[extropy-chat] Extropic Commandments [was Re: Islamic morons winyet again]

John john.heritage at v21.me.uk
Thu Sep 28 20:05:22 UTC 2006

>One of those "ah-ha" moments that I had 25+ years ago involved someone wise (I'm unsure of 
>the precise individual now) saying, "Never take away someones belief system unless you are 
>willing to replace it with an alternative." 
>I still think that is a wise observation after many many years.

I started to come to this conclusion on my own when I was 20 or 21 - genuinely, which so few agnostics are I suspect.

I would alter it perhaps to "Never take away someone's belief system unless they're willing to accept yours"

Science is not only not accepted by the people being forced away from religion, it openly admits it's flawed in what it can offer them.

Now that last bit needs clarification. It's flawed in regards to not offering immediate and ultimate salvation, not it's short term. And that's a point I was going to make about the commandments.

I don't think it's so much the commandments of religion that attracts people to it. It's the element of passing blame and responsibility, getting rid of death and having to feel personally responsible, all things that really drag at the heels of an idiot like me.

The idea of buying, trading, bartering, whatever you want to call it, is fixed hard into our minds. The commandments of regular religion act almost like 'buying credits' for people to trade their way towards the more positive elements. In the same way that some people will pay for an object and others will just steal it, people will do the same with religion. Most Westerns steal it, in that they're religious but don't go to church or pray, or really obey the commandments. Then they feel embarassed and make token gestures towards it just in case. Fundamentalists are the other extreme and will pray a multiple of times per day perhaps. But even still, the price they pay for the item they receive is still cheap.

It also helps that the commandments are things that, particularly back when they were invented for christians, were and still are almost universally accepted as positive for the group's welfare - no killing each other or lying, etc.

Science on the other hand, offers no promise of salvation or excuses from responsibility. Further, every step you take along the very long path it takes to get to be a 'believer' in it's potential to offer some form of salvation (as we are) seems to have little immediate gain to the majority. It's complex stuff that needs interweaving and memory space, formulas and ideas that don't seem to mean anything on their own - you need to know about a whole load of other empirical findings for it to start clicking into place in the web that will allow you to form long term predictions. None of which is necessary for standard religion, you just choose it and you're done.

Then you have science that routinely sets deadlines for when to expect things to happen, that don't emerge on time. So when the next scientist says "we'll have hover cars by then", they get laughed at by the people who are waiting to ride the golden elevator to heaven, who've heard the same thing over and over and not seen it happen. The bible is very careful of setting specific dates to hold events to, it's all on the promise of someday.

There also seems to be some form of disconnect that occurs in standard religion, whereby the events and promises are so extreme and so desired, that people can more easily disconnect the need to actually make predictions on their likelyhood - it's too complex (like people don't enjoy thinking about the combinations on lottery balls). You can say something similar with science, that one day decades from now we might have life extension techniques that can keep us alive for centuries. But to the people who are approaching death now, that, combined with the factor of promises not being kept to (and probably other's that I've forgotten to mention), is no help. And they'll go on to teach their kids what they religiously believe almost to reassure themselves of it's worth.

I'm growing increasingly concerned with precisely what kind of effect people like Dawkins are having on kids as well in their attempt to create media shocks in regards to religion. I think we're bringing up a dangerous level of kids with the attitude that any question outside of numbers on a piece of paper is of no worth. That they'll deny the possibility before even looking at it.

However, lab rats who do practical lab work day in day out need to believe in something, and if outright denial that some religious questions are worth consideration is their way of reassuring themselves that their 9-5 job is worth it, perhaps they deserve that as well. 

On one hand you have the physical labourer, on the other the intellectual. Each may deserve their own hit of opium a day to keep them going. With people like us in the middle, hoping that we'll have life extension tanks online before we finally switch off.

There are (almost :) unquestionably positive gains to being religious in terms of what it does to your own personal outlook on life.


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