The problems of evil and stupidity

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Sorry, this is a rant. I want to get it all down, and then hopefully i can boil some key points out of it later.


If there is evil, what happens in the world is not a series of terrible mistakes. This makes the concept of "evil" quite seductive. The world is simpler if it contains evil, there is less doubt. If you know a person to be evil, you need not think further as to what his motivation might be. If people can be motivated by evil, there is less chance that what you yourself are doing is a mistake.

Belief in evil gives rise to pride and hubris.

One would think the left at least would be immune, but no, it too has slid into dogmatism and censorship. Freedom of speech has been turned into a sideshow carnival of artists trying to out-disgust themselves, while things of real import remain taboo. You are free to choose your religion, just don't mention the bits about everyone else going to hell (which if you took it seriously should be a real worry, unless you're completely selfish). Postmodernism sees the infinite variety that can be produced by remixing cultural icons, and fails to see that this infinite variety is a small sub-space of what is possible.

A synonym for evil is "selfish". And selfish people are usually "stupid" too.

If they'd just listen for a second, or however long it takes, an hour or two maybe, while you lay out all your favourite evidence and explain precisely how stupid they are, they'll come around to the correct point of view. But everyone's heard everyone else's favourite arguments a thousand times, it isn't getting anywhere.

There's things we're not saying because they're so obvious to us. There's things they're not saying because they're obvious to them. The sort of slightly embarassing things that realists don't ever say, that little core of hope that we never talk about for fear it will be laughed at.

Things like life after death. Yes or no? What's it like? A pretty big deal, effects every single decision we make. Is it streets of gold and harps? Something mystical, a heavenly choir beyond our imagination maybe? Or perhaps being slotted like a brick into God's palace? Come out and actually say that, you will be laughed at. So no one says it anymore.

We all have this pretence of being realists, but no one has a clue what "real" means.

Or Jesus, is he really there next to you telling you what the right thing to do is? That's what Christianity's about. That's what a lot of people believe. A personal God, an aspect of the divine that is felt as a constant presence. It's not just about following the rules. It's holiness, it's something out of this world.

Listen to some old Christmas carols. It's not about santa, it's about the redemption of every single person on this planet. Strip away the sentimentality and there's this core of raw power and wonder under there.

(or, even sillier, mayber there's something inherently good about evolution, and love is an emergent property of physics)

Every religion is like this. And they all contradict each other. And we should talk about that, because it's a problem that needs to be solved. The truth most likely will turn out to sound quite silly indeed to all us old and hardened souls.

We should care enough about other people's beliefs to tell them not just how we are right but how they are wrong. We should trust our own beliefs enough to know that a little laughter will not harm them.




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