“By the eternal God and the camels and the Jesus and the wisemen…”
A heavyweight of melodic pop/rock that tears its way through the jungle of ideas.
So we make a fairly impopular argument in this tune. When religious devotees feel that they are blamed for the actions of other devotees – corrective rape, arranged marriage and gender subjugation, for instance – they strongly exclaim that this is deeply unfair, that these less savoury practices have nothing to do with their religion. In fact, I expect the majority of people hearing this song will feel this way. And yes, there is clearly a difference between peaceful religious folk and people who engage in uncivilised practices. But we’re making the point that making sense of this discrepancy is still religious adherents’ problem.
This is often brought up with an implication that this is even a benefit of religious thinking, as in “you don’t have to believe in the parts you find distasteful, you can have your own relationship with your particular god”, et cetera. But in our view, believers in metaphysical beings still need to acknowledge and deal with the fact that these beings will instruct you to do completely different things, depending on who your priest is. It is demonstrably very easy to find adherents willing to commit whatever atrocities in the name of the god others find so peaceful. And it is not atheists’ problem to make sense of that. Now, moral issues that arise when science is used for nefarious purposes, corporate greed dictating the path of science, automation threatening jobs… These are straightforwardly issues atheists and science enthusiasts need to address. But we aren’t invested in your supernatural beings, and you need to understand that it is your job to keep them moral – not the other way around.
Progressive stoner-industrial. Bit of shoegaze.
One paradox: You’ve promised to follow your god’s commands. What happens if your god suddenly commands you to stop believing in him? This is the subject of this song – the truthiest truthsong to ever truth.
If the lord exists and is omnipotent, he thus has the ability to pack it in and cease his activities. If the lord exists and is omniscient, he would thus be able to tell that all the evidence indicates that he does not exist. Wouldn’t anyone be discouraged by that? After all that hard work, all the evidence suggests I don’t exist… Yeah, I think everyone would forgive Big Lord God for wanting some time to himself.
We are, of course, talking about the westernised version of this originally Middle-Eastern deity. Because that is the version we know, the one who is endemic in our culture, the one whose commandments we have happily ignored most of our adult lives. But it was necessary to at least mention his siblings who have stayed in the rough geographical region where they were invented. Thus the somewhat glib nod to the nations in the turbulent region. Sorry, apologists, but it’s hard to be diplomatical when religions who preach tolerance and peace always seem to enact apartheid, capital punishment, violence, and division when given the proverbial keys to the city gates. Reality check: The world has been civilised at the exact speed of religions losing shares at the marketplace of ideas. The more intensely religious groups and states are, the more violent they tend to become. And if you deny this you have been tricked by apologists’ sanitising agenda, sorry to say.
The epic power ballad you never knew you needed. Roger Waters meets Freddie Mercury at the science club.
Some 300 years ago, at the dawn of what we call modern science, a lot of people were absolutely thrilled about unraveling the mysteries of our universe. You see, in this burgeoning new field called science, many predicted they would now be able to find God’s almighty fingerprints allover his creation and, dare I say, possibly find God himself.
Religion, just like science, is a path to understanding the reality which our senses perceive and our brain interprets. The challenge the scientists of the 16th century discovered was that neither God nor his fingerprints appeared when the cosmos was investigated. The religious path, it seemed, was outdated as a means of interpreting the cosmos and our reality.
Religion is a means to make sense of complex and ever-shifting reality. Indeed, if you ask any religious person why they believe you’ll find the answer unfailingly is – “But if this isn’t it, what is it?” (We have found this to be the case in 100% of our interviewees in our unscientific surveys.) Our claim is that Religiosity is a struggle to make sense of the world, your consciousness and the reality your senses can perceive. What else would it be, after all?
What we’re doing here, really, is to define the currently existing religiosity as an introspective quest for a greater understanding of reality and the cosmos: to answer the great “unanswerable” questions! What we’re saying is, that quest should be science! Science is the superior way to approach these questions. Science is not introspective; science is not limited to yourself; and (sadly, Mr and Mrs Religious) Science is not made up or set in stone but challenged over and over again. When you start learning about what the fabrics of the cosmos and our reality really are made of, you’re up for a fundamentally moving experience. A reality that fundamentally affects our lives right here, right now. That is what we talk about, when we talk about science being just like religion but real.
A singer-songwriter tune produced by an insane artificial intelligence.
Alan Turing sure was an interesting fella! But here’s the thing. Online atheist activism is often characterised by smugness, fedoras, pony love, libertarialism (an ideology that makes sensible people vomit tears through every orifice) and so on. And the counteragrument is often sterling: Atheism does not, after all, inherently provide an alternative to the worldview it attacks. It is a negative “ideology” (in quotes because it is not an ideology at all, it is simply the idea that there are no supernatural entities in charge of the world. Atheism is a religion in the same way that baldness is a hair colour). We can usually infer that most atheists are some manner of humanists, philosophy-wise, and that they are usually science enthusiasts. But it is still somewhat easy to dismiss the whole enterprise based on the notion that it does not offer an alternative to what is tries to tear down. (Well, that honestly really only applies to antitheism, but never mind. No one is keeping track of philosophical stringency anyway.)
So, not being a band that balks at a challenge, we thought we’d try to move beyond railing on religion and celebrating science and nature; to sketch out some manner of idea as to what a scientifically-derived ideology to replace religion might entail. This is not meant to be taken as a maniphesto; we are just quietly exploring possibilities here. Because there is some truth to the argument that modern, secular, middle-class life has lost something along the lines of a sense of community, once provided by ideologies that failed, or the religions we are questioning. It is not certain what could replace the ancestral, non-thinking community of religion, but certain signs point to the theory that we do need something to fulfill those needs. The last sentence of this spiel will shock you, because it is audacious, but once again: Just throwing shit at the wall here.
Let’s utilise the sense of community and altruism left behind in the wake of religion to teach robots about love. Bang!
This is an example of the near-forgotten genre of the Protest Song.
So why robots, what do those really have to do with religion and atheism? Well. I have a future thesis. It goes like this: Technological advancement will go on, barring things like war, natural collapse and mass death. Because it is intrinsically desirable to make society more effective – that is, to allow fewer people to work less and get more done – technology will inevitably (more or less) reach a much more autonomous level, and make it impossible to employ as many people as in the past. It may not be the case right this second, but many jobs are already becoming more and more superfluous. This would actually be a net win for humanity – why should we waste our bodies and minds working for someone else if we don’t have to? – as long as society can be rearranged to make room for the people who won’t be able to support themselves. Or put another way, when technological development increases in breadth and depth it will enable more people to live more fulfilling lives, and through that advance the progress of humankind a different way, by contributing to the arts, medicine or technology.
What is the solution, then? I’m no idealist, hardly even a Marxist, but I can see no other way forward but rational, altruistic socialism. Or with a more common phrase, basic income. Now, the exact shape and form of this is not set yet. And fear not, dear conservative or liberal, altruistic socialism isn’t about taking grandma’s pearls but about a rational discussion of how to most effectively organise humankind around the technological advancements in our society.
The moneyed will continue to strive for more and more technological improvement, and they’re not wrong to do so. If we don’t want a dystopia where the moneyed few rule over a population of diligent robots and other people either die out or live in a parallel society at Dark Ages living standards, we need to deal with this final, crucial inequality. We have decided on a societal level that people who aren’t able to make money by working don’t deserve to live. But there is no intrinsic reason why this should always be the case. This is in fact an authority fiction. We have more than enough energy and resources to let all live. But the left needs to take the initiative soon and start advancing this agenda. Shorter working hours, across the board. Subsidised living, across the board. And build from those reforms to basic income. It is clear, looking at the bad leaders that have just recently gained power all over the western world, that the status quo is no longer desirable: The people want reformation. There are many cultural forces that will work against these solutions, however, so it is of paramount importance that reasonable people seize the agenda very soon.
The election of far-right, irrational nationalists is the biggest obstacle to making this thesis reality. Hence the rant during the last bit of the song there. Understand: We’re rejecting religion and crying out for morality. This will seem contradictory to some people, but in our view religion has a terrible track record when it comes to delineating and enforcing moral behaviour. And it’s largely outside the marketplace of ideas now anyway. What we’re yelling here is that “money ownership without morals equals robotic dystopia”. In other words, if we keep going down this path where money is seen as the only good, almost regardless of what it is used for, we will most likely find ourselves in one of those sci-fi future visions we’ve enjoyed being scared by in the past. The rich control the robots by the indelible power of money, and the poorer population (ie most of us) lives in squalor or dies out.
If this is not a desired outcome, it is time to give some serious thought to how it can be prevented. This goes beyond the remit of this particular rock record, of course. But think about what attitude to work certain ideologies have. Religions typically posit the inherent goodness of working hard. This is because religions arose as a solution to getting poor people to accept their lot in life and not make too much of a fuss. This is the true reason for the “Jesus” character being a scruffy fellow, for the nods he makes to pacifism (even if those are contradictory), and most crucially, for the emphasis put on the nobleness of working hard. It is easier to avoid complaints from the unwashed poor, after all, if you trick them into thinking they will be rewarded in a next life as long as they refrain from revolting against their oppressors today.
Hence, robots. Do you really think capitalism/neoliberalism will have a different opinion on this than religion when it comes down to spanners versus algorithms sometime this current century? You think about that, and think about it good. Think about who the real enemy is, and what you have to do next. See you next EP.