Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Reasonable atheism (5): is wisdom necessary?

I don't propose to spend too long on this part of the question - although I could - because it seems that the following propositions are self-evident:
- the world is in a bit of a mess;
- the answers are not easy; and
- we will have to change our behaviour if we want to get out of the mess.

What I have in mind is all the material I covered in the LUBH sessions, eg Peak Oil, Global Warming, soil erosion, overpopulation, declining water availability, excess pollution, resource wars....

Wisdom, it seems to me, is what enables the change of behaviour to occur. Wisdom is what makes the difference between an alcoholic having just another drink and giving up; what makes a smoker quit; what makes an obese man (like the Mersea Rector) sign up to the gym to become healthier. Wisdom is also what enables communities to function; it provides means of creative conflict resolution; it allows for the full panoply of human flourishing to progress.

So I'm not minded to argue for the virtue of wisdom. What I will argue for, however, is why the humourless atheist is aspect-blind to wisdom and why getting our civilisation out of its present predicament involves abandoning the central tenets of humourless atheism. That is, the commitments made by a humourless atheist (as evidenced in the arguments levelled against Christianity) have the necessary corollary that wisdom is undermined. I think this has two aspects, which are closely interwoven: a lack of respect for narrative and it's place in human understanding; and an excessively elevated respect for 'facts'.

We are trained in this world to accept only what is rational and logical. Have you ever wondered why?

Neo shakes his head.

As children, we do not separate the possible from the impossible which is why the younger a mind is the easier it is to free, while a mind like yours can be very difficult.

Free from what?

From the Matrix.

Neo looks at his eyes but only sees a reflection of himself.

Do you want to know what it is, Neo?

Neo swallows and nods his head.

It's that feeling you have had all your life. That feeling that something was wrong with the world. You don't know what it is but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad, driving you to me. But what is it?

The leather creaks as he leans back.

The Matrix is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window, or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

What truth?

That you are a slave, Neo. That you, like everyone else, was born into bondage... kept inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste, or touch. A prison - for your mind.

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