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Jayary Newsletter # 52
Violent Dreams #4
We now have an idea as to why our ancestors demand progeny - having created this new wonderful new creature called man, we can't drop the ball by not having children.
Think about it as interest on a cosmic debt: the creator went out on a limb by fashioning us in his image (wrong religion, but who cares) and the only way we can pay down the principal is by multiplying. Defaulters go to hell and take their entire lineage with them.
That gives me an idea as to why the gods demand sacrifice. It's the way we prove to them we are human. It's a maintenance fee. In one of Plato's first dialogue's Socrates probes his interlocutor (who's about to conduct a sacrifice) on the nature of justice. Is the just person the one who's loved by the gods or does one become just by loving the gods? If the former, what makes you loved? If the latter, what's it about love that makes it just? Socrates' respondent didn't have an answer to these questions.
Socrates' questions were piercing, but they were also looking for a static answer to an intrinsically dynamic question. Justice isn't a state, it's a way of being. The Indian sacrifice recognized that - by continuously sacrificing to the gods, the sacrificer keeps turning the wheel of history.
Violent Dreams #5
So why are the gods so violent? From what I can tell, there are exactly two kind of gods: there's the One God who's generally peaceful but exacts terrible retribution against those who disagree with Him. There's another version of the One God, which is the God of infinite peace and love. This God is non-interventionist by nature, entering into history only when things are going terribly, or when his son chooses to grace us with his presence.
The One God invites an obvious question: why do you allow so much violence in this world? If you're the sole creator, why make the world this way? Plus, isn't there a contradiction between being infinitely powerful and loving on the one hand and all the evil and suffering on the other?
The polytheist doesn't have the same problems because in her world, the gods can take sides. Zeus can favor one hero while Poseidon favors another. Or, even better, the Gods need not be benign - they can be devas as well as asuras with pitched battles fought between the two.
Isn't that a scary thought? A group of beings infinitely more powerful than us who have no qualms about laying waste to worlds on end.
However I look at it, violence is the single largest problem for religion, and makes it that much more likely that God(s) is an anthropomorphic projection of humans on to the unknown.
Violent Dreams #6
The deadliest slur that a scientist can unleash upon another is "anthropomorphic." Scientists who pipe music into greenhouses are called anthropomorphic. Scientists who read emotions and suffering in dogs and sheep are called anthropomorphic. More generally, anyone who ventures in the direction of biological or cosmic purpose is anthropomorphic.
The other end of the line from anthropomorphism (at least in the popular imagination, if not the scientific one) is materialism, which we all believe to be the reigning ideology of the sciences. The current consensus seems to be: the world is dead. God is dead. We are rocks rumbling around gasballs awaiting heat death.
In other words, one way to solve the problem of violence is to say there's no such thing, for we are just a blooming buzzing confusion of carbon molecules.
Of course, to each action, there's a reaction, even if it's not equal and opposite. Ever since materialism took hold in the seventeenth century, romantics, religionists and opportunists of every kind has opposed this *inhumane* ideology. It's impossible to be taken seriously as a heterodox thinker today without entering into the gladiatorial arena against the materialist beast.
But even the heterodox thinker has to expand beyond the anthropic; it's much easier to convince other nerds that everything is conscious and sentient (what's called panpsychism) than only humans are conscious and sentient. We are more likely to be rocky beings buzzing around gaseous beings than the chosen species of God.