Saintly Thoughts

Musings on the Zeitgeist (a non-generous interpretation)

It has been asked why those who do not believe in the religious or the spiritual should care so much about arguing with religious believers, and why those of such beliefs should care to argue in their turn.  Surely it is unlikely that either group will be able to rationally convince the other, separated as they are by so many (though, by no means all) presuppositions concerning the very nature of reality.  Why must so much useless invective be hurled? Why can't the two groups simply exist and allow the other to exist?  Such would seem to be the desire of a proto-Westphalian religious/secular settlement (that is, the liberal religious presupposition of the modern age.   Ah well, whatever else this shared invective may be, It has little to do with concern for the nature of truth.  In fact, one should perhaps argue, without some metaphysical foundation accessible to mankind, truth becomes simply another unrealizable (and destructive) hope rather than a concrete category.  And such may be the case, and such is the pragmatic "neutral" position that is espoused in the marketplace, even if it is not really believed (even by those who claim to believe it).  I say that the issue that most concerns these groups, the secular and the religious, when in conversation with one another is one of power.  For both know that were the other side to become absolutely ascendant, it would not be long before they would use the coercive powers of the state to quell the other (or, at the very least, severely marginalize them).  History has shown this again and again; that any party, no matter how good their intentions, if given enough power, will eventually succumb (nay, feel compelled) to violent and brutal ways against those 'others' whom they have maligned in the inescapable struggle for ascendancy.  Remember this when next you hear the screed of a religious zealot or the vitriol of a hardened atheist.  They speak as partisans who know, were the balance tipped too far to the right or to the left, that they would risk their own annihilation.  And they know that, given enough time, the balance will be tipped...and we should not fool ourselves into believing that this tipping will come without blood.  

In the end, we are all subject to this fear, and this fear is justified so long as we care so much about our own life and the lives of the ones we hold dear...that is, the fear is justified so long as we remain human.  But I believe, as did those men and women of another age, in the efficacy of the goddess Fortuna, who guides the movements of fate about our terrestrial sphere.  And it is the apparently capricious justice of Fortuna that she will favor all sources of power in their turn before she humbles them again in their season.  Now to say this is not to deny the existence of an overarching dialectic at work in history, only to laugh at the person who is so full of hubris to believe that they may gaze so far into the annals of history (if you want a real laugh, pick up a copy of Hegel's "History of Science").  But while history tends to vindicate the martyr (of whatever ideological stripe) this is little comfort to those who must live through such times of ideological power conflict.

Some fear (as some always do) that our age stands at the cusp of such intra-societal ideological conflict; and whether or not this is indeed the case, thinking in such terms is likely to quicken the day of such conflict.  Which side is "correct" in such struggles, when both sides may see it as equally their duty to commit atrocities against their enemies (we are convinced of the necessity of such actions for more readily than we would like to believe)?  I've said it before and I'll say it again...Fortuna is a bitch of a goddess.