Thursday, November 02, 2006

“Let’s all pull down our pants when I turn off the lights,” she said. I was 10 or so, and my family lived in the moment of nowhere. It might have been somewhere sometime, but at that moment it wasn’t. The closest nearby kid my age was a quarter mile down our dirt road. His name was Freddy. He had an older sister Lynn – I’m guessing she was 12. She was the advocate of the depanting. Their father didn’t live with them. I guess I agreed, because the light went off. My friend was standing near me and I remember him whispering, “Don’t do it – let’s trick her.” We tricked. When she turned the light back on, her pants were at her ankles and ours weren’t. She was pissed.

I had forgotten about this, but I remembered it when I was thinking about something I saw on television last week. There was a guest on some talk show, talking about the way that the relationship between the religious and the secular is so contentious. He said that both sides have to stop trying to find conflict, and instead recognize each other’s right to their beliefs. If we can shift the focus even a little, we will be able to accomplish much more. It was one of those things that is obviously true, but that you don’t think about often regardless of which side you are on. I probably spend 100x more time thinking about how silly I think religion is than about how to cooperate with believers to achieve common goals.

Then I started to think about the argument itself (you can’t really call it a debate). In the fight between one side and the other (let’s call it the loonies vs. the obviously correct) which side has their pants down when the lights come on? At first, I thought the pants on folks were the rational ones. We like to point and laugh. But then I wondered if exposed underwear might represent truth. So that would make pants down the non-loonies. Show us your truth! But we are not an embarrassed lot in general, so I went back to my original intuition. I’m a pants on guy and the downing of the pants in the dark is a mindless act of group-think. (Boy am I lucky the analogy police are off guzzling donuts somewhere). So walking back up-track to examine my mangled train of thought, why did this memory surface when I was thinking about the secular vs. religion thing? It hit me like a ton of molten hot Krispy Kreme glaze. We cannot get along with each other because we both do something that runs directly against the core requirements of the other’s group membership. The mythligious believe arbitrary things without proof, and the agnostheists reject group think.

That part is obvious, but this part isn’t. Religion is a really, really useful thing. Ask Jared Diamond – he’ll tell ya. Religious folks have created a social construct that allows them to climb their way into places in the human strategic space that require a degree of organization, coordinated action, and motivation far beyond the capabilities of those of us bound by logic and Nash reality. I mean sheesh, try to wage a centuries long global war of conquest without a puffed up sense of self-importance. Religion is deliciously useful.

So that is why we keep it around. We change it as needed too, but that takes longer because you have to wait for the folks that were taught the ‘old ways’ to stop whining and die. Interpretations of religions change hugely from generation to generation. The caste system slides away, God stops supporting slavery, women become equal…not small changes. Heck, Old to New Testament – are you KIDDING me? But here is the nut. The whole faith thing is all based on turning the light off, and on everyone pulling their pants down at the same time. It is hard to do that when you know someone is going to be pointing at your wonder woman underwear and laughing when they come back on. That is why we fight each other.


Anonymous said...

Religion won't seem silly at all on the judgment day.

To be fair though, there are more false religions out there than there are true ones. There is only one faith, just as there is only one God. (Ephesians 4:1-6
I hope you will study and find the one true religion. In the Old Testament there was one for God's nation, Israel and in the N T there is only one for God's Spiritual Family, the church. ONE church and One Head over it which is Christ. There are thousands of man-made churches and they all teach different things...even to the point of how to be come a Christian. No wonder people are turned off of religion. But God will not accept that as an excuse. He expects us to study and learn His Word, the Bible. Best wishes to you.

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if you care to look and comment. Maybe we could correspond that way.

Adam said...

The previous comment is a beautiful illustration of the discussion in my essay. There are many religions out there and every one of them enforces its own arbitray belief system over those of the others. The justification? "My God is right and their's is wrong because mine says so." All religions use this same argument.

I know some intellectual believers that acknowledge this and employ more creative and advanced methods of self-deception. But it all comes down to this: each person has to decide whether or not they are willing to lie to themselves and accept the lies of others if this means that make their life becomes easier and less painful. Those who answer "Yes I am" become and remain religious. The religion they choose matters very little because all religions serve the same purpose. The choice of religion and sect is mainly a function of symbolic power struggles between social and racial groups.

Billy said...

There are many religions out there but I would argue that there is a way to judge the efficacy of religion with a simple question. What is the purpose of the religion?

Ultimately religion is meant to be a catalyst that propels the individual into a mind set, a base, or a major underlying premise of peace, compassion, and connectedness to others similar to the perspective and understanding of life that the Master who inspired the Religion embodied.

More important than dogma are the pure and powerful experiences which form the underlying basis for the social organizations we call religion. These experiences clarify the intent of religion as a vehicle of transformation, yield new observations about human potential, and shed light on the nature of enlightenment and the perspective of fully actualized beings.

Serious practitioners of spiritual techniques often experience a transcending of physical barriers en route to enlightenment.

From the perspective of enlightenment there is very little need to utilize mental constructs which are predispositioned to cater to societal pressure and conform to ideals that may be in opposition to individual aims.

A successful religion will allow for the transformation of all mental formations into nothingness and total absence of duality. It is from this mind set, base, or major underlying premise of peace, empathy, and selflessness, that the greatest acts of compassion are accomplished.

The transcendent system of self culture which unfolds from higher states of awareness is the only hope for unity.

I have personally seen people arrive at these states of mind utilizing religious and/or intellectual vehicles of thought.

But, they are few indeed.

BAOBAO said...

Between the combat of pants-down and pants-on there is really no middle groud. How will we count pants half-down? The answer will be at the pants-down side. If Adam and Eve couldn't resist that apple the current offsprings are not just the survivors of group thinkers. It's good to have a high efficient social structure but it will be never wrong to have someone, not much, to qustion the authorities or keep their pants-on.