By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Still, I wonder if our survival as a species is something we can will, given a consciousness that is able to make its imagination seem real?
We can’t stand far enough outside of our dilemma to think it completely through. It’s like the mind/body distinction. There may not be a distinction. The mind is clever enough to consider the distinction, but it’s not clever enough to get far enough outside the body to arbitrate it.
And that’s the rub.
We don’t know that we’re not dreaming. Look, we can’t resolve these things today. We are having quite a high-level discussion, about things that are fairly imponderable to combat, ??>?up against a phalanx of people who say, “What’s the point in having this discussion? We already know the answer. What’s the point of struggling and arguing and researching?” This is what I find hateful.
Some people might accuse you of asking everybody to be comfortable living in a Godless universe that is completely indifferent to them. How do you imagine people will go about satisfying their own sense of purpose?
Obviously, it’s not possible for people to do that all of the time, but it is possible for them not to draw any conclusions from their belief that the universe is all about them. If a huge rusted fridge fell through the ceiling and obliterated you without warning, I would think, well, that was lucky. Presuming that the fridge was directed at neither of us, it’s not lucky at all. But I would not be human if I didn’t think it was a bit of luck. This is why religion can’t be beaten, because it does derive from all these forms of selfishness, self-centeredness, fantasy and so on. Fine, I concede to that, but then why do people keep saying that I have to respect it? I don’t have to respect any belief, nor do you, that a rusted fridge that killed you and didn’t kill me was a piece of luck. You do not have to respect that. You can recognize it and see where it comes from. You can analyze it, you can even sympathize with it. You can’t really say that I insist also that you respect it.
There is in religion, however, some practical application. Take, for instance, the very radical notion that the meek have some intrinsic value. African-Americans, just to take an obvious example, were told for centuries that they were something much less than human, so for them to have access to a Bible that tells them that they are significant, that white society doesn’t determine their worth is, well, significant. For them it was a belief system that acknowledged, and still does in large part, that they were mistreated human beings. Respecting that aspect of religion doesn’t demand that you also kowtow to superstition.
Of course, of course; since there’s no justice in this world there better be some justice on offer in the next. Again, you can see where it comes from, fine. It’s the same when Karen Armstrong [author of The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions] writes about Islam. Arabs were being teased by Jews and Christians, “You haven’t had a prophet yet.” Well, they were going to get one, weren’t they? Then you have the Archangel Gabriel appear to some fucking peasant merchant who can’t read, exactly borrowed from the [Judeo-Christian] faith. Yes, of course I understand that, but it’s too much to ask me to believe it. It’s too much to ask me to respect it. It’s too much like I would be, too much like myself. I can’t respect something that follows my own wish fulfillment. I don’t. The last time I prayed was for an erection. Don’t ask me if I got it or not.
Having had just enough Sunday school to know the story of Lot’s wife and how to recognize an unhealthy temptation when I heard one, I struggled hard to keep my eyes above c-level and asked Hitchens a final question about whose existence was easier to disprove, Henry Kissinger’s or God’s. He laughed and said that it was the same process for eviscerating each high-profile Jew in print and that, essentially, the quantitative differences between nonexistent entities was not measurable, the difference between the hole in a very old bagel and the hole in a relatively recent one.
When he stood to say goodbye, I did not stand to shake his hand, not because I was trying to be disrespectful, but rather because I figured a greater disrespect might’ve been expressed had I fallen down on him clumsily while vomiting out my eye sockets. (Remember the Merlot.) Waiting until I was sure he was a safe distance away, I stood slowly, stacking my vertebrae like hermit crabs beneath a bowling ball, and zigzagged to the men’s room, the whole way thinking how much shorter Hitchens’ book could’ve been given its basic premise that stupid people — whose stupidity manifested itself in theism — had no right to implicate other people in their stupidity. With the right editor, I told myself, the new version of the book would be small enough to fit comfortably into the palm of one’s hand, specifically as a coiled middle finger ready to spring upward in an instant at the first sign of an approaching beatific expression, circumcised penis or Osmond.