Real knowledge is to know
the extent of one’s own ignorance.
Seek those who seek;
Doubt those who find.
Wisest is he who knows he does not know
Only two things are infinite,
the universe and human stupidity,
and I’m not sure about the former.
Do not believe in anything
simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in traditions
because they’ve been passed on for generations.
Do not believe in anything
because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything
simply because it is in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything
merely on the word of your teachers and elders.
But, after observation and analysis,
when you find anything
that agrees with reason and
is conducive to the good and
benefit of one and all,
then accept it and live up to it.
I have to expand a little more on Ayn Rand’s “A is A” assertion from yesterday’s post. It may be true that an object such as the Universe is what it is regardless of what we perceive it to be, but all we have as individuals is our perceptions. Objectivism is an ideal we can never really hope to achieve. Our perceptions will always be clouded by our biases, assumptions, and false information that we believe to be true.
This is why a person can look at the Universe and claim to see the work of a creator while others do not. I think the answer to truly being objective in my observation is to know the limits of my knowledge and my abilities to perceive “creation.” This is why the only true answer I can cling to is Agnosticism, the belief that we do not know.
I also try to think objectively of “holy” writings and the mythologies and religions passed down throughout the ages. From all of the evidence I have seen the best conclusion that I can come to is that none of our ancestors really had the answer to the question of creation. It makes no sense to me to believe in a book just because people assert that it was “inspired” and therefore written by some imperceptible god. I could just as well say that this next line is a direct quote from God with the same amount of authority:
God said, “The Bible, The Quran, etc. are all fiction created by mankind.”
Prove it wrong. Try to think about it objectively and see the similarity in my writing the “word of God” versus our more primitive ancestors writing it. Why would you believe that their writing is any more authoritative than anyone writing a book today?
“To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of nonexistence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.”
Further explained by…
This passage is part of the radio broadcast delivered by John Galt to the people of America in Part Three, Chapter VII. The man he refers to is the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose work had a profound influence on Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. The concept that A is A was put forth in Aristotle’s Law of Identity, where he held that everything that exists has a specific nature and a single identity. A can only be A; it cannot also be B. For Galt (embodying Rand’s philosophy), this means that things exist: they are what they are regardless of the nature of the observer. Even if a person wants A to be something else or believes it should be something else, it is still A. The work of a person’s consciousness is to perceive reality in its objective sense, to identify and recognize it as what it is, not to invent an alternate reality.
The Universe is the Universe. Regardless of the ideas and imaginations of people as to what the Universe could be and where it might have come from, all we really know is that A is A and is only A in how we objectively observe it. Some may believe the Universe to be a creation of God, but without a perception of that trait in an objective sense we cannot know it to really be such a thing.
I only see the experience of God (Christian or otherwise) in the objective sense as the same as any other mythological character in a fictional story. This A is fictional to me.
I have found no way to objectively sense the creation of the Universe. This A is unexperienced and undefined to me.
Atheists and agnostics make up approximately 10 percent (30 million people) of the U.S. population. Every 10th person in America is a “person of nonbelief” a sizable minority. However, there are no openly atheist members of Congress and quite possibly none in any other elected offices in the country.
A 1999 Gallup poll found that 49 percent of Americans would vote against an atheist on the grounds of their atheism alone. Simply having a naturalistic view of the universe makes a candidate unelectable in American politics.
In a 2004 New York Times interview, Ron Reagan Jr. was asked if he would like to follow in his father’s footsteps and become president. He responded, “I would be unelectable. I’m an atheist. As we know, that’s something that people won’t accept.”
An unblinkered view of American politics should convince any thinking voter that being a person of faith does not ensure that a politician is motivated by that faith to act morally or ethically. Considering the rogue’s gallery of current Washington politicos, one would be justified in coming to the opposite conclusion.
This is not to denigrate people of faith who use their religion as the rock upon which to anchor their belief in a just and peaceful world and their efforts to that end. But it is equally likely these people, faith or no, would be fighting the same battle. That is because of who these people are, not what brand of religion they profess. Atheists as well can be found fighting the “good fight” just anchored to a different rock.
Physicist and Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg once observed that “With or without (religion) you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.” One need only consider politics-as-usual in America or the sectarian conflicts in places such as Northern Ireland, the Middle East, or India and Pakistan to appreciate the gravity of Weinberg’s observation.
In an April 17 New Yorker piece, Seymour Hersh quotes a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee regarding President Bush’s developing plans to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Referring to the president, the House member said, “The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision.”
If we are to take him at his word, Bush really does believe he is God’s Middle East savior. This is an apocalyptic delusion.
Maybe it is time to give “people of nonbelief,” who harbor no messianic delusions, an elected piece of the public square. They could do no worse than some “people of faith” are currently doing.
I definitely agree with everything Mr. Weitzel says here. Unfortunately most of the religious people are closing their minds off to anyone that doesn’t believe in their myths. This is apparent by the fact that religious people of questionable and often unethical behavior are still preferable to them than a good nonbeliever.
For those voters, the only unforgivable act is to not believe in their god. If you believe in their god they will forgive just about anything wrong you would do to them or in their name as their representative in government.
Below is an interesting description of death by an Atheist. I hope you get the same sense of peace from it that I get. The idea of the inevitable that we can do nothing about that makes it something that shouldn’t be feared every day. The idea that brings your focus back to your present life instead of the unproven idea of a potential afterlife.
Death is very certain and makes living our lives now so much more important because you wouldn’t want to “waste your batteries” while you’re running them. The lives of others are so important because their experiences ripple and intertwine with our own as we collectively experience the Universe.
When I die I am happy to know my vehicle has worn out, that the nutrition to my brain, the blood sugar and blood oxygen will have stopped reaching my neurons and hence, like flat batteries in a toy, they won?t work anymore. As a result I?ll experience none of the thoughts, feelings or physical activity these neuron firings allow me to experience. Hence my sense of ?I? will leave me along with all capacity for consciousness which is a function of those firing neurons. There will be no ?I? to die, for all it is is an experience, a ?self consciousness?. My vehicle will lose its capacity to animate and become inanimate and decay. It will give up its non-circulating nutrients to the soil and feed weeds and plants. And I will live on in the nostalgia of every stranger on a bus stop I never spoke to, because we pick up far more pre-consciously than we can consciously, and also through the friends who took a piece of the pattern, theme and feel that was once the lived experience of me and who will carry that to a million more strangers, a rock, a plant, the patting of a cat.
The only time I regret the death of another is when they did not have the opportunity to “run out their batteries”… A life well-lived should be celebrated instead of mourned.