Barry SCHWARTZ (Barijo ŜVARC) (chemoelectric) wrote,

Religions as metaphors

I am still in wait-and-see mode -- has Tommy DeLay jumped the shark? will the Leader's "approval rating" dip below 40 percent? will Randi Rhodes quit calling the Bushist lookouts and getaway drivers "decent people"? is Pope Benedict hiding a barbed tail under his robes, and is it his own tail? and so on -- but that question about the pope, in particular, suggests a side issue. Actually this is extremely relevant to our current political disaster, and isn't a side issue, but part of the core, and I dwell upon it because the new pope and the other cardinals all look so ridiculous to me with their chanting and gesturing and burnt offerings and entrail readings when they are supposedly 21st-century adults.

My core "side" issue: notice how religions, when proven wrong, survive anyway by interpreting words as figures of speech.

That the Earth is a ball-shaped speck in an enormous and very, very old universe that seems to follow similar physical laws everywhere is, pretty clearly, a disproof of the Bible. The "holy" scriptures of Judaism and Christianity are proven wrong; they are shown to be mythology no more reliable than that of the ancient Greeks. So what to do? Invent a scheme by which the words of the Bible can be interpreted as "true." They don't "really" mean what they say.

Maybe it's my middle agedness, but at this point in my life I can't understand how anyone could take "figurative" interpretations seriously. Is the rainbow the signature of "Jehova" or is it an optical effect of water droplets? If you are going to take the former theory seriously, as a kind of metaphor, then who's to stop me from claiming some figurative interpretation of "Zeus's" lightning bolts or "Thor's" thundering hammer?

I don't know how the universe came to exist, and don't know a lot about how human ethical systems arise, but I don't rely on primitive mythologies as explanations. The origin of the universe I leave, for now, as a complete mystery, and the question of how human ethical systems arise I consider scientific and highly unresolved, requiring intense empirical study.

In my opinion we will remain in deep trouble for as long as it is considered "responsible" behavior to excuse away the proven falsehood of our religions. We live in a place and time where it is considered a compliment to say of a person that he or she has "faith." It is the other way around; we should praise people for their temperance of faith. Everyone must be able to believe things, but should also be able and willing to disbelieve what has been proven wrong or evades proof of correctness. This is the scientific orientation and should reign in all human affairs, not merely those we label "science."

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your reply will be screened

    Your IP address will be recorded