It’s not what you believe; it’s what you do with those beliefs that counts

The discussion on my recent climate change post has one side saying “expert consensus” and the other side saying “facts.”  Let me state something very important here:  An expert consensus is not a fact.  Experts used to think the sun revolved around the earth (wrong), that bad air caused disease (wrong), that spicy food and stress caused ulcers (wrong), that autistic people are mentally retarded because their mothers didn’t love them (oh, so wrong), etc.  Experts are wrong, all the time.

This is a touchy subject for me today because Mr. Bookworm was very upset that I didn’t like the song “I Believe,” from the play “The Book of Mormon,” which song was performed at the Tony Awards last night.  He assured me that the critics raved about it (and it certainly won a lot of awards), and was completely disconcerted to learn that my opinion differed from the experts’.

I thought the song was sophomoric and mean-spirited.  I say this knowing that Trey Parker and Matt Stone, of South Park fame, wrote the book, and knowing that those two are irreverent about everything.  Because they are equal opportunity offenders, they’re hypocrites, and that gives them something of a pass.  (It was still sophomoric, but it wasn’t unfair by their lights.)

It’s the others, though, who bug me.  The others are the ones who write the reviews and sit in the Tony Awards audience cheering wildly for Vanessa Redgrave, whose never met a mass murderer she hasn’t admired.  They’re also the ones who rave about the song and the play, not because either song or play are especially clever or witty, but because its focus on the Mormons’ belief system makes the others feel smug and superior.

I’ve got a message for all those other ones — all belief systems seem bizarre to non-believers.  What matters for non-believers is how the believers choose to use their belief system as a guide for living their lives.  The important question is whether people, whether believers or not, live better or worse lives because of a specific religious system.

For example, the Jews have this peculiar idea that they are bound to a single “God.”  This God, for better or worse (and, for the Jews, usually worse), has designated the Jews as his Chosen People, and expects them to conform to all sorts of rules, ranging from eating specific foods and saying specific prayers, to having these peculiar ideas about morality, justice and the worth of the individual.  Wackos, every one of them.

And then there are the Christians who actually believe that some guy was the son of that Jewish “God,” and that he not only died for their sins, but that he was actually (get this!) resurrected.  In following this crazy fairy tale, Christians feel have kooky ideas about redemption, grace, morality, forgiveness, and the worth of the individual.  They’re nut jobs.

Hindus, not content with one or two “Gods” believe in dozens of them, many of whom are highly decorative, including the multi-armed one.  They also believe in reincarnation, vegetarianism, meditation and being peaceful.  I ask you — Who would want those peaceful vegetarians as neighbors?  More nut jobs.

The Mormons don’t get a pass either.  Piggy backing on the Christian Bible, they’ve added on all sorts of life after death theories, and planets, not to mention some interesting anthropology and ancient history.  In the pursuit of these stories, they’re incredibly hard-working, clean-living, family-oriented and moral.  They also have this weird habit of proselytizing using verbal persuasion, not swords.  Shame on them!

Muslims think that this one guy, sitting alone in the middle of nowhere, was the ultimate Prophet of the original Jewish “God,” and that everything he says is binding law on his followers.  These people, in honor of their myth, embrace a combination of daily prayers and dietary restrictions, not to mention killing or enslaving Jews, Christians, Americans, children and gays, with a little misogyny on the side.

And then there are the Leftists.  They believe that one world government (made up of ideologically proper people, of course) or, failing that, a really big government at home, can solve all the world’s ills, by making all people equal.

They also believe that some people are more equal than others.  In a constantly jostling hierarchy of the oppressed, people with dark skin jostle for position with people who are female, who try to elbow out people of creative sexual orientation.  All of them are flummoxed when a dark skinned female of creative sexual orientation walks into the room.  It helps if she has a limp.  This would merely be silly if their beliefs didn’t mean that they bend the power of their Big Government to place handicaps on non-dark, non-female, non-creative gender people (i.e., straight white men) in order to help those dark skinned people, females, creative gender types, and handicapped people who have figured out that they’ll get the best spoils if they worship at the Big Government altar.

Big Government worship also includes the belief that nuclear power is incredibly dangerous, but organic, unpasteurized foods are good, even thought organic, unpasteurized foods have killed or injured more people than nuclear power plants.  By the way, in making this statement, I’m not just counting the recent E. Coli sprouts scare, but all the other “whole” foods problems, including Odwalla’s juice debacle some years ago, and the ongoing deaths of children who live in places too poor to pasteurize or who have parents who are flakes.

Big Government worship has some other peculiar practices.  It’s okay to kill a baby, but not to cut a foreskin.  It’s okay to kill a baby, but not to kill a violent murderer after due process.  It’s okay to bankrupt thousands of people, but not to diminish a lizard habitat.  It’s okay to support a radical, violent, antisemitic theocracy, because it’s not capitalist and the people are brown; but it’s wrong to support an open democracy, that extends full civil rights to all races, all religions, all sexes and all creative sexual orientations, because the people are less brown and are Jewish.

Although a non-believer myself, I nevertheless deeply respect religion.  I wish I could be religious (it would be Jewish, if I was), but you can’t force faith.  From the outside looking in, many religious beliefs seem anything but believable.  That’s okay.  Faith is not concerned with rationality, nor should it be.  That’s why it’s faith.  But faith should be deeply concerned with morality, decency, justice, and freedom.  Under that rubric, I know which faiths I prefer.  I bet you do too.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

The Bookworm Turns : A Secret Conservative in Liberal Land, available in e-format for $4.99 at Amazon, Smashwords or through your iBook app.

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  • abc

    “An expert consensus is not a fact….Experts are wrong, all the time.”

    But an expert is wrong less often, on average and probabilistically speaking, than a non-expert.  Your doctor is often wrong in treating you, but his likelihood of being right is FAR HIGHER than for a non-doctor.  Same is true for climate research, another area best left to experts.  Not to people who haven’t much of a clue, but pretend that their opinion is as authoritative as the expert.  It is not.

    And note that we are talking about specialized knowledge, not subjective taste, which is why the following comment–juxtaposed right after a discussion on experts and referenceing AGW–is really rather irrelevant and highlight a profound misconception of what scientific expertise represents:

    “It’s the others, though, who bug me.  The others are the ones who write the reviews and sit in the Tony Awards audience cheering wildly for Vanessa Redgrave, whose never met a mass murderer she hasn’t admired.  They’re also the ones who rave about the song and the play, not because either song or play are especially clever or witty, but because its focus on the Mormons’ belief system makes the others feel smug and superior.”

    The arbiters of taste, of course, are nothing like experts in science.  I have no problem with disagreeing with literary critics or movie critics or whatever critic is opining over a given performance.  But to link this to scientific research and technological expertise is rather bizarre.

    Speaking of non-sequiturs, Bookworm transitions from generalized criticism of religious belief (Jewish, Christian, Hindus, Mormons and Muslims), which I also hold with a dim view, albeit for perhaps other reasons, to an analogous one for liberals.  But this argument is rather weak.  There is much econometric data, for example, to show the power of central government in stimulating an economy undergoing a crisis lack of demand, or to address market externalities.  To claim that leftists have nothing but fantasy dogma without any shred of empirical evidence behind it–putting it in the same category as all the named religions in her comment–is beyond absurd.  While there are many liberals that practice faith-based belief in their ideology, there are also a lot of well-educated people who can cite empirical data supporting their particular politics that happen to fit into a left-leaning narrative (i.e., Keynes).  These are not the faithful.  They are the informed.

    Speaking of faith, Bookworm writes:  “Faith is not concerned with rationality, nor should it be.  That’s why it’s faith.  But faith should be deeply concerned with morality, decency, justice, and freedom.  Under that rubric, I know which faiths I prefer.  I bet you do too.”

    Of course, one doesn’t need faith to construct justifications for moral and decent action, justice and freedom.  And those justifications, since they are grounded in reason and facts, are more compelling than anything religion can offer.

  • suek

    Wow!  You’re on a roll!!
     
    On the “I wish I could believe” theme, I’ll try to remember and post a link to a book I picked up – something about a man who was Jewish by birth, but not by practice – who decided to see if he could follow all the precepts of Judaism for a year…all of them, to the letter.  It was an interesting read.  I don’t remember the title…I’ll try to find it.

  • Charles Martel

    “Of course, one doesn’t need faith to construct justifications for moral and decent action, justice and freedom.  And those justifications, since they are grounded in reason and facts, are more compelling than anything religion can offer.”

    Nonsense. As has been shown here abundantly, abc cannot construct a coherent justification for morality, decent action, justice and freedom that does not strangle on its own contradictions.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    http://www.bookwormroom.com/2011/06/10/now-i-finally-know-why-i-never-liked-him/#comment-125408

    I covered everything to do with atheism and A’s article link about it, there.

  • Charles Martel

    http://www.bookwormroom.com/2011/06/10/now-i-finally-know-why-i-never-liked-him/#comment-125408

    My comment, #23, follows Ymar’s above.

    I usually don’t repeat an argument (unless I’m trying to get something through the Zachs’ thick heads), but abc has a pattern of not responding to arguments that he knows he cannot address logically or bluster his way through. What Ymar and I have to say in our comments above pretty much nails the kind of atheistic mind we’re dealing with here.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Atheists often come from prosperous or secure first world nations.

    The reason why militant atheisms don’t come from harsher climates is due to a simple fact. Atheism, like pacifism, requires a free ride from more creative and robust belief systems.

    Human belief is a powerful weapon and in ages long past, people had to believe in something and most of the time they believed in whatever served their interests the best. A fishing village thus worshiped the god of the sea and prayed for good weather and a good fishing season. AGW and A’s technocracy is no different.

    Since the metaphysics (whether their God exists or not as they say they do) is unverifiable utilizing human experimentation (but not human reason), all we can say for sure is which God is the more powerful God and which God did more things for his people.

    We can’t be sure what is going on in the Heavens and in the world of the spirits, but we do know who has achieved victory or defeat on planet Earth. We know who has lived and who has died.

    We know that CHristianity was behind the creation of the First World, especially America. We know that paganism and worship of devil idols (Marxism) is still active in the darker parts of the world. We even have man made gods such as Kim Jong, Mao, and AGW worshiped as divine by their priests. And we have seen the consequences of that. We have seen what their followers have done. We have seen how they have prospered or not prospered. These are things human reason is perfectly capable of grasping and making use of in determining truth. We don’t need “divine priests” telling us what their “expert opinion” is.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Because they are equal opportunity offenders, they’re hypocrites, and that gives them something of a pass.

    Did you they They Are NOT hypocrites?

  • Tonestaple

    Book, this quote from Blaise Pascal is for you and your lack of faith:
    “Belief is a wise wager. Granted that faith cannot be proved, what harm will come to you if you gamble on its truth and it proves false? If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation, that He exists.” 

  • Tonestaple

    And don’t forget that those people who thought that Book of Mormon song was so wonderful also almost certainly think John Lennon’s Imagine is a deep and wonderful philosophy.

    It really is too bad about Vanessa Redgrave:  so beautiful and so talented and still with so much evil in her heart.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Evil is beautiful in human eyes. That’s why it excels often times.

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