Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Spero: Introduction

[As winstoninabox seems quite keen, here is the introduction to that document I mentioned a little while ago. ;)]

The question I ask myself is a simple one: what to do next? What should I do?

Whatever the universe is really like - whether there is a God or not, whether we are truly finite beings or can in some way be unbounded in time- I will not need to stop asking myself that question.

This document is an attempt to answer it. It is a statement of my own personal religion. It is called ‘spero’, ‘I hope’ rather than ‘credo’, ‘I believe’, since it is not intended to be any kind of dogmatic statement about how the world is. It makes no experimentally verifiable claims, and it demands that no experimentally verified datum be denied. The axiom that my hope is based on is that such a thing as good exists, in the same way that some numbers are prime and some are not, no matter what the culture or species of the mathematician. I acknowledge that many of my fellow human beings manage to exist accepting ethics as a purely human, cultural construct, and accept that to them my view will seem ludicrous and incomprehensible. I can only plead, firstly, that I am personally incapable of accepting this view of ethics - partly from a lifelong contempt of mere “rules made up by men”. “Because it is the law” is for me the best and finest reason to disobey it, whatever it is. Secondly, I feel that relative morality, while capable of maintaining a reasonable standard of behaviour in a stable, well-ordered society, has proven to be of no use in crisis situations. Relative morality is incapable of eliciting saintliness; and saintliness is vital for the survival of the human spirit.

This is intended, above all, to be a positive document, designed to build up a clear and useful picture of my own hopes. I hope that it will never be an instrument for the destruction of anyone else’s faith, and that it will never degenerate into a mere assault on the ideas of someone else. Polemics are easy, but in the end are deadly poison to the arguments and spirit of the polemicist.

These are the questions I will consider:

1. How can we find out about the universe?
2. Does the word ‘believe’ have a meaning?
3. What is Good?
4. What do I mean by God?
5. What is the universe like?
6. Can this universe be reconciled with the hypothesis of a benevolent God?
7. What is the role of intelligent life in the universe?
8. What is the significance of the ‘revealed religions’?
10. What should we do next?

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