Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Stuck in Belief

Today I had a conversation with some friends of mine. These are people I really like and admire.

We like the same movies and music.

However, I am a skeptical non-believer with an understanding of the perspective of faithful people since I was raised devoutly religious.

I heard someone suggest that one of the presidential candidates fit a rough description of an Anti-Christ. I mean successful lawyer, married, parent, church going, Unites States Senator so and so seems like the epitome of evil in your faith? The evidence given was that this person would be charismatic.

What an out-there election tactic some preachers must be using!

This is a puzzling jamb in my opinion. Faithful, good people are stuck believing something where their own beliefs are used as proof of themselves. They discern truth and falsehood by checking whether something calls Jesus the Christ or not.

So things that agree with and support ones own faith and beliefs are the ultimate evidence of truth..even the exclusive evidence.

I had two insights recently.

One is that religion serves a valuable social purpose. It is a calling card, not a flawless one, for people who share your values. It means you can trust strangers if they profess your faith or one close enough to trust. You don't need to know much else. Also a christian? Here, take the car keys, my daughter and my wallet and go and get dinner and bring it back. Nothing will go wrong, people who profess our faith were taught like us and will act like us and not steal and not lie and not harm us.

It stems from a deep longing for social contact, a desire to be safe and a reliance on the power of social compliance.

There is a benefit to be had, I see that. Though at what cost? Reason? Common sense?

The reality is that many who profess faith are as human, flawed and prone to do evil things as every other person is. Some people who live with rational thinking as their guide can be the most compassionate, thoughtful, trustworthy and honest people. Yet anyone can make a mistake or suffer from a lapse in judgement or health or even low blood sugar.

Sometimes the searingly faithful brainwash themselves into a trance (using droning repetitive and awful religious pop music) where they are so fearful of "outside" influences that they see others in a really unfair way. I think it is sad that many so lock themselves into binding circular pseudo-reasoning that they can hardly learn to accept truth. Especially when truth is revealed by scientific consensus and not sourced from their only allowable trusted sources.

My other insight was almost off topic, though it relates. I realized things aren't always what you think they are the first time around.

That is the flag of Pakistan, which contains a common Islamic symbol of a crescent with a star in front of it.

I know what the symbol means on one is associated with Islam or Muslims. I have puzzled, being a fan of Astronomy, what it symbolizes. It couldn't be the Moon, there are no stars between the Earth and Moon, obviously. So how can a star shine through a planet? Then I thought it could symbolize Jupiter, with one of its sunlit moons transiting in our line of site and reflecting some light back to us, like Venus appears star-like in the morning.

Then I thought it could represent the Fertile Crescent region of the world. The star could roughly approximate Mecca, if the Crescent shape were rotated and positioned so it matched the shape of the Fertile Crescent running from along the Nile Egypt up around Lebanon, Syria, maybe parts of Turkey and along through Northern Iraq and down in following the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys. Maybe there is a Muslim who knows.


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