By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Well, our tenure on this planet is very fragile — we’ve [known] that ever since nuclear physics was discovered. In my view, in case I didn’t make this clear enough in the book — which, actually, I think I didn’t — outgrowing the supernatural and the superstitious is not sufficient for emancipating the human race. It’s only the beginning. All our big discoveries and big arguments are ahead of us, but the one that has to be subtracted is the fanatical one that prays for the end of time.
Most of the religious people I know don’t adhere to some ancient, antiquated text, nor are they afraid of spending eternity burning in hell if they misbehave. Don’t you think that religion, for some people, simply fulfills the same purpose that literature might for others, as a way to quantify ideas of right and wrong?
That’s why I say, in many ways, that [religious inquiry] is a literary question; it’s about ethics and the origin of ethics, and the best way in which they’re expressed is a dilemma — ethical dilemmas are in literature and myth.
There’s a basic question that I seldom see included in this discussion, and that is the question of the viability of human consciousness itself, and whether or not it perceives reality or just perceives itself perceiving reality. In other words, can consciousness even perceive the truth or does it only interpret a version of the truth relative to a person’s mood, opinion, ideology?
No school of philosophy has ever solved this question of whether being determines consciousness or the other way around. It may be a false antithesis. Here’s what I do know: Those who claim that they do know this are bound to be wrong. The argument is not equal between us and the supernaturalists. They don’t just claim to know there is a supernatural that can be miraculous as a designer; they don’t just claim to know that, which is more than they can know. They say, “No, no, you can! Not only that, you can know God’s mind. Not only that, you can know what he wants you to do about food and sex.” If we start by excluding those who say there’s no point in the argument, who say they already know the truth, if we drop them, then we may get some progress. Then we’re left with an argument among grown-ups.
Do you find that an argument against the existence of God is not unlike an argument against the existence of obscenity? We’ve developed this habit of using the incontrovertibility of physical reality to give incontrovertibility to our imaginations, therefore we’re capable of making our imaginations seem real, so God can seem real. You can see it when you look at the wordscuntandvagina. Both words refer to the same exact thing, yet one is considered obscene. The difference between the wordscuntandvaginais imaginary.
I know what you mean. However, cunt is a hate word —
But it was invented to be such.
It’s true that obscenity is a matter of taste and in the eye of the beholder. The real objection to obscenity, in my opinion, is the result of our makeup, specifically that the urinary/genitary/excretory is mixed up. That’s what makes children laugh and whistle and grin. If that were not the case, we’d be a lot better off, perhaps. Obscenity comes from grime. “Free education is a gift to the poor, it raises them out of the gutter. It teaches the girls to write cock on the door and the boys to write cunt on the shutter.” It’s the relationship between the spiritual and urinary, that’s where obscenity comes from.
That’s my point: Is obscenity — or God — something we can even have a rational conversation about if we’ve only been conditioned to react to it? Is consciousness an evolutionary flaw?
The situation is, we’re mammals, we leak and we excrete and then we’re told to forget about that or to deny it. Religion is totalitarian because it demands the impossible. [Like religion], obscenity shuts you down. The secular argument, or the liberal argument, is to as much as possible remove taboos so things do not become unmentionable; to let some air into the discussion.
That reminds me of my favorite Lenny Bruce quote: Knowledge of syphilis is not instruction to get it.
[Chuckles.] It was easy to argue this kind of thing in the ’60s, against censorship, against bans on homosexuality, et cetera. Now you do run into people who say, “Then why would you forbid pedophilia? Would the same standards hold for this? Or snuff movies? Or third-trimester abortions?” This argument takes place among rationalists and humanists and sociologists. We don’t say that if you allow [these things] we would be comfortable with obscenity. I do think there are lots of things you don’t have to be taught. Most people don’t have to be taught not to eat dead human beings, let alone to kill them in order to eat them. You don’t have to drill this into children. You don’t have to drill it into children that if one of their parents wants to go to bed with them that they should go and stay at the neighbor’s for the night. You could say that that’s an argument for a Creator with a benevolent view, but then you’d have a huge rational argument about why we are programmed to kill and torture and so on. It does show that morality precedes religion, that ethics precedes religion, not the other way around.
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