Too Many, Too Far

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Reading nonsense such as this has finally provoked within me the urge to unleash a summary of the nearly endless waves of indignation that doubtless follow soon after.

Before continuing, please be sure to read fully the words on this article of clothing, typeset carefully for dramatic effect.

First, we must isolate the demands in the rhetorical conversation above proposed to god, that we may arrive at a better understanding:

  • god, or at least this one being queried, is omnipotent enough to intervene in the affairs of mortal men.
  • god, or at least this one being queried, aside from its omnipotence, has the inclination to intervene in the affairs of mortal men.
  • The kind of affair and its calibre are irrelevant in consideration for intervention.
  • Degrees of presence of this god, either materialistically or otherwise, has a net effect on its ability to intervene, especially in the case of violence in schools.
  • Violence of any kind is bad.
  • Violence within the confines of a school is a particularly heinous breed.
  • The printer of this shirt has had the divine communication revealed, moreso than others it would seem, to have ready a solution to the issue at hand.
  • Hence, if more people would allow freely this god in particular in their schools more often, especially when the word is spread by buying this shirt, that its ability to intervene in horrific incidences of school violence would increase.

Please spare me the easy hunts here as thoughts of those nature will be vanquished immediately.

One should find it obvious, probably as a result of experience, that even if this god in subject did exist and was of the meddlesome kind, the nauseating selectiveness which it elects to employ or bestow upon the people – its people – the requisite number of miracles to produce the safest, happiest, most fulfilling life for all leaves quite a bit to be desired. god’s game, that of arbitrarily halting each person’s life pendulum, has no rhyme or reason. Yet all the wonders of the fallacious mind attempt attribution upon attribution, founding these claims on little more than simple or seemingly sophisticated rumours and fancies, none of which are or can be rooted by rationality or reason. We should rest assured that if this god were as invested in our goings-ons as one becomes enthralled by reality television, and it desired an alternative outcome, it should’ve happened by now on numerous occasions. Otherwise, we’re left to conclude that either this god doesn’t exist, or that it truly doesn’t care what you or anyone else does in their day-to-day, consequently invaliding any and all notions of intervention.

But we must say something of the utility of the matter since it is commonly and boorishly implored as the preferred means of coagulation. How many thoughts and prayers have been offered up in the wakes of Columbine, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech (2007), and the University of Texas (1966)? Have we been praying to the wrong god? Did we not pray correctly? Did we happen to pray at the wrong time? Was god on a holiday, conveniently enough whenever these massacres occurred? Was the presence of this god in particular absent from these schools? Try explaining to the surviving family members that their children would’ve experienced, or were at least far more likely to, divine intervention, which would certainly have saved them, if only they and the student body were a bit more pious.

More questions emerge from the framework. Just how much piety and humility – if ever it could be sufficiently quantified – is or would be required to prevent these tragedies? Must we compel the faculty and community at large to resort to barbarous medieval customs such as animal and human sacrifice? Or do we simply need to ramp up production of such sloganistic masterpieces as the one on display above, accelerate the marketing to procure more sales, and rely entirely on the horrifyingly shallow sort of solidarity that both founds and breeds in it? This here is a pestilence of the mind and of the society, and from within this cesspool, naught of a tincture of a remedy is to be found.

We seem also to be taking this concept of gradation, given to us by Aquinas himself, and pumping it full of steroids to give it some meaning that, in its attempts to assuage negation, permits it to blitz past any naysayers in total ignorance of its fatal detraction. While a reasonable destruction of this is possible, a more poignant defamation presents itself through these shootings and by responses like the one shown above.

If we take a look on gradation, we find that to judge the merit of one’s goodness is to effectively weigh it in proximity of the ‘uttermost’ good, and the result of this exercise would yield the final goodness or badness of one’s actions. From the perspective of the exercise itself, this makes total sense, since any measurement of any kind with the objective of describing some property of the subject in a vacuum would provide very little to glean. But we arise at an issue when we do what Aquinas suggests, which is placing god, or at least his rendition, in the position of the objective, or the pinnacle of conceivable subjectivity, ‘uttermost’ goodness, by which any and all questions of morality and conceptions of utopia are adjudicated. For example, are we to assume that one’s moral compass is skewed, or skewered in some cases, when they are found to not subscribe to the same god as does Aquinas regardless of the reason? Do they not distinguish good from bad? More adequately, we could express the paradox as if one’s ‘uttermost’ good is different than mine, because if god is my ‘uttermost’ good and their god is not my god, how then do I know that person is a good person, or at any rate, can be expected to do good things? Often left out of the conversation is that it’s plausible that this arm’s length sizing-up happens on the other side. Further, what happens if this god commands as ‘uttermost’ good the slaughter of peoples whose faith subscriptions are inconsistent and irreconcilable with your own? Of both the sums of atrocities committed and their accompanying rationale, a very safe and sound assertion that religion permits this kind of horrifying and arbitrary inconsistency can be mounted and defended. If nothing else is said from here, it should at least be granted that not only is god not the ‘uttermost’ good, but that if one elects to place it there, they’re not to be trusted on judging morals or goodness at all.

The common question of if god is absent, how can we be moral or good emerges here, and it has a very simple response that makes sense. We can indeed be moral and good in the absence of god because it’s not a progenitor for either morality or so-called ‘uttermost’ goodness. Rather, the imperative that one behaves in this way is emergent as a substrate to society solely as a reciprocal of our evolving social dynamic, further dictated by the species and its relation to the availability of subsistence resources. In other words, we are good and moral subjectively, and what constitutes the prime measurement for goodness is not an ephemeral and likely non-existent construct, but is the collectiveness of our species in and of itself. This structure is entirely mutable in much the same ways that human behaviours are subject to both social glue as well as environmental properties.

But if god is present in any form, can you still be good and moral? Yes. Because these things don’t arise from god and are instead universal by other means. Missions to Haiti should be performed because it’s the right thing to do, not because god dictated your good. One should have access to a roof over their heads and common amenities because of decency and growth of the species, not because god willed servants to grant those things with the hook-line-and-sinker that the recipient will be liberated from their heathen backward lives in godless communities.

And now we arrive at our magnum opus. From where precisely in these atrocities taking place in our schools do we find the grounds for dispelling the magisterium and voodoo of religion, which compels people to look in entirely the wrong direction, so that we can start addressing real issues? It’s rooted in a very particular kind of economy, one which can be found in example by removing from the clause that provoked this entire adventure certain words. Doing so will shift meaning, but only toward a larger scale, and does not detract in any way from the original objective; it remains valid. Simply restate the offending question:

Why do you allow so much violence in our schools?

To:

Why do you allow so much violence?

And the entire prospect of omnipotence falls even harder on its face than it already did. We could’ve easily grouped the words in our schools, turned the last word into a variable, and played a game of Mad Libs by swapping it out with any other place. However, we must understand clearly that by doing either this or taking the amended statement above as the general inquiry, the answer on offer must necessarily change, and not for the better since it becomes harder to answer, even rhetorically, as the author of our shirt here obviously didn’t take into consideration. Let’s try.

First, replace school with church. Now, of all the enumerable places where people go, the one most assuredly where one would find a plethora of fuel to bring about the god would be in a church. So why is it then that even when churches, mosques, and synagogues are targeted with extreme acts of violence, whatever the reason, that there is a very distinct lack of divine hands redirecting bullets, shielding people from blast radii and/or collapsing structural debris, or, perhaps even more telling, why wouldn’t this god have either mooted with or road-blocked the other god that drove the attackers before they inaugurated their campaign of terror? Whoops! Hang on! What if the god was the same? What then? Further, suppose we commanded an increase in the footprint of religion in schools, as was suggested implicitly by our lovely fashion statement? Surely, if places dedicated to the worship of a god are not omitted from consideration in plans of attack, nor are they on the list of places where critical divine action occurs, why would one ever dream to conceive that a school would somehow make the cut, and then have the sickening audacity to even place the option on the table as a solution?

Finally, let’s take the second permutation of the question and examine the change on the context. Expectantly, one would decry this exercise as being far too broad, but I vehemently disagree with this. Considering that the breadth of this god’s influence is claimed to be so grand in scale and magnitude that even the laws of the universe bend to its will, speaking generally on violence should be of little to no consequence. Human history illustrates clearly a ubiquity in the distribution and execution of barbarism from as far back as we can tell. Hence, we must acknowledge that violence is evinced in the cultures of Neanderthals, Vikings, Greeks, Romans, Scots, British, Indian, Egyptian, Prussian, and contemporary American to name a few. The pinnacle issue at the core here is that to even ask a question of this calibre is to understand that an unsatisfactory answer will always be had from this or any other god. Questions of how sometimes serve as antecedent to those of why, and in this case, they’re far more critical. Instead of asking why a god permits violence, one should be more concerned with how violence emerges. In doing so, an enlightening proposition occurs.

While it’s true that some elect to refer to their god as the ultimate good, and that it may inhibit them from committing acts that would, based on those standards, be deemed bad, the inverse case is also true. Those killing people with a prayer or the name of a god on their lips during the act are just as capable as those who do so without. Certainly, one could argue, as often occurs, which kinds of people are more prone to such senseless aggression, but here they’re all considered equally. That being said, all of a sudden, a god, whomever or whatever it may be, if indeed it can be at all, no longer has the luxury of stratifying itself against the innumerable other means by which violence emerges since it becomes one alongside them. In effect, you could propose the same inquiry to other subjects like scarcity (artificial or not), repression, anger, jealousy, racism, sexism, bigotry, and cultural standards to name a few. The real paradox here is that although asking of these subjects this question is in effect the same as doing so with a god, one is considered insane for personifying these and not so for a god. My thought here is that a very real fear emerges from confronting these tangible actors, one rooted in the providence of human beings. If blame is cast wholly on an agent whose very nature and existence are highly volatile at best, somehow this alleviates from humans the responsibility of having to act for change in a way that goes beyond printing on clothing, making social media posts, or muckraking with contrarian dogma to maintain the decadence of the mass.

In short,

Praying to a god will not stop violence anywhere.

Offering adulation to any diety will not hamper or deter all violence anywhere.

Hermetically sealing your community away and galvanising it with religion, while potentially shuttering external influence, doesn’t serve any purpose in this regard.

Demanding that more people become religious will not change anything.

So, what would?

We would.

Our culture and our politics should be the first targets. We see it as sexy and dignified, as well as a show of power, to brandish weaponry of any kind to each other. Becoming strong and defensive is an objective in and of itself, and the perception of not doing so is to be weak, and the weak are only to be used by the strong. The impressions of strength and weakness manifest in people in different ways, depending wildly on their social situations. In here, generalities can be established, but not enough to convince someone truly mired in the mess that theirs is not unique enough to warrant highly questionable expressions of relief. Television, major film, and shorts glorify acts of violence if only in defence, ignoring the underlying motivations for them and the requisite discipline for containing the precursors, which in defence or not, are largely the same. Guns have obtained a first-class citizenry status and are big business. The second amendment, having been picked apart from the political ravens and vultures in the name of convenient yet contradictory legislature, has convinced a majority of people that they, and not just militias, are mandated constitutionally to own weaponry, and the degree of ordinance permissible, at least under the table, is irrelevant when the dollars are in order. No one submits that even in the periphery, the Founding Fathers composed this construct with the intent of permitting brothers and sisters to maim one another without any truly compelling reason. We falsely dichotomise killing for sport and murder, using this as justification for “sport hunting,” which itself is leveraged as argument for obtaining vast quantities of weaponry for private citizens. A weapon used for killing or severely injuring another human is quite similar to that which is used for “sporting” an animal.

Of course, this only scratches the surface, and I’d be remiss if I thought for one second that a complete disarmament of the people en masse would be possible or even desirable. We must remember though is that we, those of us not in politics, can demand change through action which requires more than shirts, Instagram pictures, profile photo filters on Facebook, and, hell, even the words that I’ve written here now. Close your bibles, they serve you no purpose. Turn off the TV and the cell phones and start talking to one another. Engage people to find common ground. Be a human being again. Demand that these dirty, incompetent, and disconnected politicians and SIGs be taken to task for the truly horrible nature of their actions. Be a positive influence in your community, and do it without the aid of a god, because you don’t need it.

Everything you need, you already possess within you.

 

 

Becoming Atheist

Some nights ago, at the time of writing, I was involved in a conversation in which the topic of religion came up. These days when I’m involved in such conversations the other participants typically recoil in shock, horror or disbelief regarding my views and rationale. However in a rather interesting turn I was given the question of “When did you know that you were an atheist?” to which is a point that I would like to elaborate on a bit further than the confines of that conversation.

Reflecting on the past, I can say with certainty that I was one of the fortunate few handful of children who grew up not having to suffer the indoctrination of the inherited subscription domain or having to be subject to the rather overt and horrifying recitations of scripture from either the aforementioned or any other subscription domain. Despite the fact that my mother, who descended from a largely Christian-based family, was evidently agnostic, she was far more pragmatic in the sense that she found it more reasonably sane to permit me to come to terms with these things in my own way. On that account it should be said that no one rational person could or should criticise her since the alternative would be reprehensible in the context of humanism. The interesting result of that though was that until the age of twenty, any thoughts I had regarding these matters essentially culminated in a vacuum i.e. there were no direct external influences on the thought processes. It wasn’t until then that any considerable effort was put into research and study of this.

Digressing, there is no way I could ever claim that I was spiritual or religious in any sense as a teen and young adult with that type of flexibility permitted. Interestingly enough, when I elected to start attending a local church every Sunday and then to take it to the lengths of participating in a Bible Study programme on Wednesday evenings when school was rearing its head the following morning (this went on for a year), there was never any blowback from my family for that. My grandmother may have been mildly pleased to see this but part of me thinks that she subconsciously believed that I was passively Christian and never addressed the issue with me. Even during that time, there was no epiphanous moment where all teachings, be they either direct (dogmatic, if you like) or translated via lateral interpretations, momentously forked my life onto the path of permanent subjugation and blind humility. In fact it was quite the opposite as it did little more than fuel the fire for questioning everything. Regardless, it never pushed me consciously to the point where the true realisation of my thoughts came to fruition.

Potentially ironically, for readers who are of the religious vantage point, and I should think it may be a fair portion of all available ones to choose from (religions and not readers), the climactic point was when my mother died.

To illustrate the backdrop to this a little more clearly, my mother was a recovering heroin addict. To this day the exact cause of her death can be associated with one of two possibilities: strictly an overdose due to relapse or an adverse reaction between medication she had been taking at the time and the relapse (the relapse was the constant). At the time of her death, she was a 39-year old single mother of three who had given up everything she had to raise her children to the best of her ability and also to take care of her mother who had fallen victim to emphysema and a myriad of ridiculously prolonged coalescing systemic failures, both physically and mentally, and clearly had battled with personal issues herself. During the funeral service, my grandmother was sitting forefront with the casket in plain sight bawling more than one would think possible for any person capable of doing so. As the pastor crossed her way, she agonisingly mustered the will, in between all of the tattered breathing and incoherent slewing of words it caused, to ask him verbatim: “Why did God take her? Why didn’t he take me instead?” In as cool, calm and collected a fashion as one can respond, without the slightest hint of hesitation that would indicate a momentary doubt in self-assurance, with all the conviction he could pour into a single statement, he knelt down to meet her gaze and looked her directly in the eyes and uttered the words “Because God decided it was time to call her back.”

Note that going forward, I’ll be referring to “God” in lieu of generalisations that I’ve used to this point.

Possibly because of the situation at the time, all I could feel was rage and anger toward this man. If any lines of condolence are to be offered, even for those within the context of the subscription, rationale like that is really the least kind and efficacious thing to say. What I had come to realise not long after though was that the man himself was not to be held accountable for such grievance, instead the principle of the religion to which he subscribed to deserved the vitriol. However there were several other things that became overtly apparent to me after her death that are detailed in following.

Right from the start, it should be obvious to any reader, I would hope, that arguing over the source of the reason he had given to her is essentially moot. Debate can be carried on over if this was the intent of God or not or if the recited line came from the scripture in either a literal or lateral interpretation, the former more plausible, but it ultimately deters from what really happened there and is largely irrelevant. Why? Consider the possibility of the situation whereby this man who uttered this line to her had been either (A) a man who subscribed to a different religion or (B) a man subscribed to no religion at all. It’s very plausible that had my grandmother asked this A or B man the same question, his response arguably would have been different in the sense that it may have lacked confinement within the context of religion or could have been more empathic. While it is also possible to suggest that the man as he were was simply caught in the moment and incapable of coming up with anything remotely sound at the time of being asked, keep in mind that he responded back to her without the slightest hint of hesitation. He was well prepared for that which speaks more toward his well-groundedness in the doctrines of his faith, and possibly even to an extent a resultant detachment from the human condition, than in the well-being of his fellow persons. Which, again, is not his fault explicitly.

Instead if you look at the phrase itself and think about its implications through invocation, things start to get a fair bit muddy. By any clear perspective it implies that even though God created all things, it is perfectly content with violating its own rules, ad arbitrium, regardless of the collateral cost. The key focus here is on two points: violating its own rules and disregard for collateral cost where both are very obvious violations of the ad nauseam human-centric agenda it is purported to exhibit. Projecting this onto the situation at hand, you then should be able to rationalise the statement as to mean that God cares about my mother and so decided, executively, that she had to die to come back to Heaven. Bear in mind here that her behaviour clearly didn’t warrant this type of reward if weighed against the faith but according to this emissary that’s certainly where she’s at. But God is also supposed to care about my grandmother who was forced to sit and stare at her daughter’s corpse and be told that she simply was instructed to return from whence she came. That then implies that God’s care is revealed to her in the form of anguish, misery and further declining health and this is supposed to forge her into a stronger person because of it? God is supposed to care about her three children in a similar fashion? It should be a clear cut case that provides evidence for the following statements:

  • God is immoral
  • God is one of the worst introverts ever conceived
  • God’s behaviour is more akin to that of a prepubescent child
  • God is incapable of being a solution, or shim solution, for the question of death as it pertains to living persons

Having read that, please take care to understand that I understand wholly that the summation of my rationale here has been well beaten and run through the philosophical ringer on more occasions than I even care to count. However as a moral agent it is absolutely impossible for myself to either outright or conditionally grant impunity to this God, as it were, simply on account of any of its other supposed omniscient, omnipotent or whatever other meta-man qualities it is purported to have. Any other of my fellow moral agents would be remiss to not see this instance for what it is and put to it the same scrutiny that we would to any other construct of our fellows on this planet.

I also want to take heed to mention that the idea of apostatizing had never occurred to me. Mostly because I wasn’t a subscriber to begin with but when I use that word here it’s to coyly describe the idea that I look for answers outside of the God that was invoked here, which the act alone seemed ludicrous when the answers were essentially obvious. What difference would it have made if by chance some other God had answers that this one couldn’t provide? If another had a different cosmic plan or a different set of ideas about our providence regarding the afterlife or how we get there or how we’re supposed to behave toward each other or in the name of (the agony), the fundamental flaws would always be the same and, by nature, derivative. The rather disgusting paradox where multiple religions exist proves, well enough I should think, that not only are deities/Gods constructs resultant of ourselves but also that they can provide no answers for any questions which we ourselves are incapable of answering by any functional means. While many have tried to capture the essence of “the answer for both life and the afterlife,” no one person, be they, humourously, either simply men or Gods, has been able to provide an account sufficient enough to subjugate our minds completely to. Actually, the phrase “the answer for both life and the afterlife” presupposes that there was a question to begin with.

The rest, as they say, is history. I could further present arguments to debate the existence of such a being or the implications of religion as a whole on our society but I wanted this essay strictly to be a brief account on the foundation for my religious divorce since most people ask.