Thursday, October 23, 2008

What I (tend to) believe (1)

I (tend to) believe that as well as being made up of a dynamic, relative system of discernible stuff, our cosmic habitat also encompasses a dynamic, relative system of discernible value. Crucially, I don't however believe that it requires an external guarantor - a being of perfect merit. 

These days I am more comfortable with being described as an atheist, but I'm aware that - especially out here - this will lead some people to conclude that I am either some sort of communist or indeed a general reprobate content to live outside any standard system of values : e.g. a very bad person, inwardly indecent, whatever outward impressions I might otherwise be giving. 

Back home people might conclude that I'm a follower of Professor Richard Dawkins, but although I sympathise with many of his criticisms of the religious outlook, I think it fallacious to consider the existence of an absolute being in terms of probability. (In short because the notion of probability only makes sense from inside the material cosmos, and even then means very different things at the micro and macro levels. Dawkins's biology - and hence also the philosophy he derives from it - is, to a large extent, trapped within the Physics of the nineteenth century. It's therefore disappointing that the humanist/atheist ad-campaign running on buses in the UK has had to be framed in language that reflects this pseudo-scientific metaphysical muddle...but then, Dawkins is at least partially paying for it.) 

I think the Professor might agree with me however when I say that one can attain certain soi-disant spiritual understandings from the act of experiencing religiously-inspired works of art such as Bach's B Minor Mass, without subscribing in any way to the fairy tales which underpin them. 

In my universe-view, everything is connected, such that nothing is either completely whole or entirely separate. Good and Evil are, I suspect, hard-wired into the system which drives this reality, but not Finality. The belief in a final judgment is in my opinion one of the many serious flaws within Christianity, for it creates an undercurrent of righteousness which drags many self-professed Christians away from their inclinations towards charitable deeds and compassion. 

And here's where I might also give probability a role - for it may well be probable that by actively participating ethically in this universe we sentient beings are in some way responding to a fundamental bias within its architecture, such that truly relativistic or even amoral behaviour is always going to be like trying to live your life by going up the down escalator - an available option certainly, but essentially ur doing it wrong if that's the way you choose to go about things.

There are many ideas within the teachings of Christianity that do appeal to me. St Augustine's notion of a coexistant yet separate City of God and City of Man, for example. But for me they do their coexisting and clashing in the here and now, as part of our dynamic reality and it is not possible to posit from this the existence of an eternal celestial reality in the hereafter.

I can also draw all the necessary metaphysical lessons from the fact that Jesus was a carpenter (again it is more probable that someone with his set of values would come from a comparatively modest background), without having to see this as part of a Divine plan, stipulated from beyond time and space, rather than simply one of those interesting yet contingent facts of history. 

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