Sunday, December 16, 2012

Sandy Hook Interfaith Vigil

Yeah, we're going to talk about this.

MSNBC streamed Sunday's Interfaith Vigil for the Sandy Hook shooting, a community gathering in which Christians, Jews, Muslims, Atheists, People came together to grieve for the community's loss.

Throughout the event, there were numerous mentions of our shared commonality.  A recognition that each religion has something to offer, that each faith has words of comfort to share.  As human beings we can gather together without artificial borders of faith to grieve, to comfort, to heal one another in the wake of tragedy.  Our religious differences are insignificant when compared to our similarities as human beings.

So, here's the question:  Why involve religion at all?

If religious particularities can be diminished in the face of tragedy, if Dogma and difference are cast aside to clear the way to genuine community, then isn't it sensible to maintain that religion, itself, can be cast aside as well?  If we can abandon the differences between Jesus, Muhammad, Moses, and Abraham then why involve them at all?  These characters are only meaningful in their particularity, in their specificity.  When we abandon those particulars, we've abandoned the individuals, and so abandoned the meaningful aspects of the particular faiths.

Absent the particulars, we're left with an appeal to some notion of a higher Being, some hope for another life, a better realm of existence.  Throughout the vigil there were constant appeals to the children being in a better place, not truly lost, or waiting for the day when their parents could rejoin them.  Regardless of the particular religious beliefs about an afterlife, there were numerous appeals to an afterlife writ large.

Yet after we've abandoned religious particulars we've also abandoned the particularities of any specific afterlife.  We're left with a hollow, vague hope that our feelings of loss can be quashed if we simply convince ourselves that the children, while dead, are not truly gone.

But that's bullshit.  And we know it's bullshit.

It's bullshit because the actual commonality and community achieved in the vigil happened here, on this planet, between embodied human beings.  Community occurred between biological organisms seeking a way to deal with their emotions.  To manifest a better emotional state, they pretended as if their religious differences were insignificant, just as they pretended that their children are now in a better state of existence.

I won't deny that pretending does not have emotive utility.  It's probably comforting for a parent to imagine its dead child hopping about in the clouds.  Yet once we admit that we're pretending religious differences don't matter, and we're pretending that the children are not gone, then we've admitted to two levels of fiction being posited onto the reality of our situation.  It's an attempt to deal with a tragic situation by undermining both the tragedy and the situation, itself.  If we convince ourselves that the children aren't really gone, then it's less painful to think about their being dead.

That strategy is naught but believing a lie to mask the truth.  It's the fabrication of a happy story to keep the pain of loss at bay.  And it seems strange that our primary method of dealing with reality is to lie to ourselves about it.  We'll lie about religious difference.  We'll lie about our metaphysical stories.  We'll lie about the loss of death.  We'll strive to restructure our interpretation of reality to be what we want, in order to deal with what we actually have.

This despite the fact that Newtown, Connecticut has something that is pretty damn great:  A community.  A community of individuals who are willing to cast aside their differences to come together in an effort to overcome their grief.  Yet while all these human beings are in a room, together, mourning their loss they feel compelled to invoke the notion of some external reality, some higher Being, who can get them through this.

The individual particular humans, working together, get themselves through the pain...and then give credit to a collection of fictional characters.

That's fucked up.

I realize it's what some people do, and I realize it probably won't change.  It just seems that accepting reality, and being secular humanists, isn't the worst thing.  If only because it's in reality that we have to live.  And there ain't no invisible sky daddy in reality.

It's just you.  And me.  And the people of Newtown, Connecticut.

I suggest that we start, and stay, there.


Caleb said...

I don't quite have the will to make an earnest analogy of religion as a programming interface which if configured properly has access to kernel level function calls, but that's the image I'm sticking to here.

I mean, some firmware versions don't permit rolling back, so some people are stuck with what they've got.

Implementation matters less than the feature set and flexibility, so it is good for some people to acknowledge that and build out interop.

Isn't it the architecture-independent languages that make higher-order abstractions readily available with all the bells, whistles and encapsulating wrapper functions?

Am I wrong in thinking it's really only a problem when people 1) try to program their children out of a seizure, diabetes, or whooping cough 2) start flame wars over which revision is best to run and whether or not one ought to cuddle one's braces 3) introduce legislation based on non-GPL'd source?

I say, this once, let's let these folks both have their cake and eat it.

_J_ said...

"I don't quite have the will to make an earnest analogy of religion as a programming interface which if configured properly has access to kernel level function calls, but that's the image I'm sticking to here."

I have never loved you more than I do right now, Caleb.

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