Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Sum of all Religions

Religion (Photo credit: Rickydavid)
As I look around the Earth in this time, with not much time left for myself relative to the great age of this planet, I have become very sad. I suppose the sadness could have merely resulted from mental processes, such as decreasing neurotransmitters of various kinds, so that I can be labeled with some psychiatric term of depression or generalized anxiety or whatever. After all I have family, I have grand children that give me occasional happy times. But I think my sadness is a result of the information bombarding me from every direction as I grow older. Much of that information is of a oppressive, socially pathetic nature.

I think about religion in a general sense, mainly because I have no religion of my own. This was not my own choice, however. I was raised in many, mostly Christian religions of various denominations, resulting in a kind of confusion and annoyance that there was so much reliance on magical thinking. My childhood was very bleak at times which taught me that magic never works, and that merely praying for things to get better was no different that waving magic wands about. It always failed.

I read the Bible, regardless, thinking that it might be that I have not studied it sufficiently, and that God would not respond to me unless I found just the right combination of thoughts and words to make my prayers worthy. Unfortunately for religion, I found only a vast number of illogical, magical incantations in all those words, as if the authors (so many, not just God himself) were sickened by fungus or other diseases that effected the mind. I suppose if I were building temples some of that information may have been instructive, but otherwise it was like listening to insane people who fear every little thing.

Not only one Bible (i.e. the King James Version), I also read several others in a special version, The Parallel  Bible, that involved four parallel translations so that more modern languages could be compared with the flowery and somewhat arcane language of King James. Many times the previous Latin, Greek or other ancient languages were translated differently by different monks and scholars so that the passages were very differently interpreted. 

One very pronounced problem, though, was that I had also read many history books and literature from before the Christian era -- from India, Sumeria, Babylonia, Egypt, Greece, China and so forth. All of those cultures also had their own religions (most labeled as Pagan by Christians) but in any case all having various versions of the Creation of the World, of Man, and of all the other things around us. There was a great variation, of course, but also a kind of similarity between many of them, such that the stories in the Bible seemed as though they were re-described variations on a theme. The Bible was not primary, and was not unique. It was just one collection of stories among thousands.

Therefore, since I could not just concentrate on one work of literature by tearing all the others out of my neural connections, it was impossible for me to believe in one religion at the expense of all the others. Each claimed to be the only "true" religion and all the others "false", which is logically impossible. Also, if one tries to believe the angry-voiced, shouting preachers from the American farmlands, it gives the impression that God hates everything and everybody and wants to destroy it all. At the same time, the same angry-voice preachers shout that God loves everybody, and had his son tortured and murdered for some unknown reason, which is supposed to save all the rest of us from merciless destruction in the Apocalypse.

Whatever. I could never allow this to influence my professional life, which involved computers and logic in such intricate detail that I could never give credence to magical thinking ever again, no matter what the consequences. This proved to be fine so far as employment was concerned, but resulted in great strife so far as family and social aspects of life were involved. Most (and I do mean the great majority) of people around me were aghast that I had no religion -- that I was devoid of belief. 

That word -- belief -- is the kicker. In my world of digital computers and even analog electronics, belief does not mean anything. Things either work or they don't work. If they work I get paid, if they don't work I get fired. It is as simple as that. Belief doesn't cut it -- only absolute proof is good enough.

So, I learned to treat the entire world as a collection of Dynamic Data. All the pieces in ever-changing data could potentially be true but could equally be false, at any given time. Until each point in a set of data is tested against all the others, the truth or falsehood thereof could not be determined. It is not possible to "believe" that a particular bit of memory is a "1". I have no idea unless I look and see at some moment in time. It might very well be a "1" at the moment I look, but become a "0" immediately after, so my belief would not be accurate. Belief is meaningless in such collection of data. 

A computer could  never have a religion. And it is not because it has no soul. It is merely because blind faith does not work inside a computer. All things are possible to be right or wrong in a particular context, but could fail at any moment. The computer must always assume that -- all data could be false because of a failure in its electronic components -- and that only an outside agent, such as a human or even  some  collection of other computers, can determine that any individual computer is operating correctly.

I could just as well have errors in my brain which cause me to judge the events in the world incorrectly. I have to assume, at all times, that I might be wrong about everything I know. My memory might fail, my vision might fail, my entire consciousness might fail -- at any moment. 

I have no way of determining, all by myself, whether or not that I am tied to a hospital bed, imagining all this. So how could I ever have blind faith in anything, let alone in a self-referential religion with no means of testing its truth or falsehood? All my current knowledge, of science, of philosophy, of all the people I know, is just the sum of all my experiences as well as the sum of all religions - of all belief systems that ever existed. And I could be wrong about everything. And so can everyone else.

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