Monday, September 19, 2011

Objection! Hearsay!

Human beings are interesting creatures.  I mean, comparatively speaking they have one of the largest brains in all the animal kingdom.  It allows us to do some really remarkable things.  Our imagination has been able to get us to the moon and and we have sent probes to beyond our own solar system.  We have cured many diseases that shortened the lives of our progenitors and have come up with vaccinations against many diseases that would wipe out large numbers of our children even just a hundred years ago.  Truly, we have made and are still making huge leaps in learning and bettering our lives collectively.  

Of course, our imagination also has a downside to it.  We seem to be hard wired with the capacity to believe two completely different ideas at the same time.  People of various religions will believe in the creation story and the idea that the animals of today were created exactly as they are now, but at the same time absolutely believe in dinosaurs and that other animals have been on the Earth for hundreds of millions of years.  For some, these two opposing ideas will eventually cause too much cognitive dissonance and one idea will die an ugly death.  Usually, if an idea is to die, it will be that one which has the less physical evidence supporting it.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there are more atheists who were once religious than the other way around.  

It seems to me that our modern society is more cynical than the societies that came before.  You will hear children playing and one child will say, "Oh yeah, prove it!"  From prospectuses in investing to looking into a business or an idea, we constantly want the proof of what it is that we are being told.  We do our research, we talk to those who have done what it is we want to do, we look for reviews online.  Every product I buy now, will have been researched online for a week or more before I make my purchase.  Online websites will have places where people can put their opinion about a product or service.  The web site "Angie's List" is all about rating and reviewing products and service providers so that people can know what to expect before they shell out the cash.  Now, admittedly much of this relies upon listening to others experience and taking their word for it.  However, they are giving their opinion on something that they actually bought or saw occur. It is a first hand experience that meets with our expectations, and so we attempt to learn by their experience, so that if it wasn't a pleasant experience, we won't repeat it.  

Not so with religion.  For whatever reason, when it comes to religion all of our cynicism melts away.  There must be something in our collective make-up that causes us to put aside our desire for proof when it comes to religion.  Please think about the following scenario.  You meet a man at a party.  He is a really nice guy and seems to be very charismatic.  After short time he tells you that he has personally seen God and talked with him.  God told him to start a church and let everybody know that it was the true church.  He tells you that you will have to make sacrifices and people will probably hate you, but if you do what he says and follow him, the true prophet of God, then you will be saved and be happy forever.  What would you do?  Honestly?  In this modern world most people would try their best to stay polite, but would rapidly start looking for an excuse to put something solid like a kitchen table or a bowl of artichoke dip between them and this nut job.  Everybody would think he was completely nutso.  You'd look to your significant other and start doing the secret "Its Time To Go!  Get Your Shit And Meet Me By The Front Door" look.  

Now, take that same example.  Just put 190 some odd years between it and you  and have a young man tell you that this is what happened a long time ago and for some reason we as humans want to believe it.  So much so that in the last two centuries this church has baptized somewhere between 11 and 13 million people. (I say baptized, because the number of actual active members is probably much less like 4-5 million)  Of course the same could be said for any religion.  The Scriptures that the Christians rely on, the New Testament, was written approximately around 70 AD.  That was about 40 years after Jesus was to have lived and been killed.  Now, if you were to tell me to write down word for word what had occurred last month between me and my wife I wouldn't be able to do it.  So what are the chances, that four disciples of Jesus could write their gospels 40 years afterword and have the words be almost word for word?  And more importantly, Christians rely on these writings to the letter to know what it is that God wants them to do.  Muslims aren't any better, as the Quran was written much later and has the same amount of improbable occurrences that the bible does. (All the Jews being turned into apes and pigs, etc.)

That is really the problem with religion.  The entire basis of religion is hearsay.  In courts of law, hearsay is inadmissible because it is unreliable and you are testifying to what someone else said.  The basis for religion is a bunch of really cool stuff that happened a long time ago to someone else who had been dead for centuries.  No, you can't see a really cool miracle, because you must have faith and believe the hearsay that is being told to you.  Besides which, miracles were only done a long time ago before humans had the capacity to measure and study an occurrence which appears to be impossible, and possibly find out its really just a slight of hand. Yes, yes, God once spoke from the clouds so that everybody who heard it would know without a doubt what his intentions were, but that is because the people in the olden days were complete morons and needed that kind of encouragement.  I mean, the Old Testament is chock full of stories about how the people had to know who was in charge and leading them, and they rebelled anyway.  Complete imbeciles.  We of course in modern times should be able to cast our doubts aside and listen to our feelings and come to the conclusion that religion is right.  No voices or pillars of fire for us.  We have feelings.  Of course, that doesn't help when I get teary eyed at some beer commercials.  Does that mean that I should recognize the truthfulness of Budweiser?  Maybe.   


No comments:

Post a Comment