Monday, September 14, 2009

Reverse-Engineering Religion, part three: We Are Building a Religion

Writing a holy text, even a joke one, can be a daunting task. I mean, not only does one have to deal with the theists, who may almost always challenge one on the basis that one is not taking religion seriously enough (perhaps for even presuming to write one); but one must also deal with the atheists who may almost always object that religion is being given too much deference (perhaps for even presuming that it deserves any attention at all). I aim to split the middle, and fall outside of both previously mentioned "almosts." I hope to accomplish this by designing a religion that is at least considered to be OK by all who hear of its premise. Here is my opener, that premise, for the holy text of the twenty-first century religion, and I'd like to know what... well... I'd like to know what everyone thinks of it, but I'll honestly be happy to find out what anyone thinks of it.
Above all else, understand these words: two commandments, and two alone, must you attempt forever to teach to all whom you meet, no matter how different, and no matter how long it may take. First, an appetite for unbridled reason and curiosity, that they might understand these words, and think upon them, and even question them loudly and without shame. For I tell you, if the many convince the few, then all shall have increased understanding; the few shall understand the many, and the many may witness the corrective power of right. And if the few convince the many, then all shall be done a valuable service; the many shall understand the few, and the few shall see the transformative power of right. And second, more simply, but equally as important: that which may be accomplished by working together is always greater than anything accomplished by working against any other.
I should note that perhaps the most fun aspect of writing a holy text is that I am afforded the luxury of picking and choosing what I will justify. It makes it easier to decide when to dive into the serious justifications for this or that; really, this is a point for humanism and a point against all moralities based upon divine fiat, for the simple reason that I can appeal to the things on which we merely agree on a direct basis, yet I may also justify rigorously (and even at great, plodding, unnecessary length) those things which I think need more thorough proof. Fun times!

So yeah, theists and atheist alike: what do you think of the above? Genuine truth, or silly bullshit? Honestly, if you think I've made a misstep, then please try to correct me because I am aiming for genuine moral truths here. I want to ape religion so goddamned well that nobody can tell without reading these blog posts, but do religion so goddamned well that it actually takes root in our culture. Be as critical as you can, even if you don't actually want to criticize; it shall only make me stronger, for I have the power of BALD ASSERTION! Woo!


Mr G Montag said...

I'm thinking ye olde, while fun and possibly in keeping with tone, may be a mistake. The Fundawhatsits from what I know have figured out that the trick is to make it accessable so maybe a catchy theme tune? Or how about a board game? At least try and make it rhyme!

D said...

Hmm... wow, good point!

I was thinking entirely about content, and the tone just kind of flowed naturally. I'll take your suggestion into consideration - I'm giving content top billing, but if I begin to have difficulties with tone, then I'll definitely look to your comment first! Thanks!

Zach L said...

I disagree at least partially with Mr. Montag. I think the tone is right -- authoritative, declarative, and maybe a little wizened and old-man sounding. I could picture Cain from Diablo saying this shit, and that's a good thing.

The actual grammar is a bit wonky, though. My nitpicks are twofold: first, that it's a bit awkward to read. The dramaticism and tone is correct but the words could use a bit of tweaking. Second, the two commandments DO need a somewhat balanced rationale behind them. Spending a whole paragraph on the first and only one sentence on the second is too disjoint, especially when you specifically point out that you're doing that.

I'd also put the second point as the first commandment, but that's more of a personal thing, and not necessarily "right" as such. The reason I would do this is because "work together" leads much more naturally into "be curious and discuss things with others" than vice versa.

Anonymous said...

Surr EEE us ly, too much time on too little content, like WTF?

D said...

Thanks for your input, Zach! Those criticisms give me some clear directions to go, I'll try to take them into account.

Anonymous... well, thanks for your suggestion, too! That just kinda came to me... but hey, I guess we're setting the tone here, and better to do that with a little bit of content.

Oi, I need to write on that placebo response thing I read in Wired... 101IT is lagging! Also, I think Call Ripley and Poison for Your Brain are going to be overthrown by Bullshit Pulpit any day now...

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fan of the style. I recommend you look at some of the core writings of Buddha, Confucius, and even the core texts of Christianty (Sermon on the mount, etc.) and Judaism (10 commandments). The Christian "Beatitudes" could almost fit word-for-word into a science-friendly, humanist religious text, as would some of the Hebrew wisdom literature. Keep it simple, approachable, and 5th-grade-reading-level. I have more thoughts on this--actually I found your blog while searching for others with the same idea I've been tickling and teasing for years on my own. Are you looking for collaborators?

D said...

That's a big "fuck yes" for collaborators! I don't wanna write a holy text all by myself.

Thanks for your thoughts on the tone, and for the suggestions for style. There are a whole lot of ways this could be done... maybe we could even make different translations? That would be awesome! Anyway, concrete and robust criticism (y'know, that tells me how to improve) is always welcome, so keep it coming!