February 20, 2009

The alternative

Using the delight­ful­ly inflam­ma­to­ry title “Stu­dents to be taught there’s no God”:


I remain respect­ful­ly cyn­i­cal of any organ­i­sa­tion preach­ing eth­i­cal stand­points to chil­dren in the absense of parental super­vi­sion, but I might be a lit­tle less cyn­i­cal in this case; like many cen­tre-left thinkers (read: aca­d­e­m­ic snob) I believe break­ing the cycle of the all-see­ing author­i­tar­i­an father-fig­ure is a wor­thy goal. The ener­gy we inject into feed­ing reli­gion could be bet­ter spent on edu­cat­ing the incom­ing gen­er­a­tion on the need for com­mon moral­i­ty and respect built from our own expe­ri­ences, not from sources irra­tional­ly divi­sive and sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly and soci­o­log­i­cal­ly thousounds of years out-of-date.

To be blunt I’ve always seen San­ta Claus as a micro­cosm for the greater reli­gious direc­tion: as irra­tional, inex­pe­ri­enced chil­dren with no under­stand­ing of the mores of larg­er soci­ety, most of us need a struc­ture to keep us in check until we learn to ratio­nalise on our own and out­grow the need to per­form for the omnipresent being. Have we as adults ever out­grown the next phase?

(This bypass­es the entire dis­cus­sion on whether young chil­dren are even sen­tient, which is inter­est­ing in its own right.)

On the prob­lem of export­ing ideals and com­mon­al­i­ty to chil­dren, I think we’ve lost a lot by becom­ing a media-dri­ven cul­ture with­out the face-to-face fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty dis­course that ties peo­ple togeth­er through shared expe­ri­ences. And I under­stand that said dis­course is a core part of the reli­gious expe­ri­ence; I’d like that same dis­course but with­out the par­rot­ing of ancient verse and the attri­bu­tion of our moral struc­ture to mys­ti­cal beings. It gen­uine­ly speaks of our will­ing­ness to demote our poten­tial. Do we actu­al­ly want to improve? That involves grow­ing up as a soci­ety and drop­ping a lot of bag­gage, and sad­ly for many peo­ple that bag­gage pro­vides the com­mon­al­i­ty that allows us to speak to one anoth­er civil­ly, since most oth­er avenues of bond­ing are closed off.

As a race we’re intrin­si­cal­ly attract­ed to sto­ry­telling and the want to believe in some­thing greater than our­selves; I think that’s because we nom­i­nate any height we can’t yet reach for idol­i­sa­tion. Maybe that ten­dan­cy is inescapable with­out a change of wiring… but a dis­cus­sion of vol­un­tary human­i­tar­i­an eugen­ics and genet­ic engi­neer­ing is some­thing I’ll leave for anoth­er post.

posted by Andrew

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