The Generational Fight For Religion

© 2015 Jen Aldrich

As none of you may know, one of my many hobbies is genealogy. I find bridging the past to the present absolutely fascinating, and was quite shocked how easily that could be done. My interest started when I decided to research my own family. One side of my family I knew next to nothing about, and the other almost just as little. Once I had started, I realized that many things may actually be nature instead of nurture. Then I began to wonder, what, if anything, do I have in common with my ancestors?

 

I found that a common theme among both sides of the family was being on the wrong side of religion. Now, before I get into this any further, I should make you all aware that I am an atheist, and with the current climate in the United States, I can also claim the family trait of being on the wrong side.

 

Two lines of my family both left their home countries in fear of religious persecution. One, being Puritans (and not just any Puritans, but Separatists) in England during the reign of King Charles the first, and the second where Presbyterians Covenanters from Northern Ireland who fled to escape rising rent prices and church burnings in Northern Ireland. The English side arrived in 1632, in Mendon, Massachusetts, and the Irish arrived in 1772 and settled in South Carolina. As you can see, both groups had arrived before the Revolutionary War, with a severe distaste for England, and most notably, the barbaric ways in which religion was forced upon people by the crown.
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The Truth Shall Set You Free. But First It, Shall Piss You Off.

Bad Faith is the condition we’re in whenever we “lie to ourselves.” It involves a schizoid partitioning of our consciousness. In the process, we become both subject and object: the liar and the lied-to. What makes this state a dangerous one is that while we’re in it, it’s possible to dismiss evidence that (for instance) our behavior is self-destructive: not because we have better evidence to the contrary, but because such evidence is “inconvenient.” Those who grow up in religious households are taught to lie to themselves from a very young age.

 

I couched the preceding paragraph in the first-person plural because it applies to all of us individually and also collectively, as societies. For the individual crack addict, the evidence for his self-destruction is inconvenient and he therefore finds ways to ignore it. Should it rise unbidden into his conscious awareness and begin to nag him and make him uncomfortable, he will beat it down by every means available – including another visit to the crack pipe. If a whole society is addicted to cheap oil, the evidence for that society’s self-destruction is no less inconvenient, and denial becomes a growth industry. Industry shills masquerading as “scientists” assure us that we have nothing to worry about. Politics becomes an exercise in ad hominem and the messenger sometimes takes a volley in the career.

 

Can there be any doubt that we’re in collective denial about things like Peak Oil, aquifer depletion, topsoil loss, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, overpopulation and anthropogenic climate change? The truth – whose consequences will shortly involve societal upheaval and starvation on a scale we’ve never before witnessed – is almost too horrendous to contemplate, so most of us can be counted on to look the other way while catastrophe closes in. (After all, there’s plenty of corporate-funded “science” to assure us that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax and that Peak Oil won’t happen for another two centuries. Maybe California will get a wet El Nino and Sao Paulo… well…. And anyway, why not just go on believing whatever makes us feel a little better since there’s not a damn thing we can do about either of those inconvenient truths?)
Continue reading “The Truth Shall Set You Free. But First It, Shall Piss You Off.”

On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us

Should any fundamentalist Christians happen to read this post, I hope you’ll find it both illuminating and entertaining.

 

For about five centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church had an absolute lock on information so far as the Western world is concerned. (Emperor Theodosius had unwittingly seen to that by making Christianity the state religion a little over a century earlier. To this day, in secular America, there are Christians who think Theodosius had the right idea and pray for the rise of Mike Huckadosius to set things right.) That’s why we call that era the Dark Ages: it was an age of dogma and the uncritical acceptance thereof, an age of serfdom and tractable compliance therein. The prerogatives of barons and bishops went unchallenged. People’s beliefs weren’t founded on their Bible reading; they were illiterate, and they didn’t own Bibles. They just believed whatever the clergy told them to believe. And they believed in outlandish stuff, like faeries and witches and demon possession and the evil eye, in zombies and unicorns and sea monsters. Almost everyone was ignorant as shit.

 

Then after about 1000 C.E., when a calendric millennium turned without the skies being rent asunder by a rider on a white horse, and it thus became apparent that Christ’s promised return may in fact lie a long time in the future, people slowly but surely began turning outward. The earliest gains were almost exclusively mercenary, but with trade comes exposure to more of the world and a gradual relaxation of strictures, and people’s minds began to churn. But it would still be another half-millennium until the sciences were born, beginning with that first great generation of discoverers from Bacon to Newton, and including the likes of such pioneering luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, and Boyle. Despite a gradual, almost imperceptible, loosening of their shackles, most people remained ignorant as shit, and even the so-called scholars were more deeply versed in the black arts than in observable phenomena.
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