Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The baby itself is a minor detail

(photo from Shane Hegarty)

I got this from PZ Myers, so I'll quote what he says about it:
It's a page from an old Irish Catholic schoolbook.

I like how not only do they clearly indicate the hierarchy of God's love, but they force the child to be complicit in assigning that love by circling the right picture — that's excellent indoctrination technique right there. It's a bonus that they don't even bother to show the baptized baby; its worth comes from the priest's hand.

He goes on to say that it's the "little conceits and assumptions like this" that make him despise religion the most. He's got a point. But there's another little conceit here that also strikes me.

This book came from human beings, and so of course God loves little human babies - baptized ones, at least - the most. But what if cats had invented a god and were teaching their young about him? You know that God would love little kittens - baptized ones, of course - the most then.

What if dogs... well, dogs might be a special case, I suppose. But at the very least, dogs would imagine a god who loves puppies just as much as human babies. And pretty much every other species would find their own young special, just as they'd imagine a god just like them - a god who liked what they liked and disliked what they disliked and who'd designed the whole universe just for them. Talk about conceit!

What could be more obvious than this? Heck, long before the Christian era, Xenophanes understood it: "But if oxen (and horses) and lions... could draw with hands and create works of art like those made by men, horses would draw pictures of gods like horses, and oxen of gods like oxen..."

He even noted that, "The Ethiopians say that their gods are snub-nosed and black, the Thracians that theirs have light blue eyes and red hair."  That was more than 2500 years ago! So how come, despite a vast increase in knowledge since then, we still believe in our own little conceits and assumptions? Well,... we believe because we want to believe, don't we?

We want to believe that we're special - and not just that human beings are special, but that our own little group of them are specialer than any others. God doesn't prefer just human babies, but babies baptized into the Catholic Church,... if you're Catholic. Obviously, all those other people who believe in different religions must be wrong. How foolish of them! Don't they realize that your people are special?

Unless you believe in one of those other religions, of course, in which case you're right and those Catholics are just foolishly misguided. But in any case, God agrees with you. God loves you the best, and you can be sure of this, because you imagine him this way. These conceits and assumptions are pretty well universal.

Just once, I'd like to see a religion where God liked someone else the best, where some other group were the chosen people. Just once, I'd like to see these little conceits turned around - not just that your god didn't like you any better than anyone else, but that he actually preferred other people. Just once, I'd like to see your god disagree with you.

Heh, heh. Well, I suppose I wouldn't like that much better. Obsequity is no better than narcissism, and could well be worse. What I really want is for people to start thinking, to start believing based on evidence and careful reason, not on what they want to believe and not on just whatever they've been taught since infancy.

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