is quite easy to combine rational thinking with religious belief. In my days as a researcher (in high-energy physics), I worked extensively with at least two very religious scientists, one at MIT, one at ANL. Their work never suffered for their religious beliefs.

As a scientist, I guarantee you that science has no means, nor intent, to eradicate religion. You can expect scientific progress to trim the silly edges of religious belief, but even there, science remains powerless in conveying even basic truths. If you've ever followed a diet that didn't simply consist of eating less and exercising more, you know the basic human desire to believe in quackery...

We may understand thunder and lightning as straightforward meteorological phenomena. But as long as they will inspire a sense of smallness, and perhaps a tint of primal fear, religion will thrive.

July 16, 2006 2:50 PM  

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