Class Warfare Blog

March 29, 2020

On the Religious Experience and More

On Amazon Prime (TV) there is a video series called “The Nature of Existence Companion Series,” volume one of which was on the topic of Existence and Purpose which I blogged about a day or so ago. The series continues and last night I watch a segment that touched upon religion.

The wide variety of respondents to the questions of the videographer resulted, again, in a wide variety of responses. Interestingly, speaking to the “why religion?” question, almost everybody spoke about the need for a religion coming from inside the people involved. No mention was made, well little mention was made, of the fact that the vast majority of people are born into a pre-packaged religion, one they didn’t create for themselves. Only a very few comments mentioned the role of religion existing as a control from without. This I think is a manifestation of this con, everyone seems to think that it came about from some need of their own, when that idea was inculcated through the con.

One of the most interesting and cogent responses came from a high priest of a Satanist sect. That’s right, they found a good speaker for the Satanist religion. This gentleman, and he seemed quite gentlemanly, clarified that Satanists were not devil worshipers, that there were few actual devil worshipers, mostly rebelling teens seeking to get attention and he hoped they would get help dealing with their issues, but Satanists were not them. (Well!)

This speaker made a very nice argument that religions classified some ordinary human behaviors as being sinful, specifically because people could be counted upon to not give them up. (One of the questions was did sin have to be deeds or could it be just thoughts . . . the responses were mixed.) Because people would not give up these quite ordinary behaviors, they were always left seeking absolution for those sins (“Forgive me Father, for I have sinned . . .”) and then, our Satanist concludes, “they own you.” Indeed.

Again, I was impressed by the ability of people to both (a) make shit up, and (b) not understand what they were saying. One “confrontational evangelist” brought out the old saw that “the wages of sin were death,” which is based upon the mistaken idea that Adam and Eve’s “sin,” aka disobedience, cost them their immortality. This is not what scripture states. Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden so that they would not eat from the tree of life, and thus live forever. But, gosh, that is such a great line it would be a shame to stop using it just because it is wrong. Plus, the error is compounded by the thinking that “Jesus” offers eternal life. Scripture states that we all live forever because we really are just meat wrappers for immortal souls. When we die (and we all get a death, not just sinners), the faithful take the up escalator to spend the rest of eternity, while the rest of us take the down escalator to spend the rest of eternity. What Jesus is offering is a Golden Ticket to “the Show” in Heaven.

That apologists err is not surprising. To err is human . . . (Alexander Pope) so that is to be expected, but the criterion used by apologists (apparently) is just whether a statement is effective, rather than is it correct and effect. This shows a certain laziness in the collective effort (there are college courses in apologetics) and also a commitment to truth that is malleable.

* * *

Other episodes addressed similar topics, all of which I responded to similarly. The range of responses was always there and always interesting. For example, when asked what the greatest threat to mankind was, most people said something along the lines of overpopulation or ecological collapse or people with evil in their hearts, but one quick response from a Catholic priest was “atheism.” I never knew I had such power as to threaten the existence of all humanity. <sigh>

I will expand a little on the question regarding whether sins need to be actions or can they be just thoughts. The thought police representatives were not what I would call the usual suspects, but many said “yes, thoughts alone can be sins.” But, we do not control our own thoughts, that is we do not create thoughts consciously, they seem to just pop into our heads. (An aside—when we read, another’s thoughts pop into our heads as we read them, and those thoughts differ from “our own” exactly how?) A number of respondents acknowledged this issue and addressed what happens to the thoughts that come to us and distinguished “sinful” versus “non-sinful” responses to those thoughts.

Another of the questions addressed free will and I was appalled at the lack of understanding shown. Quite a few of the respondents addressed the fact that our will is limited and we are not free to do impossible things. One respondent said we were not free to jump 250 feet up into the air. WTF? Most people understand free will as the ability to make choices that are available to you. Is this ability, to act from our own intentions freely or is it determined by physical stimuli. A number of the science types point out that determinism isn’t even possible because the physical foundation of reality is probabilistic, not deterministic, so to some extent our will must be free as there is no real alternative. (And folks, this should not always be laid at the lap of quantum mechanics even though it is the poster boy for non-deterministic behavior. Back in the nineteenth century there was huge resistance to the kinetic theory of gases because of the application of probabilistic math. This is because the religious educations of all western scientists were deterministic at the time.) A few actually addressed the question as one which shouldn’t be asked as answering it is a giant waste of time. (I tend to think that the question is premature and is therefore a giant waste of time, but it also might be a question we use to torment ourselves, amuse ourselves, whatever.

One respondent came up with what I will characterize as Pascal’s Wager for Free Will. This is fascinating. He argued this: it would be a real tragedy if we had free will to act as if we did not. (Think about it and you will agree.) Conversely, if we do not have it and act as if we did, there is no harm, so we should act as if we did have free will. QED This seems to be a Gordian Knot question being answered in an Alexandrian fashion.

Again, if you are a philosophy nerd, this is a fascinating collection. (I stop watching and switch to watching something else and then find myself back watching this. I wonder if there is a 12-step program for philosophy addicts.)


  1. Alas, there is no 12 step program for philosophy addicts. There is, however, something just as good, Existential Comics Now 2329 days without a Kant/can’t pun!


    Comment by grouchyfarmer — March 29, 2020 @ 10:45 pm | Reply

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