U. S. military goes silly about religion –Robert M. Shelby, 11-17-11. [830 txt wds]


Again we read of the Pentagon’s ill-conceived notions of what gives strong character to service persons in combat. The old canard about there being “no room for atheists in foxholes” is ridiculously unscientific. It highlights our cultural ignorance about both humanity and deity as well as about selfhood and the sources of courage under stress. We can learn little of real value from ministers and their true-believing followers. Neither faith in belief nor beliefs themselves equal genuine knowledge and real understanding, though the emotional force of belief can produce semblances of knowledge with which many are satisfied. Strong religious faith can be a source of strength, but there are other kinds of faith such as group bonding and comradeship: sociality itself, which can often suffice with or without recourse to metaphysical providence by mysterious divinity.

The first thing people need to understand is the mental bondage they are threatened with by conventional speech habits and a dearth of words that would afford a fit matrix of conceptual framing if they were aware of such possible usages. Are there but two alternatives to theism (or deism) which posits a divine being or metaphysical creator?

The ordinary answer in default of better information is, Yes, the only alternatives are atheism and agnosticism; decisive disbelief or indecisive ignorance. Ignorance is a position both valid and honest. Disbelief is wholly understandable and equally honest for those who have wakened from childhood dream-states imposed by parents equally victimized, who themselves grew up in default of intellectual competence. Sadly, this includes most people, a majority of whom are otherwise quite competent to live useful and happy lives, even in mental bondage. Right-wing and fundamentalist distaste for science and wide learning, by the way, roots in recognition however dim that science and learning tend to foster intellectual competence and general sapience not easy to fool by claims grounded only in verbiage whether scriptural or commonly accepted.

We are not limited to these three choices. Think of Theism and Atheism as opposite poles, two ends of a horizonal line. Halfway between them is a vertical line which also has two poles. The pole below the horizontal line is Agnosticism. What is its polar opposite above the line? Transtheism. Yes, that’s right, you never heard of, or read that word before, let alone experienced the concept. You likely never had such a notion nor were allowed to have it. It was not available in your  conceptual-linguistic repertoir.

You may think it can’t exist more than as an empty sound in vaporous discourse, like a unicorn’s shadow, but that is far from true. Once grasp the idea of Transtheism and you begin to see resemblance between preachers of the “Book Religions” (Christianity, Judaism and Islam) as kin to used-car salesmen. Their cars can be made to run you to market but they are risky on today’s freeways, being prone to breakdown and collision. They are not machines but conceptual forms, like statues or idols, minus moving parts.

As you may recall, certain statuesque idols in Classical times had mechanically moving parts. Book religions and their oral traditions are fixed systems, set and frozen like old-time Marxist theory, self-justifying, self-reinforcing and heavily defensive. Sad affairs, except for the lift experienced by devotees from services with mildly self-abasing and community-bonding ritual. Fellowship in a transevident family is the rewarding ‘hook.’

Transtheism was explained in at least two previous articles. It is simplicity itself, yet it seems hard for people to grasp. It is beyond issues of “belief” or “non-belief” and provides a frame for understanding the basic fact. If you evaded what was already clarified, I can’t help you further until you grow up. Until you do, enjoy your playpens. Employ whatever fantasy gets you through the night. When you decide you want the truth of the matter, let me know, if you haven’t already figured it out. I’m not going to try explaining to you again what you’re not ready for. I’m democratic not authoritarian.

I leave that attitude to the gospel preachers of standard Paulism, the orthodox rabbis and Islamicist mullahs. All of them are charade-playing actors distracting people from the basis of their existence by pointing them off on tangents useful to the actors. Oh, yes, they are, many of them, totally sincere. Sincere people thought the earth was flat. Sincere people suffer the customary delusion that our cosmos splits supernature from nature with no middle ground and no other terms. More sadness from the prospect of minds so straitjacketed in dysfunction and emotional bondage.

More sadness from the knowledge that many little people can’t see over the doorsill and need the lift a religious mentor gives them to feel big enough to live their lives. As for the armed services and their Pentagon planners, they are bound to continue stupid policies on course to nowhere good. They are too professionally uniform and mentally bemedalled to do otherwise.

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