Questions and Answers

The Dangers inherent in getting too many easy answers
or
Faith Vs Blind Faith, and the Tyranny of the majority



Now, given as I am a scholar ... this seems like an odd thing to say. Too many easy answers, are a danger ? Yes, say I, and let me tell you my personal opinion as to why this is so, especially when it regards matters of faith and spirituality.

To things that are plain "facts", easy answers are not really a problem, 2 and 2 = four is a thing one learns by rote, that short of a major revelation in mathematics, will always be the same, no matter who does it. It does not require thought, only mutual agreement that 2+2 =4, end of statement. ( well almost ) let me go off on a tangent of the intellectual stuff here for half a second, with a few examples ...



In 1931 Kurt Gödel,  a mathematician, published his "Incompleteness Theorem" which states, putting it very simply, "that no system of any kind that is powerful and consistent, could ever be complete." He proved his theorem beyond any reasonable doubt, to his own peers, using mathematics that was agreed by all, to be perfect. So, even such "facts" as by rote mathematics, are not finite. He proved that there were mathematical equations that could be written, that had NO solution, given the facts as we know them.

This is more commonly known as the "Liar's Paradox". ( this is a classic paradox, were in one says, "Everything I say to you is a lie" and then proceeds to tell you " I'm lying". Which means of course, that if everything they say is a lie, then this statement must be false, therefore your telling the truth, but yet they say they are lying, so it cannot be the truth, and so on and so on...

Even today, if you feed this idea into your average computer, and tell it to come to a final conclusion, it cannot do it, as there isn't one, it's an unending set, with no known resolution. Kurt Gödel proved this, that even for a subject such as mathematics, one that we consider to be set in stone. Proving, once again, that we do not and cannot, know everything there is to know about any subject, nor can any one set of "rules" cover every possible event.

Newtonian physics, the idea of the apple tree and gravity, for example: was supplanted by the physics of Sir Albert Einstein, why ? Because Einstein's theory, is a more accurate model of the matter under question, or so we currently accept.  Now, Einstein's physics will, in turn, be supplanted by yet another new theory, as we learn more, that will, one hopes, be an even closer approximation to the "truth" as we grope our way to understanding.

This is called a "rational progression", as we do learn more and expand our understanding, but it is based on the "facts" as presented by those before us, we build on those facts, or should. But, we should strive for the pursuit of truth, rather than focus too much on the "proclamation" of truth.

As the "facts" as known by those before us, are not the end, there is no final "fact", for with every piece of new knowledge, the way is opened for a new advance in understanding, that couldn't have been imagined, without all the previous "facts".

Everyday of our lives, we come up with new understanding, even for things we thought long settled and codified. To deny this, is to assume, that we "know it all" which is not only arrogant, it's false, and that fallacy is proved almost daily, as we learn new information. There are no "facts" as it were, there are only, things as we currently understand them.

Just to prove this, I present yet another example: Not too long ago, a paper was published that "proved" according to all the known laws of aerodynamics at that time, that a bumble bee should not be able to fly. Yet, the bee, quite unaware of these "facts" flies quite well thank you. Which only shows that we don't know as much of aerodynamics as we think we do, as this simple creature, defies the laws, as we know them. So, so much for any "laws" of nature, as even they are subject to change, as we learn more.



Ok, getting off my academia soap box here :)

So, what happens when you try and codify things, that are essentially, unknowable, by ordinary means, and whose answers, when arrived at, are not the same for everybody ? In this case, Faith and the actions taken on account of that faith.

I have said some of this before, from other angles, but I would like to touch on some of them, from an entirely different perspective and depth. Pardon me as I jump about like a frog on a hot plate here, trying to grapple with a fairly complex issue, in as few words as possible.

Let me paint an image for you:

At one point in the world of mankind, most of the "missives" of any faith, were presented as Art. There were few tomes, or books. Most of these art depiction's were rich in symbols. To understand the message, one had to study the work, ponder it, discuss it with others, meditate about it and seek, with the inner minds eye, the meaning behind it.

This was done, not because the population could not read, it was done for the simple fact that if you had to really study a thing, you would come to understand the message with a great deal more clarity. You can see this happening in any Art Gallery in the world, as those who are viewing the works, discuss them and try to understand what the artist was trying to present.

( I have some 400+ paintings to my credit, and it's my intention to create my own versions of such works, that require much thought and pondering to understand them and, one hopes, learn from them. If you care to see them, please check out my art site (off site link ) when you have a moment )

But, for a very long time, even such writings as there were, were intended to be studied, and pondered, and ones own conclusions reached from them. As they did not so much tell you answers, as showed you ways to find out those answers, for yourself. Many of them are still written, just this way, not answers so much, but an overall guide book, for helping you find them for yourself. At least, that was the plan.

Then came a turning point, a point when mankind, as a group, became, for lack of a better word, less civilized. They became largely illiterate, and quite frankly, ignorant, as compared to your average citizen of the eras before them.

Now, artworks were still used to present the spirituality of the day, however, such works, in recent centuries at any rate, were dominated entirely by the view of those in power. Further, they were intended for the most part, to say it bluntly, to preach, not teach.

( They failed in that intent somewhat, due only to the artists themselves, as in many such works, there are meanings buried within, added in, often in opposition it is said, to the very people who commissioned the works. Many works by Leonardo da Vinci are a good example, and there are many others world wide, of artistic depiction's of the icons of many faiths, that the artist offered a much richer offering to the world, than might have been intended by their patrons )

Schools of higher learning however, or even basic learning, were for a privileged few, ( and very few of such schools had open curriculum's, or really encouraged free thinking, so their veracity even as an education medium, was limited ) and books and the ability to read them, were a thing for the wealthy, or were in the hands of the religious houses of the day. So the peoples ignorance, was by and large, not their fault.

Yet, the common people still wanted answers however, and demanded of the priesthood and learned men of their day, to be handed the answers to the long standing questions that come up in each and every generation, of why are we here ? What is our purpose for being ? How are we supposed to behave ?, etc. etc.. and unfortunately, world wide, they were given such answers, especially during the worlds "dark ages" as they were called.

( In the study of religions this is called, contamination by the laity, meaning, in this case, the people have forced the priesthood into a corner, and demanded ready answers, even when such easy answers may not be in their best interest. )



Now, why do I say unfortunately ?

One would think that it would be a grand thing to have such important questions answered for you. Well, not really, for the simple reason, that if we don't walk that path ourselves and really understand the answers, it can become a thing done by rote, passed hand to hand, person to person, without thought, and without question.

Blind adherence to anything, is dangerous in the extreme, simply because, it's all too easy to become like the lemmings who toss themselves over a cliff to their deaths, as they follow along, giving no thought to their own life, or even the life of their species, they just run because everybody else is running.

And to make matters worse, men in power, all too soon, learned that a people who allow themselves to be led over such important things, will, very often, allow themselves to be led about lessor things. They discovered the people can be isolated from other knowledge, cut off from new ideas and new thoughts, to where the well worn path of the lemming, where one follows the mob, is the only one left to them, as it's the only one they know.



This practice of handing down prepared "interpretations" to the masses, be it on matters of the faith, law or morality, continues in most of the world today, and one only has to take even a casual look about, to see it happening.

In the case of religion, it went from the innermost mystery, that was open to all men, a whirlwind of life and living and a point were all things are possible, became, in most cases, reduced down to a set of rules, and "facts" handed out by, lets face it, an often uncaring power base, of do this, and reap rewards, do that and be dammed,  the end of the concept of faith. This was the creation of Dogma: By definition:

"Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization, thought to be authoritative and not to be disputed or doubted."

Vs

Religious Theology which is "The study of the nature of God and religious truth; rational inquiry into religious questions."

So those in power began to give the people what they said they wanted, Dogma, rather than what they really needed to learn and to grow as individuals, which is theology. What the people said they wanted was pat answers, easy answers, ones where they did not have to think about it, in short they wanted to be told what to do, rather than have to figure it out, and answer the hard questions for themselves.

Now, most persons who become part of the priesthood of any faith, are well learned in the theology of that faith. However, what we tend to see happening overall, is they have, in far too many cases, chosen not to be one who leads their people into understanding, rather they have chosen the role of the "dispenser of facts", facts that are all too often limited to only the dogma of the given faith, in effect, guarding the laity from the theological "truths", that they themselves understand.

The why of this ? One assumes, that it's a lot easier to teach dogma, than it is to teach the people how to be a theologist, and therefore avoid having to invite debate on the subject.

During my studies on the Dead Sea scrolls of Masada for example: my professor, who was there when the scrolls were unearthed and helped to translate them, told we students quite bluntly, that he left the group that was translating them, for the simple reason they were and to a great extent, still are, sitting on the information they discovered.

The why is simple, as the tomes, quite often, totally reversed some of the current day beliefs of the faith they are related to, and rather than share that information, and therefore create some major religious conflicts, they have kept most of them hidden from the population. Again, guarding the laity from the truth. There are many other examples of this same suppression, for a whole variety of faiths, world wide.

Now, knowing that the tomes of the faith, any faith, are by and large, either by lack of information, or as with the above, subject to deliberate suppression of information, incomplete, does not preclude our personal responsibility of seeking out more information.

And, we must recall during this quest for information that the Gods have little to say over what men write or say of them. Free will and all that bit, remember ? So whatever is written, or spoken, has to be, by its very nature, taken with a grain of salt, as we here in the US call a healthy dose of skepticism, and understand that it is not and cannot be, the entire truth.

We have to come to understand a basic idea, that the Divine is, and has always been a great deal more than whatever makes its way to the printed page about them, or is spoken from the Temple, or the Grove. To limit the Divine to only these "facts" is fallacy, and it is the responsibility of the priesthood of any faith, to lead people to this understanding, to where the people do not try and limit the Divine, only to what they think they "know", but encourage them to investigate beyond the stated "facts".

If the priesthood fails in this duty, it becomes the responsibility of the individual to seek out the information, for themselves.



It is a human failing however, that we tend to take the shortest route between two points. Now, this is perfectly reasonable when it comes to direct physical acts, how we walk from point A to point B, but not for deciding on what mental order or belief system we use to base our actions on.

If each action we take, is not something we have to consider on its own merits, and reach a reasoned decision of act or not act, and we simply do as we are told, or "what everybody else does", we never really have to think about it, nor do we tend to take responsibility for those actions, as we have a rather handy scapegoat, someone else to blame it on.

"I was just following orders" is a rather lame excuse in anyone's lexicon, as evidenced by our reactions to soldier's for example, using this excuse in court, when they are called up to account for actions that have been taken, that go beyond what we consider to be acceptable, even within the conventions of war.

We react most strongly to this, to the point of saying, " but they knew it was wrong, even if they were ordered to do so, they should have defied the order" and we say this loudly and with passion. Further, we reserve special onus against whomever gave that order, as we feel it was an abuse of the soldier to even ask it of them. We have upheld this idea in our courts time and again.

But yet, when it comes to matters of faith, we tend to do just this, we follow orders, orders laid down by others, and generally never even think of the meaning behind them, or even question if they are in our best interest or the interest of others, much less dispute their rationality.

To my way of thinking, how are these two things any different ? To me, they aren't any different at all. If the soldier, who has, one assumes, a perfectly good moral sense, is given an order that defies the basic rules of what is right or rational, then they are honor bound, to the eyes of most people, to defy that order.

So to are we bound, to defy an "order" laid down by either the written dogma of any religion, or spoken by its living representatives, if the "order" defies good sense and rational, reasonable behavior, or will cause harm to others.



Now, far be it for me to challenge anyone's idea of faith, but I do challenge the idea of just accepting answers to the hard questions, without due consideration and contemplation. No matter what area of life we might be discussing, this challenge to think for oneself is paramount, be it religion or politics.

I don't know about you, but I resent anyone who even tries to lead me about by my needs or desires. The impassioned speeches from the pulpit or from the houses of government, priest or politician, it matters not. What we hear and are told, must be filtered by a mind that thinks, we must look at all that is handed to us as an "answer" to anything, with a very critical eye, and research the matter for ourselves, and then come to our own conclusions.

There is a big difference between making a leap of faith, based on real faith vs blind faith. Real faith requires gathering all the available evidence and seeing for ourselves that it's real, for us, we have faith for a reason, as we have proved it to our own satisfaction, then, if we must make a leap from time to time ... we are not afraid ... as it is based on proven trust.

"Blind faith however, is like taking a leap in the dark and just hoping everything will be OK". I don't know about you, but that sounds like making an 80 foot jump, with a 100 foot bungie cord, and hope that something changes the physics on the way down, by making the cliff higher or the rope shorter. It's neither realistic or, in my personal opinion, even sensible to take this approach to life, or to ask anyone else to.

This is not limited to religion.



Any form of "group" behavior, recall the lemming example above, can lead to blind faith, as we get very attached to our group. When you identify yourself by some association with a group, you can become unwilling to acknowledge or even recognize any flaw within the group, because to do so, you also have to view a flaw against yourself, for being part of it. Most of us are not willing to do this very often.

Further, as if this state of affairs were not enough, those who are dissenters to a collective belief, are commonly set up as targets. When dissenters insist that their views be heard, the "believers" will A: Not address their concerns, and B: Will try to discredit the dissenter.

Typically, they accuse dissenters of a lack of a mental or even moral capacity, or say that those who disagree have a "failure" to really understand the situation.

( Both are assaults against their intelligence for the most part. This is a rather insidious ploy really, for the simple reason, often enough, the statement is factual, in that the dissenter may NOT understand all there is to know about it, so is disagreeing due to ignorance, so it's often a truism, however, like most such generalities, it's frequently overused to apply to anyone who disagrees, weather it's accurate of their understanding of the situation, or not )

Get enough of this response, and after a while, dissenters often stop voicing their opinions or concerns, as not only are they not being heard and are being ignored, the sheer act of dissent starts to become something that can be, depending on how entrenched the "believers" are, self detrimental.

This can run the gambit from simple peer pressure against them, to deliberate coercion, suppression, all the way to out and out violence done to them. The penalties for being a "boat rocker" can be considerable.

This tactic of forcing dissent into the background, or underground, often gives the impression of a unity of belief, to anyone looking at the group from the outside, where in point of fact, there is no unity. It is only that the dissenting voice, has been silenced.

Now, we tend to have a democratic view of society over all, we take the rule of the majority, on most things, however, do understand that : "A real democracy is not a tyranny by the majority; a society where the majority is capable of oppressing and suppressing the minority, is no longer a democracy. "



All people should keep up a firm and steadfast refusal to cleave entirely to one side or the other on any issue, but rather to keep an open mind, as well as know their own mind well enough to have an informed and reasoned opinion. As the saying goes " if you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything" in other words, if one does not have a solid, realistic base for their thoughts and opinions, they can easily become a lemming.

A lemming that is thoughtlessly following along with the majority, just because it is the majority. To do this, one may literally lose their individual humanity and degenerate into a faceless mob that runs rampant over their fellow man, all in the name of "the will of the majority". As a popular song of my youth stated " If you listen to Fools ... the mob rules", and only a fool would endorse mob behavior.

Anyone, who is so certain of the rightness of their own beliefs, that they can and will dismiss and suppress anyone else's thoughts on the matter, and outright reject even positive things that others have to contribute, just because it may not happen to fit the model of their personal ideology, is, to put it bluntly, a very dangerous person ! Get enough of this kind of person together and you can easily have a mob.

A mob has no real leader, it has no logic or reason, and no real sense of right or wrong, and further, by its very nature, ones responsibility for ones actions, is diluted down in the mob, where one is doing it, just because everybody else is, so one feels less liable for their actions in such a situation.

There is a very thin veneer of "civilization" over mankind, and it doesn't take a whole lot to remove it, it only takes high enough numbers of people, presented with any emotionally laden situation, to invoke a herd mentality. Check any sports event, or take a fast look at almost any political debate, if you want to see this in action.

And, it takes a very small push to have a herd that is willing to thunder over any opposition, given the right circumstances. A quick glance at any history book, or even your local news cast, will show this effect, were the mob has run riot in the streets, with great loss of life and destruction.

All it takes is a perceived threat for example: To create a mob, walk into a crowded theater and yell "Fire" and you will have an instant mob, as people rush to the exits, often trampling over each other, under the impetus of fear. This is despite the fact there was in reality, no fire.



Which proves the idea that "Reality is independent of our beliefs." only to a point. As if we believe that reality is totally a thing outside ourselves, all we would have to do is observe the world and base our beliefs on those things that we can perceive, which to a point, we do.

However, this does not take into account that we are thinking beings. "Our beliefs are in fact, decisions. They are choices that we make. When you hold a belief, you aren't just observing reality, you are creating it. " Therefore, what we think has a large effect on the world around us.

"We are what we think. Speak or act with an impure mind. And trouble will follow you. As the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. We are what we think. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you. As firm as your shadow, and just as unshakable. We are what we think. All that we are, arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world"

or

"Your thoughts manifest as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And habit hardens into character. So watch your thoughts and their ways with care. And let them spring from love. Born out of concern for all beings."

Dharmas of the Buddha

We are free to believe whatever we want, at least we were the last time I looked, but I personally prefer to believe in "truths" that I can point to for myself, and I want to be able to come to those truths on my own, thank you kindly, without anyone hindering my efforts. And I certainly reserve the right to disagree with even the majority opinion, if I feel it is called for. I seek as enlightened a truth as I can find.

The challenge however, is discovering that truth, and this takes much work, effort, time and to have access to any and all information sources, free and open discourse, and most of all ... an open mind.

These are the questions we ask ... of what is the truth? What are the real facts ? On what do we base our faith 

are no easy answers to those questions. Mankind has been seeking them for eons. But, because we have, we have rich sources of information to ponder, however ... as stated before, to expect that any one of those sources is, in and of itself, complete, is sheer fallacy.

Why ? Because they were all written by people, people with their own agendas about disclosure, their own personal perspectives, and yes ... even their own prejudices. They were written by people who, in the early days at least, were totally and literally separated from each other. However, this brings up an interesting point that I have alluded to before.

They were separated, to the point where many of our forbears, literally did not know that any other peoples, besides themselves, existed. And each of these independent groups, tackled the hard questions, the concepts of faith.

What I discovered many years ago, is if one studies enough of them, you find some very common threads to them all. That if you shift out the cultural dogma that tends to creep in, no matter how diligent the recorder tries to be impartial, and of course, taking into account that what you see is incomplete, you will still find that some very basic "truths" if you will, will emerge.

Now, I am not going to tell you what those are, as that would defeat the whole reason for the spiritual journey to honest faith, but this I will say. All Gods are one God, all faiths, are one faith, if any of them are "right", they all are. Read of them, study them, with an open mind and you may find, as I did, a very good basis for real faith.

BB
Esta


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