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For Anna & The Christians
Anna is one of my long time readers, or so it seems to me. She rambled off a long email that ends up something like this:
You could spend the rest of your life trying to reason everything out. Rest your weary soul! I know you're brave. Bravely inspect the eternal. Keep this inspection mostly between you and the Eternal One who created the Perfect Law of Agape and thereby avoid the man made mistakes, fallacies and ignorances of our religions of choice. I am presenting something that can be life changing to believers and non-believers alike in the way gravity works for everyone. Some of us will be true believers in that we believe the creator of that for which we take aim. Others will be benefited in believing in the law of say gravity without believing in the One who created gravity. I hope you believe in God who created is agape, created the blueprint of agape for us to follow. Regardless, at least look at the benefits of the law of agape.
So the perfect law is made for imperfect people and the law is made for the law breaker.
Illusions and Incomprehensibility
I have been thinking about where religion comes into my own perspective, and as I claim to highly respect Christian ethics, therefore I think I owe Christians in particular an explanation. This is an explanation that I owe to everyone. The reason is that I understand and expect that every human is fallible and subject to illusions.
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I generally speak of ‘wishful thinking’ when I talk about those mental and conceptual illusions. Some things are tricky to know because they are difficult and complex, more often however they are tricky because we think we are thinking but we’re fooled. We can be fooled by reason. We can be fooled by any number of things, many of which we cannot even count. Further still, there are things that the human mind simply cannot comprehend.
One of those incomprehensible things that I am most familiar with are multidimensional spaces. Basically if there are more than 7 or 8 factors in the creation of a situation we humans observe, we are generally incapable of determining which are the greatest determining factors. We need computers and mathematics to help us, and still we abstract those explanations into narrative language which is not multidimensional. In other words we hope our most insightful people will ‘do the math’ in determination of the reasons for X, and then dumb down that explanation so we ordinary people can ‘get it’. But of course we never do actually understand. We just have the TLDR answer. This is the fundamental difference between understanding and knowing stuff. It satisfies the checkbox of Discovery, which is a thrill, like reading glossy magazines or even doom scrolling, but…
It’s like paying the bill for an elaborate dinner. When the question is: “How can I make a great Lamb Wellington & creme brulee?” The answer is “You just order them at Elaine’s. It costs $250 for two.” Even now, rather than explaining multidimensional analysis, I’m using a metaphor. If I didn’t, this would fail to be an essay, it would become an instructional text. Who has time for that when there are so many glossy magazines? So I will use illusions that you will ‘get it’ by creating allusions. Hee hee. Nevertheless, they will prompt some fraction of you to study more, or at least have this shortcut in your library of shortcuts. The point remains, we are vulnerable to wishful thinking and the overuse of abstractions. All the time.
While I am not hostile to religions, in fact I think we owe our best mythologies a great debt, I understand that their use of allusions are fundamental. Good allusions, excellent storytelling, and apt metaphors can, but not necessarily do lead to illusory logic. I find that some lower case atheists often assume this is always the case. Ironic that so many then substitute politics. Capital Atheists are evangelical. They say religion is inevitably bad. This is what I found annoying about Hitchens. I say social communication of anything generates corruptions. Always. Every institution has a Principal Agent problem. The world is often a dark room with people playing ‘telephone’ with sign language. This is an essential corruption of language. I am not hopeless in this. Not only can people understand complex truths and manufacture good allusions, etc, bad allusions can generate good logic. These are human talents, and we know that the genius exists in creative works. Art can help us get deep understanding, especially about ourselves. In this regard I am often drawn to art inspired by religion, especially in architecture and music. This is why I am so often dismissive of atheists who obsesses over the destructive power of religion as they completely ignore its creative power.
What nobody in our chatting class has speculated yet is the role of ChatGPT in crafting sermons for lazy ministers. Here’s a short sermon that concurs with every one I’ve heard on the subject:
Today, we gather to reflect on one of the most significant moments in Christian history - the conversion of Saul to Paul on the road to Damascus. As we delve into this story, we find ourselves in awe of the transformative power of God's love and grace.
Before his conversion, Saul was a zealous persecutor of Christians. He believed that the teachings of Jesus were a threat to Judaism and sought to eradicate them. However, on his journey to Damascus, he encountered the risen Christ and was struck blind. This encounter led to a profound transformation in Saul's life, as he became a devoted follower of Jesus and went on to play a pivotal role in the spread of Christianity.
The conversion of Saul to Paul is significant for several reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that no one is beyond the reach of God's love and mercy. Saul was a persecutor of Christians, yet God chose him to become one of the most influential figures in Christian history. This is a powerful reminder that no matter how far we may stray from God, we can always turn back to Him and experience His grace.
Secondly, the conversion of Saul to Paul underscores the transformative power of the Holy Spirit. Saul's encounter with Christ was not just a change of heart, but a radical transformation of his entire being. He was no longer the same person, and his life was now dedicated to spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Finally, the conversion of Saul to Paul teaches us that God can use anyone to further His kingdom. Paul was not a perfect person, but he was willing to be used by God. His story reminds us that we too can be used by God, regardless of our flaws and shortcomings.
In conclusion, the conversion of Saul to Paul is a powerful testimony to the transformative power of God's love and grace. It reminds us that no one is beyond redemption, that the Holy Spirit can radically transform our lives, and that God can use anyone to further His kingdom. May we all be inspired by this story to turn to God and serve Him with all our hearts.
It’s clunky as hell for a sermon, but it won’t be long before machines will be able to generate deeper deep fakes with Southern Baptist cadences. I don’t worry about this precisely because I understand the fundamental import of the Protestant Reformation. I can study my own Bible and don’t need ministers to minister to me. There is something special about the Evangelical call for inviting Jesus to become your own personal savior. Thus Jesus is to you whatever you need Him to be. The more people do this, the more broadly people can see a use for Jesus in their lives. Christianity spreads. Yes, and by the very nature of the call to be Christlike, people imperfectly imitate the ultimate graces of their creator, fail and try again. Christianity is sustained.
In this regard, Christianity doesn’t require sermons, human generated or otherwise. It requires human works in the world. It requires that open act of giving glory and honor to God in all things great and small. Christianity persists. It lives in the hearts and minds as a praxis. To each according to their faith’s needs. Despite contemporary Leftist illusions to the contrary there are not armies of Christian soldiers marching off to war. There are many, many small Christian churches that preach the gospel to their variant audiences. They are called congregations, not aggregations. It is this sustaining desire to be in communion with people who seek the truth in the Word of God that animates Christian praxis. Christians study. They try. They work at their faith. They put in effort. This is what I mean by praxis. You can almost equally call it practice. It’s a verb. It’s a continual process of coming to a better understanding by working with knowledge and principles (what you are given) and reconciling it what what you perceive and experience on a daily basis. This is what I find admirable.
This is very much like the scientific method as it was taught to me in high school physics. And right now I am very disturbed that I am possibly misremembering it and also not finding any variant of it on the interwebz.
What I’m going to do here is replicate to my best memory’s ability, Mr. Gatfield’s Physics class guidelines. This was my basic and first formalization of the scientific method, and it was how we were instructed to solve physics problems.
That’s how it works. You put your physics problem into that format and work it out with inductive and deductive reasoning.
Given: You have a train moving at sixty miles per hour southbound leaving NYC at 12:00pm. Its weight is 50 metric tons.
Find: How much power must be applied to the train to achieve that velocity?
Formula(e): Here is where your induction starts. Generally speaking you are trying a guess at which formula is the right one. But sometimes you will even misstate what is given and/or what you’re supposed to find. In this, are we calculating velocity or power? Should we assume a train or rails is frictionless and the track is flat?
The rest follows. You plug in the appropriate numbers and then do the algebra. Sometimes you add in an additional C for conversion. Show your work. Write out your answers. Check your work. That’s the process. It’s a continual process of coming to a better understanding by working with knowledge and principles (what you are given) and reconciling it what what you perceive and experience on a daily basis. This is what I find admirable. Hmm. I just said that about religion.
My view of morality comes from my understanding of human fallibility as well as our social nature. Our social nature is that we find each other fascinating and we depend upon each other. This quality of humans is both evolutionarily inherited and educationally inherited. We have our biology. We have our culture. These are the same terms as those in the ‘Nature vs Nurture’ debate.
The extent to which we are dependent on biology is distinguished from my POV by those social traits we share with animals. Humans are mammals with endoskeletons who reproduce sexually. Lots of animals share these attributes and these constrain our behaviors similarly. We are territorial. We are diurnal. We care for our young offspring.
The extent to which we are dependent on our culture can often be distinguished by the manner in which we differ from our closest animal relatives. We clothe nakedness and we communicate our intent through that clothing. I could go on. Most importantly we educate ourselves and we share knowledge. We jostle and position ourselves according to our personal desires and leverage cultural memes to express and attain. We signify.
I respect religion because it teaches. It provides a shared education. Some of that education is moral. Some of it is legal. Some of it is domestic. Some of it is an education of demeanor. Some of it is artistic and aesthetic. The balance of these sorts of education varies of course, but a religion is a set of principles you are Given in order you help you Find your way in the world. Its practices are formal, meaning there are formulae. But lots of people miscalculate. Lots of people confuse what they are given with what they need to find.
The difference between science and religion is fundamentally found in the applicability of their respective praxes (plural of praxis) to the subject matter at hand. Since I am a boy boy, I am much more fascinated with things than people. When I’m around things, I am aggressively interested in getting my hands into their guts and figuring out how to take them apart and put them back together. I want to know what makes them tick. When it comes to people, I really don’t care that much. I don’t feel compelled to investigate how or why they do what they do. I don’t observe or much judge their motivations, just their actions and the ambit of their activity. These things I believe are mostly constrained by their environments. So like a typical technologist, I seek to design, build and control environments and thus constrain the actions of those people within. This is why I am fascinated by science fiction. It concerns itself with the access to transcendent powers that shape the physical environment.
The Gospel, the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, the Koran are different. Each, on the other hand, concerns itself with access to the transcendent powers that shape the spiritual and psychological environment. I can’t get exegetical in that realm. I don’t have the patience for it. I’m not willing to experiment on people and tweak, tune and rebuild their spiritual and psychological engines. I am indeed interested to see what people who have the courage of their convictions actually do, but I have very little interest in getting inside their heads for that purpose.
There is crossover. That is in the art and literature of inspiration. As a coder, I seek control. As a writer, I seek inspiration. I am happy to get inside your head and help you work through your own engine. I do this by being transparent about how I get into my own head and work my engine. I have done so, as I mentioned elsewhere, as a Black Nationalist, as a Progressive in the Talented Tenth, as black Conservative commentator, and now as a Stoic storyteller. Each of these modes and methods have their appropriate lessons but they are not science nor are they religion. They are Socratic in that they prioritize the back and forth of a collaborative praxis.
Similarly there is the base of philosophy, which I find attractive in and of itself. The philosophy of religious discipline is different than the philosophy of science, but both have an understanding of human fallibility. They both have methodologies that come into importance when we confess that we don’t have all the answers. What do we do when we know we don’t know? How can we have confidence in our actions? The answer to both is stick with the discipline.
If at some point in the future I discover and come to the understanding that I should prioritize religion over science, I’m not sure what I’ll do. The built up world would have to come apart a great deal. But I do read Joshua Gayou’s Commune series on that point. If we all have to become bush medics, there will be bigger issues than science vs religion. On the other hand, I readily see what a lack of spiritual and psychological discipline has done to make a dog’s breakfast out of many of our built up institutions entirely separate from their own inherent shortcomings. Still, I don’t see myself as a moral evangelist. I can appreciate virtue and I only presume to write for people who also already do.
There is no Stoic stinger for this. I guess I fall back to Aristotle’s ideal nation because I do believe that a person’s value to society arises primarily owing to their work. One contributes to society, more specifically to the economy of the society and secondarily to one’s usefulness in representing that which is edified in the culture(s) of that society. IE you’re a good or bad role model reflecting a hero or foil. So what work do I feel is valuable? Certainly the work of scientific practice and of religious praxis. No nation that suppresses these can long flourish. My work is primarily in the application of scientific discovery - my ego wants to call it applied science. I certainly respect those whose primary orientation is religious, but honestly I respect the Church more than the people who variously represent it over time, just as I respect Science more than the scientists. Yet I admire the disciplined praxis of all.
I don’t care who is right, I care what is right.
All I may seem to have is criticism for the functional classes as I see them. The Rulers are disconnected from reality. The Geniuses sell themselves out to the Rulers. The Peasants wallow in self-pity and attend to those outside of their agency, rendering themselves permanently slavish. That is because I have not studied much until my appreciation of Popper what has gone wrong in Western civilization. But I also do believe that the individual can make all the difference - as Popper explains.
It is important to see that this Socratic intellectualism is decidedly equalitarian. Socrates believed that everyone can be taught; in the Meno, we see him teaching a young slave a version of the now so-called theorem of Pythagoras, in an attempt to prove that any uneducated slave has the capacity to grasp even abstract matters. And his intellectualism is also anti-authoritarian. A technique, for instance rhetoric, may perhaps be dogmatically taught by an expert, according to Socrates; but real knowledge, wisdom, and also virtue, can be taught only by a method which he describes as a form of midwifery. Those eager to learn may be helped to free themselves from their prejudice; thus they may learn self-criticism, and that truth is not easily attained. But they may also learn to make up their minds, and to rely, critically, on their decisions, and on their insight. In view of such teaching, it is clear how much the Socratic demand (if he ever raised this demand) that the best, i.e. the intellectually honest, should rule, differs from the authoritarian demand that the most learned, or from the aristocratic demand that the best, i.e. the most noble, should rule. (Socrates’ belief that even courage is wisdom can, I think, be interpreted as a direct criticism of the aristocratic doctrine of the nobly born hero.)
So I am climbing my own internal mountain. There is no nirvana. The truth doesn’t set you free, it burdens you with its implications.
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