Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Experience of God

Why do I attack religion? Because it is easy.

Most believers I know are the largely amorphous sort of southern protestant who will make jokes about the other denominations while attending the interfaith bar-b-que to which only the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and that Mega-Church Down the Highway were invited. Most of them have a basic sort of folk theology and many can, if pressed, recite some academic proof of God without mangling it too badly, but that theology is an effect, not a cause, of their belief.

If you asked most southern Protestants why they hold to their particular denomination, they will tell you that their family has always been that denomination, or they will tell you about how they converted to get married. If you ask them why they believe in god, nine times out of ten they will tell you that they have felt his presence.

Way back in my callow youth when I believed that Napster was a completely legitimate service (to the extent that I remember getting into an argument with a much older man in line at a pizza buffet on the subject) I would make CDs for the family and send them out. They would typically be politely listened to once and then forgotten.

One time, some months after Christmas, I got a letter from my aunt. She told me that she had been listening to the CD I made while driving through the mountains (Appalachian mountains, in and around western North Carolina) and just as the music reached a crescendo she came to the sun came over the top of a mountain and she reached a lookout point and saw the verdant valley below bathed in warm sunlight to a masterful chorus of string and voice. She wrote me the letter because she wanted to thank me for letting her feel the presence of god.

Here is an article on how the Asian psychiatric ailment Koro is manifesting in rural areas of Africa.

Last week I was playing Planetside 2, a shooting game about shooting people. I had my music player open and as I respawned near a critical facility Dragonforce began playing. I jump-jetted over the facility wall and wove in and out of buildings, shotgun in virtual hand. Every shot landed, every enemy was caught unaware, I had the perfect run for four minutes killing fourteen enemies and destroying two generators. There was nothing in my mind except the music and the screen. I was hyper-aware, without even consciously looking at the mini-map I internalized perfectly the layout of the buildings around me and reacted to shot-fired indicators before being aware I had seen them. People studying this phenomenon call it "the zone", but I had truly, for a few brief minutes, transcended myself and was experiencing reality on a higher level. Had I been an ancient Greek, I would have walked away convinced that I had felt the hand of Ares upon my soul.

Then I turned a corner just as a friendly tank fired down the alley and caught my own team's shell right in the face.

To belabor the obvious, God did not illuminate that valley, Koro is wholly psychological, and my perfect run was a combination of skill, fortune, and hyperventilated alertness.

Here is the thing. Nearly everyone can discount two of those three scenarios without hesitation because it is just A) science or B) obvious. But the third situation, they insist, is totally for real. Why? Because I experienced it. I personally connected with my god. And if there is one thing everyone knows with absolute certainty it is that out of seven billion human beings alive today and the hundred billion who have ever lived I am special and thus it is no surprise that my god talks to me whereas everyone else is but an ignorant heathen.

No one is ever allowed to claim that religion fosters A) universal brotherhood, B) open-mindedness,  or C) any sort of morality worth following.

Religion is the height of solipsistic arrogance.

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