thread: 2005-08-05 : Going Home

On 2005-08-08, Ninja Monkey J wrote:

[Note: I've given up on waiting for V, I guess. It turns out this is long.]

Yeah, Sven, the issue here is that there are so many people from so many backgrounds that it really throws the differences into high contrast. Of my friends, I count Unitarian Universalists, Don't-Think-About-It-Atheists, Fundamentalist Atheists, Jews from Atheist to deeply spiritual rabbis, Muslims, Hindus, Catholics, Neo-Pagans, Baptists, Buddhists, and one Whatever-Myles-Isist. A few weeks ago, I met some Born-Again Christians (whose sense of morality was bizarre to me, but they were nice people), and I was just down in North Carolina (where the South really gets rolling) where, if you're not a Baptist, you must be an alien.

It's a big deal, I think, for the same reason that people want to be able to call themselves "Simulationists", or they have a particular favorite game system that no one can convince them is not the best. It's a distinct identity, and us-and-not-them thing that's profoundly Primate in nature. And being human, we take that stuff and express it abstractly.

My feeling, being a non-Orthodox Jew, is that religion doesn't offer answers. It offers questions and it offers techniques for confronting those questions when the question is not "what's happening" but "why is it happening?"

That distinction is important to me: the "what's happening" questions are best served by the Scientific Process because it helps you strip away assumptions. Zen does this too, so you can see how many people don't consider it a religion.

The "why is it happening" questions are squirrely and hard to pin down, never mind answer. If you rely on someone else to tell you the answer, you invariably have to choose between accepting their answer on faith and asking why it's the answer. If you look at "why" as a process of examination, expecting a question behind it rather than an answer, then you have a religious process; you wind up with cosmological questions that can't be answered by asking "how" as happens in the Scientific Process. Wherever you wind up, it starts to look like a relationship with God, and God starts to look reeeeeallly weird.


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