Ok, so the subject of faith keeps coming back as a joke mostly. The last joke was the posts about Santa. One can meticulously trace the 'joke' in the corresponding news groups, alt.atheism and alt.bible to which I have never contributed, except maybe once, long time ago.
My objective now, is to not actually defend either position, rather to propose a natural solution that transcends the dualist niche in which both positions dwell.
An atheist or a theist will claim various insistent arguments, sometimes consistent, other times not, yet the unmistakably definite sensation of disappointment after reading either side's arguments, usually overwhelms one, as one quits altogether to 'follow', because one finally recognizes the futility of arguing for either side, or rather, because the elaboration and the complexity or the 'depth' of some proponents' arguments, has reached the level of insanity.
Perhaps this is the actual objective of both proponents. To delve so deeply into their subject so that they are unable to distinguish between friendly and hostile memes. It's just a matter of classification, if you will, and to insist on either side, is simply incomplete in itself.
The natural process of enlightenment, in my opinion, includes at the very least an 'alternation' of sides. More concisely put: To understand both positions, you need to become both an atheist and a theist. Is this possible? Of course it is. Look at your background: Some of us come from relatively benign classical Christian households, and have been shoved with the doctrine at one time or another. Then, we have either rebelled or we've simply abandoned the matter altogether. Some of those who have rebelled, stayed pretty much agnostics or atheists. Others, never had a chance to understand the doctrine altogether, and they never bothered.
One week ago, i was having a chat with a woman I love, who is a theology graduate. She was asking me whether the command to not 'steal' (for example, for reasons of linguistic liberty) has any significance. It was clear that despite her 4 years in theology school, she failed to understand a very basic issue.
I asked her back: "Have you ever stolen anything?" Her answer was "no, nor do I plan to ever steal!" Well, you can immediately see the shortcoming in this situation. It is not a matter of lack of wisdom or study, it is a matter of lack of *experience*.
Society has built a certain moral code around us, whether it be in the form of religion or in the form of some tangible philosophical ideal. (Thou shall NOT..., etch). Consider then for a moment, the possible course of action that *obliges* one, out of love for the experience itself, to violate *all* ideals, to gain thus some form of knowledge, which otherwise is prohibited due to the constrains of the code itself.
Well, ok, it is mostly a gedanken experiment, you say. You cannot actually go out there and take someone's life. True. But there is a fine line between those who will not do it because of the moral code, and those who would gladly do it for the experience, yet abstain because of severe repercussions, mostly related to chastisement from society's laws.
Question is, which kind do you belong to? And the reason I ask you of this, is because *unless* you have tasted the backfire of the actual experience, whether prohibited or not, you *cannot* know what it means to "NOT..." etc.
As you can see, liberty as a value, is again severely constrained, even as defined by the most prominent libertarians. "My liberty ends where I start interfering with yours". Do you actually agree with that? I am not blaming you if you do. Most of us accept the above de-facto, without questioning it, simply because it (temporarily) works and keeps the mechanism in balance.
Ah, but what happens when you violate the ideal either mentally or tangibly? What happens if you decide, just for the sake of the experience itself to completely *negate* all your ideals?
What happens is, the "final resolution" takes place. A resolution, which although mostly mental, turns the switch of reality to "on" (or "off") and allows you to see a bit further into this grand nonsense which is called dualism.
Ok, so far, most of you are probably familiar with the above. What's the next step? What is the next natural course that the "intelligent" animal should take, in order to keep the privilege of being called "intelligent"?
To illustrate, an example. The most horrendous example I can think of, is the following, which was, I think, taken, from some prominent psychology book when I was a student:
A dog is left in a cage to starve, for days. Then, the dog is shown a small gate, and outside the gate there is placed a plate of food. The plate is placed at the center of an electrocuted circle, so, as soon as the dog makes a move for the food, and steps around the plate it receives a shock of say, 200 volts. The dog perceives the pain immediately and backs off. Eventually, hunger dominates again after a while, the memory of the shock recedes, and the dog makes another effort. As soon as it steps on the circle, it again receives a 200 volt shock. The dog backs off again. And the cycle continues, until the dog finally abandons the effort to approach the food, and stays at a distance to the plate, totally confused, neither completely back in its cage, nor close to the plate. At this point, the dog has 'learned'.
When i first read about this experiment-which the sheer fact that it is mentioned indicates that it has been probably performed at least once-I thought how pleasant it would be to gouge out the eyes of the person who thought about it and the person who performed it, using large rusty nails.
Now, let's leave the actual experiment aside, and draw the following analogy: Food=Religion, Electric Shock=Atheism, Dog=Us. Theists, are simply people who are 'hungry' for the truth but ignore the shocks of common sense, while atheists, are people who prefer to starve and to be in pain than to receive 'food' of any sort. Yet, a complete perspective cannot be gained from either side. In order for the dog to actually be enlightened, the dog must *transcend* itself. How does the dog do that?
Nature is once again wise enough to provide the solution: The dog abandons both courses! It neither goes towards the food, nor does it go back to its cage. Yet, in order for the dog to have done that, it *must* have had *some* idea of what the food tastes like.
Al right. So now the dog is enlightened. How does the 'human' dog differ from the animal dog? It's so simple actually...The human dog *voluntarily* goes back and redefines one's ideals, *after* both sides have been demolished by the pain of the gedanken experiments, and reestablishes a symbiotic relationship with *one* of the many possible courses that were present as alternatives *before* the dog knew what it meant to not believe in one of them.
Does it sound complicated? It's not actually. When the electric shocks become second nature, the human dog, tries to redefine 'ideal' so it can escape the torture of consciousness. But then, consciousness was something that the dog *had* to experience, in order to decide whether it was or was not 'good' to exist.
The dog has some worth now. It has chosen consciously, and after having complete knowledge of both sides.
It is sad however that the dog has to go through this lesson. One would think that there could exist some device-perhaps mental, perhaps physical but different from this one-where the dog would be able to decide about it without having to become the experimental subject itself.
You know what's the saddest thing of all? That the dog, once enlightened and passed through the whole process, has to repeat the experiment on other dogs, either because the electric shocks have inflicted so much desire for vengeance, or because it may be simply necessary because it has to wake up the other dogs. And this choice to repeat the experiment is inexorable and relentless in itself, regardless whether the dog has decided to become a saint or a demon.
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