Anti-religion rant for the weekend
I will never understand why people who incorrectly predict the apocalypse (Jesus, William Miller, Hal Lindsey, etc) influence society like they do.
This week, there are festivities dedicated to one of those false apocalyptic prophets. One would think this settles it:
And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.’
‘But in those days, after that suffering,
the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light,
and the stars will be falling from heaven,
and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.
Then they will see “the Son of Man coming in clouds” with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.
‘From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.
Versions of those statements are fairly well-attested, with similar sayings showing up in the other gospels. Alas, Jesus’ cult went on to bigger things.
Humans are not particularly rational. I’m not, you’re not. The best we can do is strive to make sure our beliefs have some grounding before we reach our intellectual limits. We create institutions and follow certain methods to help ourselves. But we have to understand our limits and realize that people will come to different conclusions. Coercing everyone into coming to the same conclusion will not work nor is it desirable.
But that does not imply that individuals must treat all views as equally valid. It does not mean that all views have merit. It’s depressing how often critical discussion of religion is met by calls for tolerance, which in this context implies criticism is somehow less valid speech than religious expression. It serves to cover a belief that the standards we use to judge philosophies and world-views in every other area of our society are not valid here. And of course, those standards are not abandoned for a reason, but because the person lacks the introspective ability to question his or her belief that feelings are a reliable indicator of external reality.
And why would you want that ability? If you can’t believe without evidence, you can’t create a supreme being in your own image. I’d love to believe in a god who’s responsible for love and music, who gave us these amazing minds and expects us to use them against anyone who would oppress his children. It would make me feel better to believe in a supreme being who reflects my values. But what reason do I have?
We’re not rational. We hold irrational beliefs. But the rotten core of religious liberalism is the rejection of the idea that we should strive for something better. In some ways, that’s worse than the odious beliefs on religious conservatives.