I suppose I could have just hit share on Facebook, but many of you would have just ignored it, either because it's too long, or you don't like him, or you have no interest in American politics, or whatever. I'm hoping that by offering it as part of a blog post you'll take the time to listen.
He voices a lot of things I have voiced myself, and I'm not even an atheist. But I fit in the "other" box, along with the atheists and have much in common with them.
Like him, I've read the Bible carefully and I discussed this the other day so I'm not about to repeat myself, the critical point being that you can't read it literally. By which I mean that to do so requires you to believe two opposing things, and I'm not talking about paradox, I'm talking about actual contradiction.
There's a reason for that, and if you don't know why by now, you have absolutely no right to an opinion on it. It is not one book. It is a collection of writings, a gathering together. Much was left out. If you honestly didn't know this, and how or why much was left out, go and do some research now, and certainly before disputing anything I say here.
For quick reference, let's hand it over to another brief video.
As Penn said, this is no crazier than anything else in the collection, so why was it left out?
So, yes, I have a problem with literalists. But as I have said many times before, and those of you who've known me a long time, know I've been saying it for decades, it makes no difference to me what you believe, so long as you don't foist your beliefs onto others. Which is exactly what people in power do, of course, and why it matters.
But I know why people are willing to do this. Why they are happy to go along with the fantastic (in the real sense of the word) elements of their religion, that is to say the mythology of it. It is for the same reason that video games are so popular.
WHAT THE HELL DID YOU JUST SAY MELANIE?
Fantasy is something humans can't get enough of. It's only comparatively recently that we've been willing to admit it, or at least that it isn't just children who enjoy it. It began a long time ago, of course, but I recall vividly, even in my lifetime, older people insisting that fantasy was for children, and only a brave and arty minority dared say otherwsie. Authors for example. But now, even octogenarians watch Harry Potter and play fantasy games. There is a refreshing honesty in all of this.
It's not a genre I am big on myself. If it's very good, I'll make an exception, but mostly I find it repetitive, and I am just simply more interested in people than dragons, that's all. I have nothing against it.
But I can't but help notice that for people who need it, fantasy as an escape from the humdrum or actual unpleasantness of everyday life, is a sort of drug. A very addictive one. Again, if it helps people be happy, if it's therapeutic, I am not objecting, until it becomes obsessive. It looks as if it's something very human to do, to fantasize.
I am reminded that it's because we can. We are very good at it. It is this ability to fantasize that has made civilization possible. As far as we know, humans are the only creature with an imagination, and this is what sets us apart.
If any of you have read the books that accompany Terry Pratchett's Discworld series, written in conjunction with Jack Cohen (a biologist) and Ian Stewart (a mathematician) they discuss the idea of a story as a force. In the Discworld this exists as an element, Narrativium. It's explained here:
The fact is, we thrive on fantasy in our day to day activities. Most things we take for granted don't really exist. That is to say, they only exist in our minds.
The example usually given is that of a corporation. We'll pick one at random today, let's say Nestlé. It's a huge international corporation, but it's a fantasy.
That makes no sense on the face of it, so I'll explain.
What is Nestlé? Is it the people who work in it? No, because if you fired them all right now, the offices and factories, would all still exist. So is it the buildings with the logo on? No, because if you pulled them all down, the products would still be in circulation. Is it the products? No, because if production stopped the staff and buildings would still be there. Aha, if you you took away all the buildings, staff, and products, the share certificates would still exist, and various legal documents of incorporation too, so is THAT Nestlé, the wealth and paperwork? Not on its own, no. You need all of these things, together, and functioning, for the entity that we call Nestlé, because there is nothing you can hold in your hand and call Nestlé. It is a concept.
Lots of things are concepts. Banking. Government. States. The fact that these things can change totally and still function, or can cease to exist at the stroke of a pen proves they were only ever concepts in the first place.
If this idea fascinates you there's a book you'll want to read when it comes out in English:
From Animals into Gods: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari
So, put that on your list. It will blow your mind.
In the meantime, you'll have to trust me. It's true.
Not that it matters to most people. It's how we've always done things, and we probably always will. We do it because we can, and we like it because we're used to it.
Now, obviously, this all goes back to Plato's Cave. If you are unfamiliar with that, it doesn't matter. You've watched the Matrix. Same deal. If we stop believing in it, it falls apart. So we are obliged to continue with all these little fantasies, and the bigger ones, and I have to quote Pratchett again here, sorry:
“All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need...fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—"
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THELITTLE LIES.
"So we can believe the big ones?"
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
"They're not the same at all!"
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET—Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point—"
MY POINT EXACTLY.”
― Terry Pratchett, Hogfather
This is how we function. So is it any wonder, really, that our world is full of religions based on mythology, and politicians pretending to follow them?
EDIT: I have been reliably informed that in the US:
... if a juror votes that a person is innocent and states that it is because they think God really did tell the person to do it, the juror would be held in contempt of court.....
We have to swear on a Bible in court, but we can't stand up and say we really believe God did something.
Penn Jillette is correct.