Poll: Can Religion Keep Up with Civilization?
[Show Results]
Note: This is a public poll, other users will be able to see what you voted for.
Complex World vs. Simple Faith (Part Two)
Post Reply
Thread Rating:
  • 0 Votes - 0 Average
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
11-04-2010, 03:41 PM
Question Complex World vs. Simple Faith (Part Two)
The church has always balanced on a fine edge between spiritual authority and relevance to reality. One symptom of this is the church’s awkward handling of new information.

When healers decided they needed to look at the inside of a corpse to learn important information, the church stymied them—the use of a dead body for anything other than a funeral was forbidden.
Breaking down that wall was left to the artists—a far more volatile group of seekers after information—Da Vinci and Michelangelo were known to have secretly researched the body—and eventuality a combination artist-doctor by the name of Vasari published his anatomy in that same era—the reluctance to violate the dead would make this book the only one of its kind for centuries. Still, the church policy remained unchanged and the availability of this knowledge was largely overlooked.

All are familiar with the stories of Galileo, Bruno, et.al.—astronomers and mathematicians who would all defy church doctrine merely by observation and calculation—Galileo received a pardon and a reversal of his excommunication in my lifetime, centuries after he died (and, of course, long after it would do him any good).

In a later era, slightly less medieval, the early steps of chemistry were known as alchemy and practiced only by those willing to face the risk of being executed for witchcraft. Isaac Newton avoided this research when young, focusing on optics, astronomy, and physics. In later years, he would become proficient enough in ‘alchemy’ to become the royal treasurer and make the British Royal Mint the most reliable source of solid gold coins for many years (along with Newton becoming the scourge of counterfeiters and coin-clippers throughout England). His prey were used to watchers of far less focus and knowledge—Newton may have felt that they committed a sin against more than the Crown, but against nature itself, when they dared dilute the purity of the gold and silver elements.

In this way, one can see the church’s orthodoxy being bypassed by the discovery of practical uses for those forbidden arts. Besides, this was during and just after the Reformation—churchgoers who had gotten fed-up with the corruption and overall worldliness of an institution that claimed to deal with the souls of men, but did so much the same as one would deal with a butcher on market day.
The Reformation was a tremendously bloody segment of European history (which was only fair, since some centuries earlier it had produced the road company for “Prayer by Mutual Slaughter” or “The Crusades”, which had a long and successful run in the East.)
One of the Reformation’s great anecdotes is the migration of the Huguenots: a group of Protestants living in France who were forcibly evicted from their homeland by the Catholic French King—most of them crossed the channel to find England a more welcoming neighborhood. When England and France subsequently went to war against each other, there is evidence that the English victory owed no small part of its achievement to the cleverness and productivity of the recently installed Huguenot countrymen. Likewise, some of the vitality of France’s economy was drained by the loss of their best minds and teachers. And the outcome of World War Two was similarly influenced by the migration of Jewish scientists, professors, etc. to England and to the USA.

The weakness of the church’s position (that all new, or ‘argumentative’ information is assumed dangerous) is almost always felt most sharply by those who communicate and teach, research and reason. When reasonable people are no longer an institution’s core majority, that institution, even with an infallible Pope, really needs to review its policy.

In the 1960’s, sociologists calculated future population growth assuming our (then) current rate of growth. They were dismayed to find that within a very short span, humanity would be restricted to one square foot of habitable land per person. They noticed that the increased need for living space would reduce the existing amount of arable land and, in that same short span, would suddenly be required to produce tons of food per single acre if the population is to be fed.
When one factors in the ready availability of latex condoms and the invention of the birth control pill, it may seem quite reasonable for civilized people to go about addressing the problem of explosive population growth—especially since the largest families are those of the poorest regions.
The church’s stand is the same today, in 2010, as it was in the 1960’s: birth control is a sin. While in practical terms one may argue that lack of birth control is a sin against poor, starving, young women who helplessly give birth to a child every year or so (despite having too little to eat for their existing brood, much less themselves) the church has, nonetheless, chosen to stand fast regarding the sanctity of coitus, unprotected and unrestrained, even to the point of forbidding masturbation as a strategy to stay un-impregnated in high school.

The 1960’s were a time of revolution—revolution against the increasingly staid form that technology and society sought to impose on young peoples’ lifestyles. Young adults rebelled against a seemingly regimented way of life so convenient to the old, but so irritating to the young and adventurous. The church became, for a short time, the lesser of two evils—they relatively quickly adapted to the youngsters’ urges to sing, dance, and celebrate life—plus, the government was the indisputable nemesis, turning Viet Nam into a meat grinder for the lives of our best and bravest. Still, behind all the fads and movements, church leaders were not going to change any dogma—‘let the kids have a sing-along, stop the Latin and say the Mass in plain English, modify the nuns’ habits to something less musty, but nothing substantial was changed an inch.

Comes the 1970’s we get a ‘born again’ Christian movement in America—suddenly Christ is in fashion, new sects splinter off with each new self-appointed preacher. Nobody much cares about that, since Protestantism has its own tradition of including Presbyterians, Unitarians, Baptists, etc. But then someone starts to notice that some of these new sects are dangerously fundamental and restrictive. Stories get out that people are being held against their will, parents can’t get inside to see their children and—when they do—they find them brainwashed to the point of imbecility by whatever crazy demagoguery their particular ‘Preacher’ has formed out of his pathologic narcissism and/or drug-induced hallucinations.

This does the church no favors, PR-wise. The church begins to fade from daily life, or at least from our popular notions of daily life (there are still many rigidly devout Christians, but the flow of popular culture tends to pass them by. In the 1980’s people like myself assumed that a natural atrophy of outmoded churches would continue down to a non-entity, as our lives become more and more concerned with science. We were all very surprised to realize that something new was happening to Christianity—televangelists began to hold sway over an army of people who could easily be made to blame the ‘Devil’ for the state of their lives and towns.

Long before politics became an uninterrupted media event, religion had already filled its coffers and washed the brains of hundreds of thousands of Americans simply by airing themselves on TV. The fury and dedication once devoted to the local football team was now being directed towards abortion clinics, liberal school libraries, heavy metal music and biology teachers who believed in Darwin.

So now, here we are, with the Catholic Church exposed as a centuries-old asylum for pederasts and perverts, with rabidly neo-con legislators caught in sex scandals (either homosexual, under-aged, or prostitution-related) that directly contradict every public statement about Christian morals they’d ever made. We have presidential candidates who prefer blind faith to the theory of evolution, teachers’ unions that protect the teachers to the detriment of the students, and political parties that make ‘sour grapes’ their entire platform.
Sarah Palin is touring the country, not governing Alaska, which may or may not be a good thing for the people of Alaska, and she’s a cheerleader for ignorance. We like to think America is above people like her, but we are living in a past that probably never really existed—The USA has only one frontier left, space, and most of our citizens think it’s less important than farming or invading mid-east nations. The pioneers are gone. Our country’s vaunted ingenuity ended with the advent of the computer—nowadays it’s all about complicated machinery carrying our simple-minded thoughts around the globe at the speed of light—like any of us has anything worth saying!
Quote this message in a reply
Post Reply
Forum Jump: