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Hogarth judge

February 2018



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Hogarth judge

Chris wrote:
> Are you arguing that what is 'natural' is by definition good? Probably not. But you do seem to imply that such thinking is inevitable because it's part of what makes us human. It's tempting to jump from that to saying that because we're human we must accept this kind of primitive thinking as part of ourselves and not fight against it. You didn't say that, of course, but it's a point worth discussing.
No, what's natural is not necessarily good; our own minds, like the rest of the world around us, are tainted. Still, the light that once existed in them from that time we all remember in our backbrains, the time when we were sinless and lived in a world of plenty, has only been mostly dimmed and not entirely extinguished.

That too is an everywhere story. Almost every human culture has its Arcadia or Eden. Just as almost every human culture holds that every person has an immortal part. And almost every human culture holds that the aspect of the human person that shall survive death shall be judged in an afterlife.

Every human culture absolutely without exception has its totems and taboos, its holies and its traifs, its rites of passage, and its seasonal observances. Even those states whose ideologies rejected all gods could not hold this impulse at bay indefinitely. Lenin's incorrupt corpse remains a place of pilgrimage. The desire of people to gather around symbols that define Us from Not Us, and to create rituals that enact what We share, is mightier than the small portion of the mind that can be taught to repeat ideology or doctrine.

Were human cultures truly random and free to decide their own content, the general pervasion of these beliefs would become difficult indeed to explain. Fortunately, the contents of the human mind are not that malleable: fortunate, because the parts that resist social engineering are the parts that make freedom possible. And I agree entirely that this coincidence of agreement wants an explanation.

The notion that there does exist a god of some sort, who is responsible for some of the content of our minds, and who arranged us capable of arriving at the knowledge of his or her presence unbidden --- that strikes me as the most parsimonious explanation of the observed facts of anthropology. Others are certainly possible, but they require a lot more moving parts.

To my mind, the goal of theology is not to establish that a god exists: it cannot and does not need to. The specific goal of theology is to attempt to focus our fallen minds on the content of a specific revelation; while our natural mind can see God, its faculties are tainted. It needs revelation, not to know that God is there, but to know what God is like.


*standing ovation, especially from the cultural anthropologists*