Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Acting according to someone else's "revelation" is violent and blasphemous

I am a Buddhist because, among other things, appeals to supernatural have never seemed particularly effective to me, nor have I seen any convincing evidence that it was effective for anyone else.   I don't claim to be a metaphysical naturalist (too idealistic in my view, especially with regard to the limitations of language, thought and perception).   However, I'm sure I seem damned close to one if the person doing the seeming is a monotheistic "believer" of some sort.  I put quote marks around "believer" because I think there is a whole entire question of whether or not a anyone can "believe" anything in the sense of what a writer in the bible said; that is faith is the "evidence of things not seen."  Is this "belief" delusion by another name?

It is a question I will not get to here, because for now I have a larger question in mind.  Some  people I know are perfectly content to attempt to convert others to Christianity, and otherwise talk as though it is natural and appropriate to presume the existence of Christian belief in polite conversation.  People with whom I am a little less familiar think there's no problem at all in attempting to convert others to Christianity, particularly children and adolescents.

I say this is a kind of violence, in the sense of an unjust or unwarranted exercise of force or power.  This view, I'll admit, owes a bit to R. D. Laing's brilliant case for how much of what we call "love" in Western "civilization" is really a form of violence as found in The Politics of Experience.

It is not enough to destroy one's own and other people's experience. One must overlay this devastation by a false consciousness inured, as Marcuse puts it, to its own falsity.  
Exploitation must not be seen as such. It must be seen as benevolence. Persecution preferably should not need to be invalidated as the figment of a paranoid imagination; it should be experienced as kindness. Marx described mystification and showed its function in his day. Orwell's time is already with us. The colonists not only mystify the natives, in the wasy that Fanon so clearly shows, they have to mystify themselves. We in Europe and North America are the colonists, and in order to sustain our amazing images of ourselves as God's gift to the vast majority of the starving human species, we have to interiorize our violence upon ourselves and our children and to employ the rhetoric of morality to describe this process. 
In order to rationalize our industrial-military complex, we have to destroy our capacity to see clearly any more what is in front of, and to imagine what is beyond, our noses. Long before a thermonuclear war can come about, we have had to lay waste to our own sanity. We begin with the children. It is imperative to catch them in time. Without the most thorough and rapid brainwashing their dirty minds would see through our dirty tricks. Children are not yet fools, but we shall turn them into imbeciles like ourselves, with high I.Q.'s, if possible. 
From the moment of birth, when the Stone Age baby confronts the twentieth-century mother, the baby is subjected to those forces of violence, called love, as its mother and father, and their parents and their parents before them, have been. These forces are mainly concerned with destroying most of its potentialities, and on the whole this enterprise is successful. By the time the new human being is fifteen or so, we are left with a being like ourselves, a half-crazed creature more or less adjusted to a mad world. This is normality in our present age. 
Love and violence, properly speaking, are polar opposites. Love lets the other be, but with affection and concern. Violence attempts to constrain the other's freedom, to force him to act in the way we desire, but with ultimate lack of concern, with indifference to the other's own existence or destiny. 
We are effectively destroying ourselves by violence masquerading as love. 

It is an obscenity and blasphemous to say that one person has been deigned lucky enough or good enough or sacred enough or holy enough to have had the Great Holy Truth Revealed to Him and Those Who Say the Same Things He Does And No One Else Does.

It's not "love" or "compassion" talking when one wants to "share the good news," but rather it is pride and narcissism. 

And it should be pointed out to be such.  Look, if you want to talk about such things, and "believe" such things, fine, good for you.  But do not be so rude and arrogant as to assume that people who don't "believe" such things should be "brought around to your way of thinking."  You are just as existentially unlucky as anyone else.  You cannot escape.  You can only try to help others without the religiosity, and if you have another way and it's not empirically demonstrable, don't waste anyone's time most of all your own.

I was recently on a flight to Washington D.C., and I was sitting next a wonderful woman who worked for World Vision, a Christian charity. We discussed quite a few things related to charity (such as why the heck a lawyer was needed for that charity and why they needed government grants - I never actually got an answer to those questions).   But the issue of charity came up.  She said people helped others in World Vision "because they wanted to recognize that God loved them." (Actually I think at first she said, "Because we want to show God's love in the world" - that really is the kind of  issue I'm talking about.)

This struck me as odd, and out of reasons of sparing the woman's feelings, I did not  tell the woman that if you're not helping people because people are hurting or will hurt, and for those reasons alone - that is, to alleviate suffering now and in the future - then you're not helping them as effectively as you could. 

It is a kind of narcissistic blasphemy to think you're "showing God's love in the world" by thinking you're "doing unto others as you would have others do unto you."  You may be helping fellow human beings.   But if somebody's dying of cancer maybe the last thing they need is someone to preach to them with an affect of religiosity and instead they need someone to care for them without a first or second or third or n-th thought as to the "goodness" of this in the eyes of any real or imagined deities.   Maybe if they're religious,  and dying of cancer they may want some religious comfort.  Good for them, and for you if you both want to pray together.

In some cases, even a dying person can be attempting to manipulate others in religion talk, even to the point of attempting to get people to say things they don't believe in just to make the dying person "feel better."  Again, nobody's "revelation," even a dying person's, is of any greater value than anyone else's and regardless of who does it, it is violence to act otherwise, and should be stated as such.  And I don't really think many dying people are actually any more comforted (and perhaps less - there's that whole damnation thing)  by appeal to a monotheist deity than anyone else.  In the cases where I've seen this type of manipulation of the family by the dying, it certainly wasn't the case.

So hopefully that sets a few things straight here.

One more thing: you're still responsible.  You can't blame "faith" for hate and narcissistic arrogance disguised as care and love.  This is partly my Buddhist/existentialist answer to the question of where morality comes from. But it is, here, ultimately my entire point: we're responsible. I'm responsible for what I do, and for what I do in response to whatever behavior I encounter.  If you're going to act "in God's name" to me, you better damn well do it as though God doesn't exist  (in which case why are you saying you're doing it in God's name?)  You better damn well do it as though God doesn't exist, because whether or not a monotheistic deity exists, you're still responsible.

OK, that's it for today.


Algernon said...

Thumbs up!

jahgust said...

Indeed! Well said!

jahgust said...

Indeed! Well said!

Angulimala said...

Ontological insecurity, family nexus, and the double-bind

In The Divided Self (1960), Laing contrasted the experience of the "ontologically secure" person with that of a person who "cannot take the realness, aliveness, autonomy and identity of himself and others for granted" and who consequently contrives strategies to avoid "losing his self". Laing explains how we all exist in the world as beings, defined by others who carry a model of us in their minds, just as we carry models of them in our minds. In later writings he often takes this to deeper levels, laboriously spelling out how "A knows that B knows that A knows that B knows ..." Our feelings and motivations derive very much from this condition of "being in the world" in the sense of existing for others, who exist for us. Without this we suffer "ontological insecurity", a condition often expressed in terms of "being dead" by people who are clearly still physically alive.