The Devil's in the Details
“Why do you insist on trying to make heaven here on earth?”
This statement was earnestly spoken to me in a tone born of great frustration by a devout Christian believer one late summer eve. I am a simple common man average in every way. I possess no grand brain power, intellectual talent or any real ability to comprehend abstract thoughts. But even so, I was able in this one moment in time to recognize that the above statement was stunningly profound in its simplicity, explained the great divide among humans and was the root of all evil in this world. I comprehended this in a flash as my ears began ringing, and my heartbeat raced. I was unable to breath or talk for several long seconds as the process made a rut in my brain channels. I looked over at this friend of three decades and knew we would never be close ever again. The conversation stopped for there was no longer anything to say.
Yes, this was an epiphany but not a simple one. Rather, this became my personal Halley's Comet, often out of sight but reentering my orbit of conscious thoughts in a repeating way. That was over a quarter of a century ago and I, like the primitive astronomers studying the workings of the night sky, have studied this statement and the thinking that produced it in detail. Perhaps, you would be interested in my examination's conclusions. If you have the patience, I will try to communicate them today. The Devil's in the details.
The Great Divide
In the world in which we live I have decided that a crude generalization has validity. Two basic camps exist. There are people who are curious about this real material universe and strive to learn more and more about it. When they observe a falling star, they want to exam and study it. “What was that amazing item and what caused it to happen?” they ask with wonder. The other camp has a different view.
They will look at the same falling star and say something like a“falling star means someone died and is going into Heaven” as Hans Christen Andersen's little match girl had been taught to believe. This “explanation” is attractive to many as it is poetic, entertaining, mysterious and childlike. It is the belief in the supernatural. This supernatural belief comes from early man's attempt at explaining the world around him and had its time and place eons ago.
The first group are called men of reason and the second men of faith. The first collection's effort at studying and improving humanity is constantly thwarted by the other group whose supernatural thinking makes all study unnecessary as any event or trouble can be justified with a single statement: “It is God's will.” They believe that is the cosmic checkmate move. Game over. Have faith in his mysterious ways and trust that this concrete, observable material world is simply a trial run. A better world awaits us, if we perform the correct rituals, read certain holy books, and live according to the teachings and commandments of such books. No worry, mates! God has a divine plan and a personal program just for you. Forget trying to figure out what is causing millions of people to suffer, go blind and die from Smallpox. In fact, discovering a vaccination that prevents the disease was mocked and challenged as subverting God's will.
Oh, come on, Spud, your generalization is too simple and too dated. People no longer believe such things.
Men of reason and science have defeated two deadly diseases. Smallpox in 1979 and Rinderpest, a deadly disease that had a near 100% mortality rate to those who caught it, is officially gone as of June of 2011. Polio, an awful crippling disease was down to 483 cases in 2001. The men of reason were months away from chalking up a third victory in the battle against horrible diseases. Then the supernatural believers ruined it all and the disease is back threatening us and future children. The Taliban ordered people to not take the polio oral vaccine as did Muslim leaders in Nigeria. This caused the disease to spread once again. The men of reason lost out to the supernatural believers, who aren't always cute and childlike.
Men of reason have diseases like the black plague, scurvy, measles, ricketts, mumps, elephantitits, rubella, tetanus, whopping cough, diphteria, scarlet fever and typhoid under control in most parts of the world. But one disease is not at all under control. “AIDSHIV is a major public health concern and cause of death in Africa. Although Africa is home to about 14.5% of the world's population, it is estimated to be home to 67% of all people living with HIV and to 72% of all AIDS deaths in 2009.”
Men of reason are trying to solve this but enter another supernatural player, in this case the big cheese of the the supernaturals, Pope Benedict XVI. He agrees, this supernatural dude with the funny hats, that AIDS is bad in Africa but not as quite as bad as the possible assault on human souls for using condoms. "If the soul is lacking, if Africans do not help one another, the scourge [of HIV] cannot be resolved by distributing condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem."
If a man loses an arm in an accident, the supernaturals will say something like: “Oh, God must have a special plan for you.” Men of reason, in this case geniuses in the field of biomechatronics, create a prosthesis to solve the problem and help ease the person's suffering. Men of reason are men and women of action and problem solving. The supernaturals are the opposite.
“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” the Bible
“The further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge." Einstein
I have used examples concerning diseases because they are graphic ones. But men and women of reason are the ones who have discovered astounding knowledge in physics, mathematics, cosmology, biology, philosophy, the workings of the brain and most recently genetics and quantum mechanics, two areas of complicated and incredible study that are so ripe with knowledge that it will take generations to pick even the most low-hanging fruit of understanding. I admire and nearly worship these people of reason. But I know something of the supernatural world also. Let's tiptoe through the tulips to that planet.
The Supernatural World
I start with sharing my love and admiration for part of this world. I love imagination and thinking about the mysterious. It is exciting, entertaining, and fun. I grew up reading the Hardy Boys and lived in the supernatural world of pretending I was indeed Frank or Joe and a young detective. These simple characters led me into the wonderful supernatural literary world where I discovered Jules Verne, Arthur Clarke, Henry David Thoreau, Dickens, Steinbeck, Hans Christen Andersen, Hemingway, Poe, and Twain along with hundreds of others. The experiences these authors gave to me did seem other worldly.
I also have fallen into using supernatural terms when in love with women. You know, things like, “you are my soulmate “and “this was all meant to be” and all of that lovely nonsense. Of course, in the end, giving away houses to women I can't and won't believe was the result of some divine supernatural master plan! While playing baseball my supernatural belief was evident. I always jumped over the chalk line on my way out to play second base and when coming in had to touch third base before entering the dugout. If I had a good game and got some hits, I would wear the exact same clothing underneath my uniform, no matter how stinky, the next game.
Black cats crossing my path still bother me and I will only pick up a penny in the parking lot if it is head's up. I yell at my golf ball while it is in the air as if the laws of physics will suddenly and magically suspend themselves and my words will take over to guide the ball. I have had deja vu experiences over and over again, (thanks Yogi) and negotiated deals to God after too much Tequila years ago. I have begged the universe to make the right card fall to fill in my straight in poker. My cosmic passport has many stamps from my visits to supernatural land.
Visiting in this supernatural world I noticed that it is like earth in that it seems to have several different continents. Some of these are benign, entertaining and rather peaceful. Others are dangerous places to visit.
There is one mass where the psychotic exist. The people who murdered, tortured or imprisoned people because God spoke to them and told them to do so. A place to leave off your port of entries. There are friendlier spots like the one where thinking about the fourth or fifth dimension or future space travel is expressed. Another where tarot cards, astrology, alchemist experiments, common ghosts and stuff like you read on the menus at Chinese restaurants where they pretend to know about you because of your birthdate exist like a carnival show or spirit reading. Buddhists and Hindus have their spot. The New Age folk have taken over an island chain. All these tiny continents are dominated in supernatural land by its equivalent to our Asia. I call it the continent of Abraham.
The major problem with this main supernatural continent is the three major countries that make up this supernatural landmass. The Jews, Christians, and Muslims are these leading countries with disputed borders who argue and kill each other over who has the most powerful and valid invisible ruler and the holier book. To complicate matters, each country has regions within them that also argue and kill each other. This is a chaotic planet with much disagreement and passion.
Question and mock the Taliban and the others will readily agree with scorn and laughter that they are mislead nutcases. The Jews don't believe in Jesus as the messiah and are still waiting for their messiah to come. Christians mock Muslims because they don't believe that Jesus is the way. Muslims firmly assert that they and their precious Koran contain the last and final truth. Tarot card believers think all religions are rubbish but don't ask why the spirits pick different cards each time you get a reading. Astrology believers do not like Astronomy. Don't dare ask a New Age believer who claims crystals make their house plants blossom to perform a simple experiment and put one plant with crystals right next to another without them to see if it actually works.
All would be okay if this faith in things not seen stayed in supernatural pretend land. But it doesn't. Instead, it dominates how humanity operates. These three Abraham-based religions have been in charge of most of our world. Hence, they are most responsible for the current state.
“War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades,” is how George Carlin described it. The supernatural's history of guidance is a miserable litany. Satan used to be on stage more in the past centuries but it appears that the work of the pious has made his efforts obsolete and unnecessary. The religious super naturalists disagree with that statement and argue that nothing could be farther from the truth in that Satan is alive and well and the cause of all the things on George's list.
If that is true, then Lucifer and his fallen angel buddies have apparently scored a massive victory in the hidden cosmic battle for control of humanity over the last two thousand years. The super naturalists are never without an answer. A typical counter is to say that Jesus will return soon, Rapture all his believers to heaven and leave all of Satan's followers or simple non-believers to die. And if that isn't enough, then after death the real fun begins as we are all sent to the celestial torture chamber not for a long sentence of hard labor or even torture that could lead to redemption, but for all of eternity. Muslims have their own variation on the theme but the differences are minor. Hundreds of millions of people in this world at this moment, are looking forward with insane glee to the destruction of humanity. The worthy few go to some paradise or heaven and the majority are sent to hell to be tortured until the end of time. Spooky teachings these are.
The supernatural believer has several effective tools available to deal with infidels such as myself. The best of these is the taboo of analysis, or criticism because doubting or contradiction is thought of as offensive. This concept is even vigorously defended by some men of reason who say, “You shouldn't attack someone for their beliefs.” It is widely viewed as any questioning, no matter how reasonable, or gently delivered, is shrugged off with saying, “Well, nothing is really true. My truth is the same or equal to your truth. Your attacks are offensive."
Therefore, the scientific model of using evidence to prove things is reduced to just being one method in a basketful of similar valid methods. This argument is absurd. First, the person saying such a thing does not believe in many truths as the religious demand that you accept only their truth from dozens of bubbles of other contradictory faiths or delusions. Secondly, there are truths that are not debatable. If I don't water my petunia baskets they will wither and die in the summer heat within days. If I put poison in your soup, I will guarantee you will get sick or die. If someone pulls your tooth out with a set of pliers it will hurt.
Results of surrendering thinking
This surrender of thinking is such a transparent con game. There is nothing divine in all of this supernatural crapola. The leaders are not really interested in the supernatural other life, despite their preachings and promises exalting the next life. They are fully invested in controlling this life on this material plane. Look how supernatural leaders live here and now. Their private jets, palaces, mansions, flowing estates, gourmet food and drink all gathered here by promising some future paradise to the masses who honor or worship them. The spooky teachings control people. That is how you encourage and get good people to parrot ludicrous things like my friend's opening statement in questioning my commitment to education, the poor, and the mentally ill.
This world or the next one?
"Why do you insist on trying to make heaven here on earth?" In the mind of the supernatural believer's world, worrying about such things is folly. Jesus or Allah or Zeus of Horas or Joseph Smith will make it all come out all right in the end. This leads to decent people rationalizing and accepting a world that does not have to be or worse- predicting, hoping and wishing for the end of times when most of humanity is destroyed. It enables people to walk by a crippled vet down on his luck begging for spare change, shrug off genocides or kids dying of malnutrition at the rate of 18,000 per day, or tolerate the continued historic abuse and demeaning treatment of women. It also accounts for statements like this one I experienced last week.
Gary and I are outside of the store in a mall waiting for the bus to come and transport us to the therapy pool. He is sweating in his wheelchair. He suffers from not only schizophrenia but MS. A little, older lady comes by carrying a Bible tucked under her arm. She stops and says to Gary: “Isn't it great that God gave you that comfortable chair to enjoy on this hot day?” We said nothing although I thought this: “Yeah, and the paranoia and voices he hears are special blessings too."
The thinking, faith, created by the supernatural bleeding over into this material world impedes the great, dedicated minds from exploring and finding solutions to humanity's problems. This holds back our species. The stem cell research ban is a recent example. Currently, over one third of high school biology teachers report that they do not mention evolution in their classes because of the hysteria it creates from parents and students who have been brainwashed into believing that it is only a false theory. Over a quarter of all Americans think Jesus is coming back in their lifetime.
"They think the Flintstones was a documentary." Lewis Black
In Kentucky, they opened up a Creationist museum where dinosaurs are displayed with saddles on their backs because of the faith that the world was created 6,000 years ago when men and dinosaurs coexisted. Experts, who have dedicated their lives to studying such mysteries, agree that the earth is 4.7 billion years old. One mathematician calculated this error factor as being equivalent to thinking that the distance between New York and Los Angeles is seven yards. The Muslim teachings convince people that by blowing themselves up they get a free and immediate ticket to paradise regardless of their past transgressions. There would be no problem if these silly and dangerous beliefs stayed private but they influence governmental policies, become false controversies, and hold back real knowledge.
What We Must Do
"We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create."
Those words were spoken by Bertrand Russel in 1927.
There are great minds out in this world that need those of us with average minds to support and fight for them. NASA funding has been killed recently which is beyond sad. Millions want intelligent design (creationism) to be taught side-by-side with evolution in schools all over the country. This can't be allowed. Evolution is the key to all of modern medicine. It is proven at the micro-level all the time in labs as diseases evolve a resistance to antibiotics. What's next? Astrology taught in concert with Astronomy? Chemistry classes mixed with Alchemist theory? Psychology blended with Scientology and psychics? Medical schools demanding all new doctors learn about the power of crystals, prayer, faith healing, and voodoo?
The only progress in this material world has come about because of great minds that put in lonely hours in labs or observing the night sky. The real saviors and those responsible for all the blessings of this modern world have been our men and women of reason who demand evidence. This computer I am using was not chanted into existence or created with prayer, or tossed down by an angel riding a horse through the heavens or fell from the stars after being hatched from a cosmo virgin's vagina.
“Why do you insist on trying to make heaven here on earth?”
Actually, I am not trying to do anything of the kind. I want to make earth a better place as best I can with my limited abilities. I care not for any magical heaven. I live here. I live now.
God or Allah's plan? Or humanity's failure?
Look at that photo and change the faces to white skin. Would it then be allowed?
Too bad she has so little faith.
Perhaps, a copy of the Book of Mormon would help the situation.
Imagine living like this. Millions of women do.
Basic education for all people would cost what the United States spends on cosmetics each year. (8 billion.)
Water and sanitation for all could be provided with the same amount of money spent on ice cream in Europe. (13 billion)
Reproductive health for all women could be a reality for the same amount spent on perfumes in Europe and the United States. (12 billion)
Basic health and nutrition for all could be accomplished for what Europe and the United States spend on pet food. (13 billion)
World poverty and misery could be changed overnight if the world had one commitment --Empowering women. Name a religion that believes in that.
In conclusion, I have evidence that men of reason are problem solvers. Thomas Edison literally brought light to the world. Charles Darwin's voyages, lonely days in his laboratory and conclusions transformed the world. Scientists were able to calculate landing space craft on Mars to within feet. Thinking, loving, caring people of faith have disregarded most of the words from the holy books and allow their lives and actions to be guided by the more poetic, thoughtful and sensitive passages in these books. Few really live according to the Old Testament, for example, because that would mean you would have to stone your neighbor to death for mowing his lawn on Sunday or kill anyone who committed adultery which would cause an immediate shortage of rocks.
Diseases that plagued humanity have been controlled and some extinguished. We went from riding horses to flying in jets within a few short decades thanks to inventive minds. This computer I am using in my little dwelling gives me access to all the world's knowledge. The Hubble Telescope has sent us back images of the universe that are inspiring and I say more inspirational than a burning bush.
The battle between gathering more knowledge or being satisfied with confusing words from ancient books that once served a purpose in humanity's infancy is an absurd fight. Hence, my friend's statement of:
“Why do you insist on trying to make heaven here on earth?
is not only the words of a simpleton but an unconditional surrender to evil.
Now, pass the collection plate.