Recently, we were assigned the title, “heathen,” by a Facebook “friend.” Such attribution was undoubtedly, intended as a charge or a negative epithet, responsive to one of our published statements. The responsive effect, instead, was one of stimulation of thought on the ubiquity of “faith,” as a chosen substitute, for empirical truth, with especial, relevance to the issues of life, death and creation, itself.
We would fundamentally, raise the salient question as to whether it is useful, or responsible, to dispose of empirically, unanswerable questions, by their comfortable and facile assignment, to the existence or actions of an alleged, and non-provable, Supernatural, or Supreme Being? The universal subscription, to such useless, and delusionary, solutions have been evident, since early Homo sapiens, worshipped and anthromorphisized their existential “Sun God.”
It is contemporaneously, enlightening to learn, that, as objective “proof” of the ultimate faith in the conceit of death and resurrection, worshippers of the Sun God, were able to reprise their Deity, from his winter death each spring, by seasonal, “saturnalia ceremonies,” giving especial homage to the evergreen tree; which miraculously lived on, in the season of winter death. The undeniable, proof of the Sun God’s death and perennial resurrection, were annually seen in the consistent appearance of the verdant spring season, with bunnies, birds’ eggs and mild weather. The foregoing, factual, observation, may predictably, be resisted by the Hallmark Card Company, and by concerned proprietors of evergreen tree farms, but does reveal the (Neolithic) precursor of the religious holidays of Christmas and Easter.
The foundational need of society to ascribe societally acceptable answers to the unknown, ultimate questions, consistent with the cultural perception of themselves and their environment, resulted in nuanced, mythological answers (religious belief), the latter, successively, passed along in oral history, and thereafter, expressed by culturally nuanced, symbolic art and later, writing.
A quick dip into any standard encyclopedic reference will reveal the existence of upwards of four thousand divergent, religions, each asserting authenticity and numerous, adhering believers, and possessing its own “Good Book,” or some other authoritative inscription, analogous to the Bible and the Koran, of the Abrahamic religions. Every divergent belief is, invariably, possessed with its own, nuanced, holy “truth,” notably including, dogma on creation, life and mortality. It has unfortunately, appeared to be the case, that many such organizations of believers, imperiously, declared that any denial or reconsideration, of the culture’s religious tenets, is immoral and criminally, culpable. In the Christian and occasionally in the Hebrew, contextual vocabulary, a doubter, or denier, of the traditionally accepted belief, historically, mandated by, his culture, is critically, denominated, a “heathen;” as we have, been, as stated in our opening paragraph.
As a predictable, matter, belief in the respective, non-empirical or supernatural, versions of reality, based solely on societally, resolved, faith, would vary, for that reason, founded in differences in persona, individual experience and (especially) secular education. History has revealed the varied and inhumane innovations on the style of death, cruelty, torture and misery, which was “justly” imposed on those, capable of concluding that his society’s mythological faith was suspect. Non-believers and enlightened thinkers, who historically varied, albeit, in any minor way, thought or action, from the accepted, religious dogma, requisite to perpetuate the myths of his assigned faith, (“heretics”) were tortured, flayed alive, burnt at the stake, or excommunicated and banished from his country. The uncountable numbers of enlightened, non-believers, punished, by illustration, include such martyrs to human enlightenment as Socrates (for the enlightened teaching of the youth) on the grounds of “corrupting the young,” or Galileo, for the heretical belief that the Earth travels about the Sun (the heliocentric theory), later proposed by Copernicus. Religious belief, empirically, was not simply, a consensus of cultural, explanation of the World, to fill the gaps in human understanding, caused by the inability of Man, but a mandatory, life and death decree. Despite the understanding that religious belief is totally beholden to faith, any, albeit, minor, notion of disbelief or disparate practice was, deadly, lethal heresy.
The respective faith, concurred in, by each culture, eternally, seems to become, transmogrified, into the mandatorily, accepted and universal truth. Religious wars, seeking to impose one culture’s “true belief” on another, have constituted a shameful, but regular, part of man’s consistent history. In the European, 30 Years War, dedicated and vicious religious contenders learned the contact sport of “defenestration”, i.e., punitively, throwing” dissidents out of the windows of tall buildings in Prague, and elsewhere. Another remarkable example of ”heresy,” arising from contentious belief, to any degree, with accepted religious dogma is starkly, proven by the eternally, ongoing bloody war, between the Shiite, and Sunni Muslims. The war, which has, terrifyingly, and incredulously, continued since the 7th Century, is solely founded upon the contentious issue as to whether the Prophet Muhammad is to be succeeded by a blood relative (as in England) or democratically elected.
It is empirically undeniable, that religious zealots have, historically, sought to forcibly impose their culturally and electively, chosen, faith on others, whose beliefs are different, or on those relatively, few, who rationally, choose to accept the reality, that Mankind does not know everything, and refuse to, facilely, ascribe to supernatural explanations.
As time and scientific advancements in objective knowledge, steadily continue, many phenomena, in the past, ignorantly ascribed to Devine causes, we trust, will become revealed, as naturally or empirically based (like fire, thunder and lightning). We have patiently waited to see the rational explanation for phenomena, whose causation was previously unknown (and perhaps, therefore, assigned to an irrational or superstitious causation.) At the same time that we have modestly accepted the principle, that many of the answers to ultimate questions are presently unknown, but do not flatter our status as Homo sapiens by the unrealistic aspiration to ascribe explanations to every earthly phenomenon. Moreover, all, facile, Alice in Wonderland explanations, are completely, useless, and as history, unfailingly, demonstrates, dangerous, as well as, degrading to the developing human intellect.