Where There Were No Doors

Follow your bliss and doors will open where there were no doors before - Joseph Campbell

Thursday, March 03, 2005

An extract from 'The 4th Epistle of Jim Bliss to the Mesopotamians' with introduction and concluding thoughts by the author

Religion... it's just so much crazy bullshit. I'd really like to jump back in time a few thousand years and nip some ideas in the bud, y'know what I'm saying? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the universal impersonal godhead thing. I don't care where it comes from... but life wouldn't be worth squat without a sense of The Divine. But as soon as that gets turned into a guy with a beard or a gal emerging from a clam, then all hell breaks loose. Figuratively speaking.

Wouldn't it be great to leap backwards to late-neolithic Mesopotamia (to take a time and place completely at random) and offer them an alternative viewpoint to the emerging one. Kind of like a proto-St. Paul in an anarcho-rationalist stylee.
My dear late-stone-age Mesopotamians,

Many thanks for your recent letter. If archaeologists from my time only knew just how much you guys are fucking with their heads! It makes me laugh every time I surf into a documentary on the Discovery Channel nowadays. Of course, you won't have the faintest idea what that means... but you've learnt to roll with my idiosyncrasies by now.

Anyways, I figured I should get round to the real essence of why I started our correspondence. I'm sure you've guessed by now that I had an ulterior motive for wanting to be pen-pals. That said; please believe me when I say that I'm not dictating anything here. I only want to offer you some ideas to mull over. Just throw them out there, see what happens. You see, I completely understand your decision to personify a lot of the natural systems and events that are outside your control. It's a perfectly normal thing to do... all over the globe, pretty much every emerging culture is going to do the same thing.

But I'm here to tell you my prehistorical friends, that it'll all go very badly. Seriously folks, it's ended up a bloody great mess when I am. When you're still living a hunter-gatherer, and even proto-agricultural lifestyle then it is - and should have been - the natural socio-cultural paradigm (cough, cough... bleuurrrrrgh... excuse me, but I appear to have thrown up some of that academic language I consumed a few years back). But you guys are about to start building bloody great cities... and that's going to change the way you look at a lot of things. It's going to change almost everything.

Trust me when I say that you need to keep supernatural mumbo-jumbo out of the important decisions. If some bloke tells you that God is dictating a book of rules to him? Just assume he's mad. Give him a big grant and surround him with art critics (it's the easiest way to make someone irrelevant - infinitely more effective than martyrdom). Stamp out that silliness before it gets out of hand and someone loses an eye. Or a tooth.

So now I'm going to explain this here notion of "causality" to you. Then I'm going to tell you a little about natural systems and sustainability (just to get the seed planted as it were)... ... ...
Imagine no religion

I dunno; how would civilisation have developed if the Cult of the Sky Bully had never got started in the first place? The temptation is to apply it to our world as it is now... imagining a world where all of the church, mosque, synagogue and temple goers suddenly went... "haaaaaannnng on a second... That makes no sense!" And sadly, the result of such a rude awakening; an imposed mass-enlightenment, so to speak; would be chaos. The frailty of human psychology being what it is, there'd be widespread destructive nihilism. A disenchanted individual might wear black for a while, listen to The Cure and even cut themselves and get into bad drugs. Which is a real fucking waste of two years let me tell you.

Not that The Cure aren't a great band. They are.

But the equivalent behaviour in large groups of people usually turns very ugly, in a "let's find someone to blame and beat them with sticks for a while" manner. People are bastids that way.

Trying to imagine how civilisation would be today, had the priesthood racket never got off the ground, is something of a non-starter. It's all so bound up in everything... so insidious and integral.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not implying that we'd be living in the best of all possible worlds were theism not so rampant. Some people are perfectly happy to do terrible things to the person they sit next to in church every Sunday. So let's not blame religion for absolutely everything. It's guilty of a lot of very nasty shit, but maybe humanity would've come up with something worse to fill the vaccuum. Who knows?

I'm fairly convinced I could come up with something better though. But as I'm still working on a replacement for economics, religion might have to wait a couple of weeks.


Blogger Justin said...

But what, as the Venerable Hicks once posited, would people say during sex?

As a militant Dawkins-ite athiest and reformed Catholic, I say you can pretty much lay the lion's share of the world's problems at the feet of institutionalised religion from the repression of women to AIDS-ravaged Africa.

I think the sooner people realise that this life is the one shot we get and it's not a process of deferred gratification until we reach A Better Place, the sooner we can get our shit together and realise our true potential. For starters, we'll get a lot less of the likes of Tony Blair declaring that he'll answer for the dead and maimed of Iraq when he meets his maker.

Anyways, I think you're the messiah, jim. I should know, I've followed a few.

3/3/05 16:00  
Blogger Jim Bliss said...

In answer to your first question, to me "God" is still the word used to express The Divine. So there doesn't need to be any changes there.

I like a lot of what Dawkins has to say, and when I saw him speaking a couple of days after September 11th, he was the best of a very good group of speakers. But as Howard Bloom (who I'm avoiding reading for a while because his ideas seem so very close to my own, and I want to see where my own thoughts lead me) points out; Dawkins himself has become a fundamentalist.

The gene isn't selfish. Leastways it's not only selfish. It's a meaningless construct without the support system of the host body to place it in context.

Somewhere near the start of The Selfish Gene Dawkins talks about turning the orthodoxy on it's head and viewing things from an entirely new angle. It's that idea and his execution of it that make Dawkins particularly significant for me. But now he's become the orthodoxy himself. He speaks of his ideas as though there were no other angles from which to view things.

"To punish me for my contempt for authority, fate has made me an authority myslef" - Albert Einstein.

That said... religion sucks!

3/3/05 17:24  
Blogger Justin said...

I have a huge affection for the Selfish Gene. In the early years after deciding that Catholicism - and by extension religion - was something that had poisoned my life and had to be jettisoned, there was a gap left behind (how could there not be?) which the book filled. To have it confirmed - as I saw it - in such an affirming way that the universe is a beautiful clockwork mechanism that - again, as I see it - functions without the need for a ghost in the machine was hugely comforting. I suppose, in a way, the book became something of a holy text for me.

That said, recently Dawkins has become, like Bloom says, something of a fundamentalist of late. He's almost like the athiestic equivalent of the Jehovah's Witness, hammering on doors to ply his message. I despise those religions (more than the rest) that see the need to force themselves on other people and Dawkins has been guilty of this. The phrase "softly, softly, catchee monkey" has a lot to be said for it he's done little for his case in some instances by coming across as intolerant, dismissive and almost hands over ears and shouting "la la la, can't hear you."

As I said, I lay the blame for a lot of the world's ills at the door of religion but I also recognise the fact that it provides comfort to many people - not least members of my own family -and I'm not about to disabuse people of a scrap of something to cling to in this cold, cruel world.

To steal a cliche - Dawkins is in danger of him, the messenger, becoming the message.

But as our shaman once said before he was taken from us, let's "all evolve and get on the spaceships and get the fuck out of here."

3/3/05 18:25  
Anonymous David Duff said...

Chicken Yoghurt says, "..you can pretty much lay the lion's share of the world's problems at the feet of institutionalised religion".

Would that include Marxist Leninism which, if it's a question of numbers, bumped off more zillions of people in a shorter time than any-one else.

As for 'archbishop' Dawkins, here is an example of his 'wisdom' from 'The Selfish Gene': "..it is after all, to [a woman's] *advantage* that her child be adopted." I quote from 'Darwinian Fairytales' by David Stove, "Dr. Dawkins [..] cannot understand why mothers do not welcome baby snatchers, and says that the question 'deserves thorough research'.

Dawkins is a dork!

5/3/05 22:16  
Anonymous Rochenko said...

While we're throwing Marxist-Leninism into the big bucket labelled 'Discredited Imaginary Friends-based Belief Systems', can we chuck in 'free-market' capitalism too? Smashing.

7/3/05 16:23  

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