We began the January 5th service by considering whether this business of the "New Year" and, by some accounts (though not others), this “New Decade” means much of anything at all. In one sense it is arbitrary and, in another, not. For marking time, initially the days, then the seasons and months based on the phases of the moon and so on reaches well into prehistory. Initially it changed our ancestors' way of life. Then it changed them and, ultimately, us. The wheel, of course, was an obvious innovation. But what of time? We had a previous service on the subject of “deep time.” As history unfolds and each generation can look back further than the previous one, it can be hoped that the human perspective becomes better. But it may also be that it becomes poorer as the modern media and especially the internet's social media focuses people's attention on “breaking news” and the viral outrage of the moment. The “test of time” may be giving way to the algorithms that maximize a meme's being “shared” or “retweeted.”
There is a definite religious dimension to all this. For religion has to do not so much with the supernatural – with gods and devils and “what happens to you” when you are not – a wonderful contradiction in terms, that! – but with far more important subjects. Real religion has to do with what our lives and the world really are in an existential sense, the meaning of life or, at any rate, what sorts of meaning we can find in it and why, and what psychologists call “the locus of control,” of whether one feels, and the extent to which one feels oneself to be, “the master of my fate” and “the captain of my soul.” All religions offer their solutions to these things, which, as we know, are reliably absurd when they are rooted in supernatural nonsense.
If the supernaturalists really believe what they say they believe one would think that they should have a very well-developed sense of “deep time” and the arbitrary and meaningless nature of “this life.” For do they not claim to know of events that occurred long before the known universe existed when, presumably, the revolt of Lucifer and a third of the angels resulted in the carving out of the realm, of “hell” and such? And do they not claim to know of a future state of affairs that will outlast the universe and compared to which ”this life” is so brief as to be negligible? What ought to be real religion is lost in such confusing nonsense. But the New Year of 2020 is, for thinking sensible people such as ourselves, at least a reminder of the limited duration of our lives and everything in our lives. Like so many elements of the human condition, it is one worth considering, worth exploring, and worth coming back to again and again. For it is one of the “big questions,” one of the big puzzles and problems attached to the human experience and one of many such things that the traditional religions succeed in getting people to ignore and evade by distracting them with their supernatural silliness.
We watched a brief video review of 2019. And for out “Moment of Science” watched another video of scientific breakthroughs and progress in the year just past.
We remembered the life of our dear friend and NTCOFer Ethel Moorman who died on December 2nd and for whom a funeral was held agt the National Cemetery on December 20th.
We then considered our featured topic of “Some Things Never Change.” Part of this was further consideration of the January bulletin https://www.churchoffreethought.org/bul ... lletin.pdf contrasting the two opposing ideas of the pre-Socratic Greek philosophers of Heraclitus and Parmenides. The first famously asserted that all existence is in a state of flux. The second insisted that all change and all motion is illusory and even that this could be mathematically proved. It turns out that the synthesis of these positions found its expression in Plato's Theory of Forms, which would be an obscure fact but for the incorporation of it into early Christianity. This is shown in the opening lines of the last of the four Gospels to be written, John, which cryptically asserts:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
This confusing prologue was based on the idea that “logos,” translated as “the Word,” was the organizing principle of reality or what would come to be regarded as “The Laws of Nature.” This idea, arguably the most advanced knowledge of the time, the “quantum physics” of the day, was merged with a jewish heresy to produce Christianity. In other words, Christianity was the Scientology of the 1st Century CE. Its roots – the serious intellectual part opf them – grew out of the ancient Greeks' efforts to make sense of the world in terms of stasis and change, of the obvious transformations in life and those things that “never change.” The opening of the Gospel of John makes so little sense today because people simply don't think in those terms anymore.
Nevertheless, the themes of stasis and change remain important, both in our objective understanding of the world we call science and in the subjective sense that we struggle to make of the human condition that we call religion. But the supernaturalistic religious traditions no longer deal adequately with these subjects, if they ever truly did. It has been observed that obsessive-compulsive behavior, for example, is linked to traditional religiosity. Rituals endlessly repeated are one example of this. And we are well familiar with the extreme resistance on the part of many believers to the idea of biological change described by Darwinian evolution. The striving for and a yearning for a “perfect” future of eternal unchanging “bliss” in which continual transformation and constant challenges is certainly also a part of supernaturalistic religious traditions. Yet what would human beings be in such a “perfect” world? It is in our nature to be in flux, just as a river would not be a river if it did not flow. Likewise, what could be more clear but that the immutable unchanging deity of, say, Christianity, would not and could not do things, such as create anything or answer prayers and so on. For what needs would such a deity have that could be satisfied by such activities?
We discussed how stasis and change can be applied to political ideologies and opinions, though it turns out that this is messy business.
We discussed how the pace of change affects people's ability and willingness to adapt effectively.
And we talked about some things that truly seem to “never change” such as:
>> The inevitability of change
>> The weather and other “forces of nature”
>> The Past
>> The Future
>> And, related to these, “Murphy's Law”
>> Death and Taxes as the old saw goes, and, finally,
>> Other people and their opinions, state of mind and character
We had a lot of good discussion of these things and concluded by watching another video on emerging technologies.
Postings about each monthly service includes topics discussed and an open forum to further discuss those topics.
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