Summa contra

Sorry, but I have to note this down.

I. In the beginning, art and religion were one, connected by the Latin particle “sive”, which means the one or the other it doesn’t matter. Many unities are divided this way.

II. But in conditions of scarcity, crowd control by the elite is Job One from their point of view. They used human sacrifice and slavery. But the Torah bans human sacrifice in the story of Abraham and Isaac, and Christianity ended slavery (but it took 1800 years and William Wilberforce).

III. The elite in Christianity and Islam use Pascal’s wager that it’s best to follow the tenets of organized religion lest you be wrong and suffer infinite damnation. This is of course fallacious since there is > 1 organized religion.

Why didn’t Von Neumann see this? The founder of modern game theory, when diagnosed with pancreatic or bone cancer, probably as a consequence of his exposure to radiation at Bikini Atoll, converted (back) to Catholicism owing to Pascal’s wager but failed to see that where n is the number of religions that preach damnation, n > 1. It is true that the Knight (Ritter) plays chess with Death in The Seventh Seal but it would rather seem blasphemous to play a two person game with God as you understand him. “God is not mocked”.

IV. Religion takes the creation of art out of the hands of ordinary people and so divides itself from art and is usually anti-art, given the numerous religious proscriptions against various art forms (dancing, image-making and so forth) because bottom-up artistic expression, being like religion at the boundaries of the known, is an end in itself rather than a market transaction. If you do something with no economic reason, the “reason” is a ding an sich.

V. All religions are wicked and a form of crowd control. The desperado can only be frightened by something beyond.

VI. However, one must have absolute respect for all forms of religion regarded as expression, because even folk manifestations are coming from the same place as high art and are often more honest. It would be polytheism for a “monotheist” to claim, as many monotheists do, that the person of a different religion worships a different God.

For Malaysians to prohibit Christian Malays to use the Malay word for God because it sounds like “Allah” is itself blasphemy. For American Christians to insult Islam’s God, is blasphemy. Different descriptions, same God. Therefore “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”.

VII. Sex is about other people. Some people say that all forms of sex are OK if you don’t hurt anybody. The problem is that it’s really easy to hurt people when you get naked, including new guys for whom you are responsible.

VIII. Many world religions close off revelation at a certain point. For example, the Revelations say that anyone who alters the Bible “shall be cast into the lake of fire”. But the Enlightenment was a revelation as was “we believe these truths to be self-evident” and “shall not perish from the earth”. I derive this belief from the idea of God-or-nature: if God is in all, he’s in the room.


2 Responses to “Summa contra”

  1. spinoza1111 Says:

    See also the later post “Dumber than Von Neumann”: although it makes no difference, I confused a “folk” form of Pascal’s Wager with the real wager.

  2. spinoza1111 Says:

    A flaw in Spinoza’s God and the mathematics Von Neumann loved. God or nature, or math, does not love us in return. But I do not have to believe that for to love is a perfection. Just as for GE Moore, “good is good” is embedded in our language, and our language creates our world, a God that loves us is more Goddish (to use a charming adjective invented by one of my most intelligent ESL students) than a God that does not.

    ‘Course that runs up against CS Lewis problem of pain, and I know little of pain, having run from it altho my butt hurts now. As an athlete I regard pain as valuable data. But what about “terminal” pain, which like art seems to have no point?

    Well, my tentative answer is that (1) the system doesn’t know “terminal”: it often takes a lot to kill a man and (2) I am familiar as a quondam long distance runner of the action of endorphins.

    [Free advice: preserve your endorphins. Drug addiction releases them and wastes them. They are really cool. I got a blast yesterday swimming in the morning.]

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