indiana, pascal, atheism

Contradiction is not a sign of falsity, nor the lack of contradiction a sign of truth.

~Blaise Pascal

If you are going to have an afterlife, why not just have a physical afterlife? Just come back as a tentacle with a set of lips looking for huge lumps of chocolate to fuck, it’d be much more reasonable.

~Dylan Moran

Extended visit with the family this weekend, which meant a trip back to and through the Bible belt. Three hundred miles (exactly the length of Indiana, but no shock there) always sets my blood boiling, as I have to drive past about a bajillion billboards telling me that Jesus is the way and the light and to be afraid of hell because that shit is firey realness and not have abortions and get that vasectomy reversed and blah blah fucking blah.

The state motto is “Crossroads of America,” but we like to pass the 6 hours thinking up alternative slogans which sum up the situation much better: “Indiana: You Could Do Better” — “Northern Indiana: Gateway to Mordor” — “Cow Shit and Ethanol” — “Not Maintaining our Tolls Roads” — and “Indiana’s Finished On-Ramps: Coming 2017.”

I mean, this is the  state license plate of Indiana. And I’m fully aware that it is, no shit, the official motto of the United States, which ostensibly dates back to the American Revolution and Civil War, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Much less because I have to see it every time some stupid red pickup truck or tricked out Camaro pretending to be participating in the Indy 500 cuts me off going 90 plus mph on a desolate stretch of I-65….A bit of off-hand Deism I can handle, whereas a full-on onslaught of religious babble meant to stave off the spectre of Communist godlessness feels painfully dated and shameful.*

Pissy and judgmental as I am, I nevertheless avoid confrontation at all costs. So every time someone tells me how they’re praying, or they’re ‘blessed’ or I hear some mention of salvation on the radio, I grit my teeth and nod. I’m not going to get into it, because I’m not eloquent enough, and I utterly lack the energy to argue with irrational people.

Course it doesn’t help that evolutionary theory sounds just as half-baked as intelligent design. As Dylan Moran puts it–

Science is a joke. Look at the scientific explanation for the origin of life as we know it. No wonder we have creationists, you know, those people – God love them – who tell their children that, you know, originally we all went to school with dinosaurs, or whatever it is that they tell them. But no wonder they exist, because listen to the explanation for the origin of life itself – it doesn’t sound very scientific. “There was a big BANG! And then we all came from monkeys.” “What? That’s it?” “Yeah, shop’s closed, fuck off!” I need more than that! There must be more than – BANG! *monkey sounds* “Honey I’m home!” – come on! It’s such a boring theory, anyway! It’s much more interesting if you reverse the order.

I manage to calm myself with hearty doses of QI and Stephen Fry/David Mitchell, like this nice bit on Pascal’s Wager and heaven for atheists (would that it were true!)–

Nor do I think Pascal is entirely wrong about the nature of belief and the role of causality and praxis within it —

“I confess it, I admit it. But, still, is there no means of seeing the faces of the cards?” Yes, Scripture and the rest, etc. “Yes, but I have my hands tied and my mouth closed; I am forced to wager, and am not free. I am not released, and am so made that I cannot believe. What, then, would you have me do?”

True. But at least learn your inability to believe, since reason brings you to this, and yet you cannot believe. Endeavour, then, to convince yourself, not by increase of proofs of God, but by the abatement of your passions. You would like to attain faith and do not know the way; you would like to cure yourself of unbelief and ask the remedy for it. Learn of those who have been bound like you, and who now stake all their possessions. These are people who know the way which you would follow, and who are cured of an ill of which you would be cured. Follow the way by which they began; by acting as if they believed, taking the holy water, having masses said, etc. Even this will naturally make you believe, and deaden your acuteness. “But this is what I am afraid of.” And why? What have you to lose?

W/r/t old Blaiseytron, some parts of the Pensées are actually quite lovely. It’s not necessarily the kind of book I would take for lolling on the beach, but it can be nice in small doses. Man’s condition, Pascal says, consists of “Inconstancy, boredom, [and] anxiety.” I take no issue with that. In fact, I should probably see if that’s been copyrighted, because it would make an excellent title for a memoir.

* “In these days when imperialistic and materialistic Communism seeks to attack and destroy freedom, it is proper” to “remind all of us of this self-evident truth” that “as long as this country trusts in God, it will prevail.” Good times, 1956.

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