Wily winning: A manual of mutating political philosophy – December 1, 2008
By Joseph Randolph
No, we have no gods except ourselves, so we do on occasion allow a substitute for numerous reasons. Sometimes we just need a vacation. It is not without warrant that even superstitious cultures such as ours imagined their god needful of rest at least once a week. We are not superstitious but we need rest too. We get tired also of having to fulfill the default role of god after a while, even though most of our voters don't yet think of us as such, so we have to permit belief in something else on occasion, however ridiculous. A good crisis or two are usually sufficient to send people running to their gods—Us in time we hope, whether the ignorant voters suspect we are standing in waiting or not.
Our dearest mother, Mother Earth, is our current god, adored by many of our people, such as She is. There is of course not just implicit danger from courting this notion, but real peril, as some of our own crawl back to religion with a more ridiculous notion than that our religious fathers abandoned decades ago. In other words, within our own camp there are religious cravings that must be watched and contained, until that craving turns toward respecting ourselves as the only god the people need. If the current pull and frenzy toward patching our relationship with nature becomes too serious, we could see some of our own claiming that government itself is unnatural. This view could spell disaster for our political intentions, as I have mentioned to you before. So while we tolerate this latest craving for religion, we only tolerate it, but have little sympathy for it. Furthermore, it reflects much ignorance, most of it willful, of our glorious past that dispensed with belief in God.
The current hankerers after religion in our camp forget that our secular predecessors abandoned their culture's god some ages ago and for good reason. They did so when enough cataclysmic events undermined their belief that any god worth his salt would have mercifully constructed his universe without one or the other—humans or evil. If this supposed god had any care at all for the miserable beings having to live in such a world he would have rebuilt this mess he forced people to live in, or at least kept people out of it. He did neither, so our intellectuals after a while decided they would be done with any such god. They would simply accept the world as it was, warts and all—but no god with it. Therefore, we assume the role of the absent god, though we continue to have competitors. Mother Earth is the latest one. As Her head has been raised, the pious among us have lowered their own heads, and with it, their brains.
Our theologians these days are so pampering of our dear Mother, that they cannot bear to criticize Her, much like the faith theologians of previous ages, until our secular predecessors started to clamor for reason in the matter of religion. The current religion has no such discipline such as that that reason requires. Thus, when She has a tantrum, such as a bit of volcanic activity or a tsunami or a hurricane, these new theologians rack up all the blame to human wretches. Mother is seen as simply expressing her displeasure at our impious activity which wrecks her internal parts, and causes her to convulse. I will of course admit that this ridiculous notion provides us with gargantuan amounts of political propaganda, but it is nevertheless preposterous and after a while hard to stomach. I never prayed to the old god; I am not going to start praying to a new one.
First of all, when we got rid of the old god, we came to the realization at the same time that nature has no moral tentacles and no moral sensibilities. All the religious portends that were thought to be the "message" of comets and volcanic activity and the like crashed to earth when our secular saviors explained them without the ignorance that had advanced the religious "message" hypothesis about the workings of nature. In other words, there is nothing more to nature than how nature works. Nature manifests no secret plans, or for that matter, any plan at all. The most we can say, and even this is a gigantic amount of anthropomorphism, is that nature works for herself with no thought for us, for nature has nothing that remotely resembles "thoughts." In other words nature does what nature does, with no thought for anything. Even the term "Nature" is meaningless, because it suggests an overarching planning facility in charge of the whole course of the workings of our world. However, Nature is as blind as a bat and the way she operates is without any moral deliberation whatsoever. In fact, there is no deliberation. Morals are our own human invention: they do not belong to Her. This Mother Nature stuff is therefore dangerous because it suggests that there is something of a relationship between Her and us. There is nothing of the sort.
The true picture of Nature therefore leaves us with nothing to bow before, but only with an indifferent and recalcitrant and resisting enemy of which we should be wary for she shall take our life tomorrow, or next year, or the next decade with bacteria or viruses or floods or droughts or earthquakes. If you manage to avoid these, your own internals shall claim your life, with stopping hearts and the like. "She" wills even mutations to get around our antibiotics when we resist Her. Her quiver of the vehicles of her wrath are as plentiful as Her actions stand poised to present untold obstacles toward our well-being. None of this activity, however, has anything to do with us. Her actions are not even remotely "personal." There is no intention or anything of the sort on Her part. She cares nothing for us because She has nothing with which to evoke such feelings. She had no conscience because She has neither mind nor morals. She does what She does for the simple reason that She does it; our genuflecting and ignorant theologians nevertheless bow before Her in mindless reverence. It would be laughable if it were not so stupid—and dangerous.
Our pious theologians, moreover, are as stupid as the men of old who bowed and sacrificed in front of a stone or block of wood. Today, however, our pious theologians are imagining that Mother is talking through her gesticulating actions, which for the most part evidence her anger toward the trespassers who walk and plow and build highways and malls and factories across her face and cloud her skies with suet and smog and the like. And just like the pious followers of the old god, these new earth theologians see Mother's activity as not to be questioned.The old problem of evil therefore is not entertained, because it would signal the death of yet another aspiring god. That is, what killed the old god will not be allowed to kill the new god, and the problem will not even be raised so as to preserve the belief in Her as our dearest Mother. Thus, the new theologians can only avoid this same deadly thing happening to their benevolent Mother by ignoring the actions of dearest deity Mother Earth. The truth of the matter is that she is a beast as ready to devour us as help us. The fact of the matter is that there is no Mother Earth anymore than there was a Father God.
Joseph Randolph is a writer and academic who lives in Wisconsin.