Wednesday, December 23, 2015

stupidity can be beautiful

My rantings on religion are not meant to suggest that nothing worthwhile comes of it.  Some of the most beautiful art and music in human history has been inspired by religion.  When I went to shul for the high holidays, there was lots of singing, and some of it was certainly very moving.

..and then I'd read the translations.  I found that what was actually being sung was almost entirely nonsense.  This doesn't detract from the artistic quality of it.  Of course great art can be based on nonsense.  Some of the greatest works of literature brazenly admit to being outright rank fiction.  There is nothing contradictory therein, but that beauty is no excuse for celebrating nonsense as anything ideologically substantial, when it just isn't.

I don't feel like getting into why people find religion so inspiring, and whether that in itself has value, but Sam Harris goes into some depth on that, here:

I would however like to take a moment to chastise anyone who takes my below post too literally.  A post in which I rant about how literal people are.  Not that it was meant metaphorically, but it was drunkenly rhetorical and hyperbolic.

I know that most of the Buddhist world takes concepts like rebirth and karma very literally.  I know that includes some of their greatest leaders, throughout history.  To be more precise, I'm just less interested in focusing on that aspect of it, and find it less worth worrying about, because no one is being beheaded over said literalism.  It's nonsense, but almost entirely harmless nonsense..

Unlike concepts like talking snakes and martyrdom, I think there's a whole other side to it that is ideologically valuable.  A grossly racist bigoted thing to say, I suppose, as apparently, we're supposed to respect all religions equally, but my respect for an ideology is directly proportional to how much potential its ideas have to make sense.

That I refer to religion as an ideology underscores a common root of disagreement, here.  That I view religion as ideological at all, while many of its defenders insist that the ideology isn't important, or so malleable as to be irrelevant.

Fact is, religious ideology has been very important to me.  I can see how important it is to ISIS.  I can see how important it is to the Dalai Lama.  That it isn't important to you, isn't going to change any of that.

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