Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Slippery slopes

I’ve been participating in a comment thread at kafirgirl’s blog.* In it, commenter Nandu states that, “[B]eliefs span across a spectrum-once we start dismissing beliefs not held by us as “wrong”, we start sliding down the slippery slope of fundamentalism.” He’s half-right, i.e. wrong.

*If you read her blog on Friday, it’s imperative you swallow your coffee first.

Of course we shouldn’t judge a belief as wrong just because it differs from our own.* On the other hand, we obviously judge as wrong only beliefs we don’t actually hold. To refuse to judge a belief just because it differs from our own is to refuse to judge any belief at all, ever.

*I think many liberals mean this when they condemn “intolerance”, but the massive confusion — aided and abetted by the bullshit postmodernists — obscures the idiomatic meaning.

In the same sense, we shouldn’t judge anything as bad — a person, an action, etc. — just because it’s different, or we’re unfamiliar with it. But equally everything we judge as bad will be different in some sense.

If you judge anything you risk judging wrongly. If you speak the truth, you risk being mistaken. If you act, you risk acting wrongly. If you walk, you might fall down. That’s life. To avoid this “slippery slope” we must believe nothing, say nothing, do nothing, go nowhere. Only slaves and corpses can avoid this “slippery slope”.

We can’t avoid making judgments, about beliefs, about the truth, about right and wrong. But we can talk about how we judge. Reason, sensibility and logic itself are the only firm footing human beings have on the slippery slope of life itself, the slippery slope we cannot escape except by self-slavery and death.

When you make any judgment based on false facts about the world, you’re making a mistake. It’s a true slippery slope because you can often get a good answer for the wrong reason. If you believe that the Earth goes around the sun because your Pastor or your scripture says so, you have a true belief for the wrong reason. If you believe that you shouldn’t randomly kill people because God will send you to hell, you have a good belief — i.e. a belief you and I both approve of — for the wrong reason.

It’s because of this slippery slope that religious moderates are just as dangerous — if not more dangerous — as religious extremists and fundamentalists. Moderates justify good beliefs for the wrong reasons, and then they justify their reasons because they produce some good beliefs. But once you justify one belief by a falsehood, you accept that you can justify other beliefs by that falsehood. If you can justify not killing because God demands it, you can just as easily* justify killing because God demands it.

*More easily: the Abrahamic scriptures are full of exhortations to slaughter everyone in sight.

Indeed only the rational, secular humanists keep the religious moderates from sliding all the way down to the abhorrent behavior of the extremists. Were it not for our morality, rationally and evidentially justified*, the religious moderates would have no basis whatsoever for countering the fundamentalists. Their entire position consists of calling secular, humanistic morality the standard and then reading that standard into their scriptures.

*Justified on the foundation of subjective facts about what human beings consider to be harmful and helpful.

By reading the rational standard back into their scriptures, moderates step off the only firm foundation we have, held up only by the charity of the rational, secular humanists. And they depend on that charity while simultaneously spitting in our faces, begging us to let go of the rope. They accuse us of being “unspiritual” when the only thing we care about is the triumph of the human spirit. They accuse us of being intolerant because we refuse to tolerate human suffering, misery and death. The accuse us out of one side of their mouths of being “extremists” because we say that truth and falsity is real, not just a matter of opinion; they accuse us out of the other side of being relativists because truth and falsity is human, not divine.

The temptation to let go of the rope is strong. Why fight for humanistic values? Why fight for rationality? The mass of people don’t want it. They want to be exploited, oppressed and abused; they’d rather live in lies, misery and guilt at the center of the universe than live in happiness and comfort in an obscure, meaningless corner of the universe.

But we can’t let go, because we’re all in this together. We cannot step step away, not to an island or a secluded Colorado valley, not to space, not to the farthest galaxy. We live and die together. So we fight on.