Retort To The Irrationalist

Puzzling, it’s really puzzling. The backwardness of the self-limiting mind is what I’m referring to. I have a friend who, while disparaging me for not “opening my mind” to the paranormal realms, considers my science learning to be dull and dry. Another friend thinks that he can enjoy a sunset better than I by not cluttering up his mind with technical facts. He thinks my knowledge reduces my ability to engage in transcendence! They used to fool me.

Try as I might, my anti-rationalist friends cannot be cajoled into expanding their horizons into Reality. They feel so much safer rejecting science with its requirement to examine their beliefs in the crucible of reason. It’s comforting to believe in a soul that lives beyond death. So reassuring to pretend that a crystal of quartz worn around the neck will protect one from cancer, or that a sphere of it can tell the future. Comfortable but oh, so imprisoned. How can an intelligent mind intentionally keep itself in a dark pocket, not peeking out to see the magnificence of the Universe outside? 

Ever since I can remember, I have yearned to see as far I could, turn on the lights, and uncover all of Reality. Once one deals with the fear of death and adjusts to the absence of a parent god or goddess, one cannot resist an addiction to mental adulthood and the flow of pure experience. Come and feel the pulsing and the throbbing of the Cosmos!

For years I heard the mysterious and constant “whistlers” between the stations on my short-wave radio and wondered where the curious stream of sound came from. Persistent inquiry led me to the astounding revelation that for all those nights I sat alone in a darkened room in the glow of my receiver, I was connecting myself with the very nervous system of my planet. These signals are generated by lightning strikes all over the Earth, and I now know that in my headphones I was hearing the 24 hour global symphony of thunderstorms.

When my friend looks through the telescope’s eyepiece he can stay interested for only a few seconds, but I sit at length in awe, because I see the Andromeda Galaxy with the knowledge that the photons striking my retina are ending a two million-year undisturbed voyage across an unthinkable distance. I gaze down across the sprawling spiral arms as one who is equipped to appreciate the possibility that some vast and ancient civilization is navigating its nebulosities. This is intimate contact with the Cosmos. No more can some channeled voice from Aunt Ida impress me.

Please don’t think I’m arrogant if I pass up a psychic’s routine; I’d rather run my fingers over a billion year old fossil and stretch my mind until I encounter that ancient time; or soar silently in a glider over vast cloudscapes while visualizing oceans of air. Don’t delay the astrology meeting for me; I feel more alive chasing a megaton thunderstorm to photograph million-volt bolts of electricity.

Reality is too rich to me to waste any time on the dubious.

The Cosmos is so awesome and exciting and . . . Real.

About Harvey H. Madison

Harvey Madison is a lifetime resident of West Texas, and was raised in the Southern Baptist Church. He has a B.A. in Psychology, and a Master of education. While earning his living as a photographer and photography educator, Madison is an activist in the areas of civil liberties and education. In 1989 he started the Center for Critical Thinking. He has served on the Texas state board of Common Cause, and has been on the chapter board of the American Civil Liberties Union, serving as its president for fourteen years. He attends and is past president of the Lubbock Unitarian Church. He loves everything about the sky, and flies his own plane, chases storms, uses an astronomical telescope, and has skydived.


Retort To The Irrationalist — 4 Comments

  1. Why does religion matter? Because how you lead your life matters. Who defines the person you are always becoming?

    Now if you could just identify some pre-existing cosmic meaning or purpose . . . . And along comes someone to take over . . . your time, your money, your lifestyle, your life.

    ** We godless, immoralists . . . expect you to mature as a human being **

    Don’t let xians beg the question — Cosmic Meaning? That’s one of their biggest Big Lies, bebé!

    Once Western religious myths, like xianity, are rejected — moralized pairs of opposites, like purpose/accident, meaningful/meaningless, being/nothingness — no longer apply to the cosmos.

    >> Mental distress in U.S. xian sub-cultures. (Freedom scares millions.)

    Those of us lucky enough to have become god-free see a bit better what is unclear. Removing “gods” from legitimate explanations of natural phenomena can cause intense mental distress. That, in turn, gets projected onto “others”, the “unbelievers”. Epicurus experienced a politico-theistic backlash in Athens, 300 years before xianity existed.

    To what extent a post-modern culture can create incomprehensible shock can be gauged by the fierce resistance by xian fundies to every secular threat, real or imagined. The U.S. suffers greatly from being among the last Western nations to make a difficult transition to a truly secular state. (Even though the US Constitution created one 220 years ago!)

    >> America lags in mental flexibility (Britain is at least 100 years ahead.)

    Millions in the U.S. are stuck in their cultural backwardness somewhere between an 1850 acceptance of deep time and a 1925 Scopes monkey trial.

    In 1858 Darwin knew exactly how harshly he would be treated by Society — he was after all a bona fide “gentleman” quite aware of the perks of his class and his freedom from laboring for any man save himself. T. H. Huxley, who had no fortune to inherit, felt himself socially inferior. It’s no surprise that Huxley coined the word ‘agnostic’ in 1895. He must have hated the xian ignoramuses of both class and cloth. His coinage slyly renders both unto Caesar and God. (Steve Gould’s “Rocks of Ages” [1999] updates Huxley’s efforts.)

    Someone like Matthew Arnold who seems to have been sincerely attracted to God’s good moralized natural universe, gives us “Dover Beach” (1851, publ 1867) as testimony to a completely irrational, but widely felt depression. Tennyson’s “In Memoriam” (1850) tries to find solace in a world where deep time and deep space now belong to human knowledge. Science though true, negates “meaning.”

    Reactionary believers, however, would have none of this. If science negates meaning, then science is either mistaken, false, or lying.

    >> Don’t be afraid to be free (Your life to lead, not follow.)

    Today’s troglodytes, people like the late (unlamented) Falwell, have continued to abandon rationality while exalting increasingly shrill versions of God’s purpose and the ego-massaging “cosmic meaning” of your life, as defined by these tax-dodging political demagogues.

    We “godless ones” as Nietzsche calls us realize that “the moral world order” does not exist. It never existed. There is not and never was any “meaning” in this cosmic sense. The universe is neither welcoming nor hostile. The universe exhibits neither Good nor Evil. The universe is not “absurd.” It just is.

    You can’t get “more” out of the universe than was ever actually there. Such hope is misplaced wishful thinking. The Greeks considered ‘Hope’ the worst of evils in Pandora’s Box.

    No one can give you either a meaning or a purpose. You make your own. They are your greatest gifts to yourself.

    copyright asserted 2007

  2. Hello, Harvey–

    Well said. I have also wondered why some of my friends are so closed off from the majesty of the universe. Maybe there really is such a thing as a short attention span? My hypothesis is that they have been conditioned by our culture to only pay attention to things that are sanctioned, like sports news.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  3. You are my intellect twin 🙂
    I too recently broke the shackles of money,society,religion etc and when you do so you feel liberated.
    Add your mental liberation to your curiosity for science and love for the cosmos and you understand the awe inspiring existence.
    I also have wondered about thousands of civilizations living or extinct in our milky way and i also have gazed at the Andromeda and wondered if someone is looking back and i am sure someone is.

    I understand your concern about people and there beliefs but you cannot change them all,they all cannot see what you and i and many others see.It makes you humble and somehow makes you a better person.Today’s NEWS says 4 stars are orbiting each other and an invisible gravitational field…if this doesn’t takes your arrogance away,nothing will.

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