The Bran Report

It's good for parts of you that you'd probably rather not think about.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


The Tower

I don't have a religion, and there are a variety of words for people like me. Some are kind, some less so, but mostly they are attempts at technical terms so that we can have a jolly old debate over definitions.

As they go, I rather like "cognitivist" because it addresses what I think is the number one reason for having no religion: That you view the questions that religions purport to answer in the same way that you view questions like "Do whales sleep?" or "What are pulsars?". That is, that questions have answers that are either correct or incorrect, and that the default state of being is that no-one knows.

Being a Cognitivist isn't easy, because the way the majority of the world deal with religions just plumb makes no sense. For example, why does the overwhelming majority have the same religion as their parents? Children believe what their parents say, sure, but they don't have the capacity to really think about issues like death or conscioussness- that is, from this viewpoint, they can't have a religion. By the time they can, they should be forming their own opinion. And yet, the rest of the world seems happy to accept that Catholic parents have Catholic babies. It's a bit of a puzzle.

It's fairly clear that the epistemology we're using isn't the industry standard. Some atheists have tried to undeline this with parody religions. Not to stray too far from being polite, but some might say that this sort of thing is sometimes naturally occuring.

Not, of course, that Tom is of himself more baffling to my eyes than Benedict, but for some reason most people seem to think about religions quite differently if they were founded in the 20th rather than 2nd century. Again, this is not something that makes sense to us "thinkers and testers".

But failling to understand is no excuse for being rude, and I try to keep my discussions about religion very dry. That's one little nugget of my value system there. (It also seem to be a common idea that since religions can provide ethical value systems, if you don't have a religion then you don't have any morals. The analogy is the idea that pedestrians don't listen to the radio.)

Cognitivists are humans and so, of course, they have morals and values- it's just that they arrive at them on an individual basis. Still, one that's common is reacting to the callous horror of the world by saying "OK, let's make it better". Let's cure diseases, and plant gardens, and try to get along. Let's make a difference.

Genesis 11:
4 Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth."

5 But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. 6 The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.

Sadly, another common value is "We are different from those with religion, and we are their enemy". It's counterproductive, but there are times it's hard not to sympathise with Esau and Edom, or the men of Shinar. It makes no sense to set yourself up as someone's enemy. Besides, there are often enough issue to discuss anyway.

7 Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other."

8 So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.


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