Sunday, February 23, 2014

Humanity and Religion (part 6)

-But cursing requires hate, and furthermore, it increases hatred. Sooner or later, we have a population of people who are both violent and hateful. Most animals are violent, but it is doubtful that they are hateful animals; Lions don't kill deer out of hate, they kill out of a need to consume food. Violence and hatred are actually separate from each other; violence may and has existed independently of hatred; but why are then they interlinked? Because hatred may spark violence, and with a population of humans cursing the nature for not bending down to their will, sooner or later, these humans started doing what Quran termed as 'fasad fil ardh': damaging on earth. And these damages are done out of hate; hate for the nature.
-When one starts hating the nature, it becomes an endless expansion; nature is after all an all-encompassing term, and hating the nature easily leads to hating other things, as all is nature and nature is all. Hatred drives humanity; it spurs the desire to fight, the desire to struggle; struggling against nature requires a certain disdain of nature. One hates the fact that the rivers floods every now and then, so he builds an irrigation system to control the floods; one hates the fact that plants usually flower and bear fruits once a year, so he genetically enhances them so they can yield more flowers and fruits. Hatred becomes a force by which human eliminates things considered as undesirable to human convenience; it is both selfish and self-rewarding at the same time.
-But is cursing the impetus for hate? No; cursing is just an expression of hate. But by expressing hate through cursing, the hatred is defined more properly; no longer is hatred a purely abstract concept that lies at the subconscious, a concept that has no form; it is now a directed form of sentiment that begets force and action. It is no more a mere agitation; it is now a usable tool that can cause and puts things into motion. Cursing is a part of language, and language gives form to hatred through cursing.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Humanity and Religion (part 5)

-But why people began farming? One of the great mysteries concerning human evolution is the impetus for farming; hunting and gathering food is a much simpler (albeit riskier, considering the fact that humans compete with other strong animals for food, and may run the risk of being preyed upon themselves) task than farming; Farming requires an understanding of how plants grow, an understanding of how time flows, the ability to control water flow etc...why is then the massive-scale change to farming?
-Perhaps it was the climate change; if one read the Bible and the Quran in an allegorical way, the Garden of Eden might be interpreted as a time when people finds it easier to hunt and gather food. Adam and Eve were forced out of Heaven because they ate the forbidden fruit; was it because the humans ate way too much that species went extinct, burnt too much that the Sahara became a desert? No one knows for sure; except for the fact that there was a climate change occurring thousands of years ago that forced the ancestors of the humans into the savannah out of the tropical rainforests; or rather, the rainforest became dry due to lack of rain, and became savannahs. Ancestors of humans, deprived of trees, had to stand upright, and due to the warm climate had to shed their furs. (At least that's how the theory went) But that occurred way far back before farming began.
-Perhaps it would be useful to trace the farming back to where it began. Farming developed in different parts of the world; it had not one source of beginning; one began in China, one in India, one in the Nile Delta, one in the Mesoamerica. But all these had one thing in common; they have a seasonal water flow; one season is dry and one wet. Another thing to ponder is the fact that these places are relatively dry; dry climates mean less varied ecosystem, and that means it is harder to find food. So farming should hypothetically began as a way humans tried to survive a harsher and less bountiful ecosystem. In that sense, Bible can be true; Adam (Hebrew for 'man') was condemned to hard labor of farming, instead of the leisure of picking food from any tree in the Garden of Eden. But that doesn't mean Bible is truly the Inspired Word of God; just because something is true doesn't mean it came from God.
-But why then would farming start the cult of worshiping God? Farmers are meant to be observant of nature; they need to know when to begin farming. Hence farmers would have to organize the world around them in a way that simple hunter-gatherers simply don't have to do; (I would include husbandry within the context of farming) farmers need to know when is the rainy season, farmers need to know how many times they have before the dry season begin, farmers need to plan for the summer and the winter, farmers need to accomplish their tasks within a set period of time. Thus the concept of 'time' becomes more important than ever; instead of just organizing time based on the time the sun rises and sets, humans plan their lives much further; days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years. A week is defined as a period of 7 days; Aztecs organize it into 20-day units; see the difference? Both Bible and Quran didn't think about the Aztecs; they insist that weeks have to be organized into 7 days--a total rejection of a whole civilization. No wonder the Catholics persecuted the Aztecs as if they were worse than animals. Heathens--they are lesser humans!
-But then, it remains a challenge to truly predict the temperament of nature. Droughts happen; floods happen; back then humans are totally at the mercy of the temperament of nature. Hence the God as ar-Rahman and ar-Rahim; what can one do? If it's going to be a drought, nothing (yet) can be done about it. We just have to die along with it. But no! We have been spending all our time organizing, planning, farming; is it all going to waste? Who is the first one to have come up with the idea that 'it is all going to waste?' That might be the first philosopher, the first prophet, the first sage ever; some one who can see that his or her efforts are going to waste; instead of just going along with the nature, he cursed it! He cursed the nature for going against his will! Cursing the nature; that is a religious act!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Humanity and Religion (part 4)

-But ask yourself again whether human really needs God to live. How about the Penans and the Papuans who live as hunter-gatherers in the jungle? Do they know God? Notice that not every single language has a word that refers to what can be understood as being equal to Allah, being equal to YHWH, being equal to the Turkish Tanri, to Aryan Brahma...there are many languages in which the concept of the unseen things are confined to worldly and little beings, beings that can actually be perceived by the speakers of the language, but would remain invisible to non-speakers...Speech is belief; Islam's definition of Iman involves three aspects of 'heart', 'mouth' and 'action', all of which are language-based. Language is the only possible way to Iman. So how can one say that the whole world believes in God? Many people would argue that even the seas do praise the Creator; even Quran said is just that the praises are not coherent to human. But something that is incoherent to human, can we call it 'praise'? Calling it a 'praise' is an anthropocentric act; we, by the act of saying that 'even the seas praise the God' makes the whole phenomenon an anthropomorphized one, which is ridiculous; Seas are seas, not humans. They don't speak; they don't possess language, at least not a humanly language; so how can one say they praise the Lord? I suspect that the statement is made in order to make a religion superior from other religions, but does not take into account about the nature of language enough. Will God in his omniscience make such a statement? Language is a barrier.
-God as we often understand would then be reconstructed as being products of language; Muslims, Christians, Jews...whenever they invoke the name of the God, really only invokes the concept created through their utterance of the name God. Their efforts, their prayers, their beliefs; none of these reaches God, none of these have anything to do with the REAL GOD. The REAL GOD is something that I can't say anything about; I can at least say that it is not a coherent being, but think; literally there are millions who pray to God, who reports that they do feel God. It is not coherent through language, but people make do anyway. With what? With feelings.
-Thus talking about God would bring us to the realm of the emotional. The turmoil of the human emotion that seeks both the fulfillment and the emptying of their existence; "I want to erase all my sins." Erasing my sins; what exactly is that? We hurt people as soon as we were conceived; think about how our mothers deliver us from the state of being nothing to the state of being something. Pregnancy is a terrible predicament. But why mothers endure the pain of pregnancy? What is the thing that drives us humans to keep on procreating; keep on surviving? Aren't we all going to die? Thus some might say that life in itself is a sin, which is inferred from the fact that living and dying is actually the same thing. You lie when you say you are living; you lie when you say you are dying. You are both living and dying; you cannot claim to be one without claiming to be the other. Living is dying and dying is living. Why these two antithetical states coexist arbitrarily with the other?
-That would pose no problem to the earlier humans who hunt on a daily basis for food. They observe that both are no different; they are not antithetical; they are not separate. Lions consume other animals so they themselves can live. Female spiders devour their mate after procreating. Salmons die soon after laying eggs. The early people see these and do not see any conflict. But why do we perceive the conflict between living and dying?
-The answer; we begin to farm. Why did we begin to farm? The whole idea of farming is not exactly what I would call a brilliant idea. It is easier to hunt, easier to gather food, than actually taking care of them, nurturing them until they got mature enough to be eaten. Taking care of things; that action involves emotion. Emotion spoils everything up. All because we wanted to take care of something. If one were to believe in Torah, one of the very first things that God ordered (or rather, condemned) Adam to do was to farm. All of a sudden, Adam knows how to farm. There is no mentioning of the learning process. Adam just began farming.
-Perhaps that is the reason why the more sedentary population hated the nomads. Those who don't farm and those who do farm; there seems to be a totally fundamental difference in the ethics. Farming begins the history. Religion sprang up together with farming. People didn't believe in God before they began farming. They don't even know God to begin with; the whole idea is not even started yet.

Humanity and Religion (part 3)

-What truly defines human? Just because an infant is born of human parents, does that make him or her a human as well? What do we make of a person who is mentally defective, depriving her of the faculty of speech....what is she? Is she a human? Is she still a human when her defective mental faculty renders her unable to recognize and understand speech, let alone using speech? Is she still a human when her brain is wired that she doesn't feel empathy for others, totally self-centered and lacks patience? Is she still a human when her behavior is so erratic she can't fit into the society due to her lack of mental capacity?
-That is why I say Hegel is wrong in his conception of the world as an organic being made of parts; he assumed that societies are organic beings too, and it is made up of individuals; but certainly he did not pay heed to those who are mentally incapable of catching up with society. Mentally incapacitated individuals pose a challenge to our conception of humanity and of ethics. Paul Singer would say that such individuals are unable to attain 'happiness' whatever it may be to him, and thus it would serve them better to be off dead, for life without the attainment of happiness is considered life not worth living. 'Happiness;' that is a problematic concept. In utilitarian mindset, that would just mean someone is living his life to the fullest, by being useful in someway. Mentally incapacitated people, would by then, by the nature of them being less useful to the society, be unable to achieve happiness as well.
-But is happiness our true goal? Islam promised Heaven, where the believers enjoy the presence of God, 'Salamun qaulan min rabbi ar-rahim'; Christianity offers salvation to those who accepted Christ as their Savior; Buddhism dictates that a person who has attained enlightenment will be able to escape the circle of life, being Nirvana. All of these do not have worldly aspects to it; the world is viewed as 'evil' for it contains 'suffering'; why should religions promise its adherents the world, when the world is full of suffering? Islam said that those who enter Jannah, stays there forever. Why forever? Perpetuation of a state renders separation as something that does not exist in that plane of existence, and separation is a painful event. Think about it; when a person dies of something, be it an accident, a natural death, murder, whatever, there's almost always some sort of pain involved. The person might not himself feel the pain; but even if one does not die a painful death, with no mourners, the death of a person might affect the surroundings in a negative way. The body might get smelly; the stench of death is never pleasant. It is very rare that a death is painless; Muhammad is remarked to have said on his deathbed, 'how painful death is.'
-Thus people are afraid of death, mostly out of the fear of pain. Otherwise, we wouldn't be so scared of death; nobody is actually scared of fading away from the existence. It is impossible to be scared of non-existence; Non-existence, because it does not exist, is not something that can be feared. Fear requires an object that it can fear; but in the case of non-existence, there is no object. So how can one fear? That is why many religions advocate life after death; in the field of non-existence, there's always room to be filled. One can take a white paper, and use it to paint beautiful pictures; it is almost the same with non-existence; one can always make something out of it.
-Thus the idea that something cannot came out of nothing is nothing but a popular mistake. This idea that something that exists must have a cause has been pointed out by many philosophers to be simply the doing of our minds; the sun does not produce the light, but the relationship between the sun and the light has been epistemologically painted by our conscience. The relation between the sign and the meaning is the same too; it is our conscience that makes the relationship come into being. Cause and effect is a product of us observing the nature, and putting what we observe into knowledge. And knowledge is made up of language.
-That puts me into a problematic situation. When knowledge is said of as being made up of language, how can then an animal can be said of as having knowledge? Does a human with the inability to utilize the speech faculty totally can be said of as having knowledge? Quran said that 'allamahu al-bayan'; He taught us plain speech. Speech is knowledge. The Scripture has to be in a human speech, no matter what. But that would mean that Quran is not meant for the dumb; Quran is not meant for the animals. It has been stated that Quran is meant for the humans. Animals do not need Quran. Animals do not need God. Do humans need God? One is tempted to say so.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Humanity and Religion (part 2)

-The role of each human as khalifah Allah (Quran didn't mention khalifah in a political way; it struck me that it's a role designated so that every human has to play it) is to spread Islam. "Ya Rasul, balligh!" (O Messenger, deliver!) Thus there is an obligation that is made dutiful onto every Muslim; so the fatigue of proselytizing is solved by making sure everyone does it; Islam is thus a religion made to be inherited, from father to son. Thus, there is a need for Islamic family system to take its shape; 'muhrim' and 'non-muhrim' is just the tip. We have got in Muslim society a very rigid family system that has no place for bastards and interfaith children, as well as gays and lesbians. Sexuality is shunned except for the heterosexualism; and heterosexualism is regulated strictly within the context of the family; one would observe very little physical touch among Malays, due to the perception that touching is sexual. Sexuality is regulated heavily; one might say that it is rationed only for the purpose of procreating new Muslims.
-But the laws result in a necessary segregation between Muslims and non-Muslims. It is a familial segregation, a fraternal segregation. Thus fundamentally, Muslims and non-Muslims become fundamentally different from each other; they are segregated on a familial level. Muslims can't marry non-Muslims unless they convert; the laws serve as another way to proselytize non-Muslims. And that is fine; Muhammad had envisioned a belief system in which the heaven is made exclusive for Muslims. Non-Muslims go to hell; there is no other way around. Of course some argue that every soul gets to go to heaven not due to them being Muslim or not, but through the merits of their deeds. But merits here are often understood as being 'Muslim': Islam is everything that is good. Good equals Islam.
-Thus the laws often in the end favor Muslims, discriminating against non-Muslims, despite the fact that it is not intended to be so; theoretically there shall be no discriminating, nor shall there be an intention to discriminate against people; the real targets are the non-Muslim belief systems. They ought to be eliminated; the belief systems operate based on what Islam perceives as lies; "Truth will prevail, while the lies perish."
-Of course Islam isn't alone in discriminating; consider the time period when the Catholics of the Iberian peninsula got swept up in religious fervor and discriminated against Muslims and Jews. It got nasty; Muslims and Jews were uprooted due to their non-Catholic beliefs. But this is also an unintended consequence of the idea that only those who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior gets salvation in the end. Jesus is the key. No key, no heaven. Thus Christianity and Islam both have to be proselytizing in order for their ethics to work the way they were intended to work. The Bible said in the Gospels that the Apostles were ordered to spread the Word of God; Muhammad said that 'deliver from me even if only a sentence.' Proselytizing becomes the new religious game, surpassing the previous idea of tribalism: each nation has its own god. No; God has become an international concept; each nation must accept that there is no God but Allah; in fact there are no nations; just a nation. An ummah.
-So universalism is born through the conception of God as being One and Only and for All; and the conception of an exclusivist Heaven. This ran in contrast with previous order of the nations. No longer is polytheism or henotheism allowed. There is only one God, and only one Nation; a Nation formed by human. Thus we got back to the formulation of 'human.'

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Humanity and Religion (part 1)

-If religion is just about logic, reason and the meaning of life, then we would not have religions we currently have in our human society. No; religions are shaped also by our human emotions; insecurity, weakness, revenge, fear, greed, egoism, prejudice, love, anger, sadness, nostalgia and hate. That's why I don't believe in religion, nor do I believe in God; religion is human, and God is a product of our human capacity.
-But then again, I also realized that my rejection is human in nature, driven by my human intelligence and cemented by my human desire. Islam envisioned a God that is "mukhalafatuhu lil hawadith" (different from anything that's new), which implies that God in Islam is BEYOND what we can perceive; No one can actually worship this kind of God, as it is just impossible to reach such a God (hence rejecting this God would have been as equally senseless as worshiping him; but here it's no longer the question of it being sensible or not; it's now a matter of emotion; that's why some people kill in the name of God, while others love in the name of God). Hence theoretically speaking, Islam really is not about worshiping this God; it is about shaping humans.
-Which presents us with a problem; can such a feat be achieved? The feat has at its foundation the idea that there is such a thing called 'human' that is definable and tangible. 'Human' here is not just a physical-biological animal; 'human' is an idea, a concept. This concept has to be invented; only then can one begin to lay out the ideals for the ethics and religion that is to be imposed on this 'human.' Thus the 'prophet' in Islam. Those weren't historical figures; they were a fictionalized version of Abram, Moshe, Dawed, Shlomo, Yohanna and Yeheshua; a version fitted up to meet Islam's arguments, a version that is radically and fundamentally different from the Bible accounts. Why such radical differences? Because there is a revolution, regarding the nature of 'human'; no longer are 'human' viewed as given, but instead a whole new paradigm of human as 'abid' that is subservient to 'God' (explore other religions; there's not as much emphasis on the relation between God and human as being 'master-slave' relationship; this is radically different with the idea of Christian 'Father-Son", with the idea of Judaism's "Deity-Chosen People"; it's a new thing.) Did Muhammad envision such a thing? Truth be told, perhaps no; but perhaps yes; but it is not intended as a lie. Islam is, from this point of view, a religion of truth: Truth the way Muhammad saw it.
-But then, Muhammad is just a human, and so the religion he established was also human in nature. It is a flawed religion; with too much emphasis on the nature of human as slaves to God, there is just no way those slaves can bring themselves to rule their own selves; that is the reason why dictatorship, monarchy and authoritarian rule has been the rule in many Muslim countries over the past century; not even the secular Turkey escaped the tendency. Why? Because the Muslims largely don't want to rule; "leaders will get judged in Judgement Day the most." So the idea of democracy is fundamentally very challenging, if not incompatible, with the Islam theology. This theology is very deeply ingrained, and also infectious: the person who established the Baathist ideology, with its emphasis on purportedly 'Islamic' tendencies, marrying it with authoritarianism, was not a Muslim (Michel Aflaq was a Christian) but even a Christian, after years of living with Muslims (even a very secular one; even an ex-Muslim), will get influenced by Islam. The idea of human being a mere slave will surely make Jean-Paul Sartre mad; Sartre was a person who firmly believed that human is 'cursed to freedom'. I don't expect such a person would yield to Islam's ideas regarding human. Islam is never about freedom. Quran has nothing regarding freedom; it's all about submitting to God, and only by submitting to a reality you can't fight, you can find peace. Imam Shafi'e said to abandon rebellion; a rebellion against reality would strike him as being stupid, naive and misguided at best, and a borderline blasphemy, if not sheer madness at worst. But then again one has to struggle with reality. "Jihad" would mean to be this struggle; so does the word "Israel", which in Hebrew would mean 'one who struggles with God'. It's an honor given to Yaakov to be having this name; In Torah it is said that Yaakov won a wrestling match against God! Now that would really defy Islam's vision of 'master-slave'. Which means that Judaism has to be Islam's archenemy. How can a slave struggle against his master? That is blasphemous! But Judaism view humans not as a slave of God. For the Jews, they are God's own People. It was a tribal God; and being tribal, it is totally acceptable for such a God to be almost human in nature; asking Abram to kill Yitzhak and Ishmael as a test of faith, despite already knowing the result He himself was going to give; such playfulness! Isn't that human nature to be playful? But this is not Islam's Allah! No! Allah is beyond anything that is new. So trying to talk about the nature of Allah is going to be pointless; let's talk about human instead. But it's going to cause problems, because 'human' isn't a concept existing in nature. 'Human' is human's invention, invented through language. But language is invented by human. Hence we have yet another circle; "human-language, language-human" Of course, this is just a wordplay; but from this one should be able to deduct that human's attempt to describe human is at best a naive attempt. More often it is at its worst; we treat gays badly, we treat minorities badly, we treat other races badly, we treat believers of other religions badly, we badmouth each other. Why? Because these people would not fulfill our idea of what a 'human' should be like. This discrimination happens with or without religion; but religions have this knack of institutionalizing this discrimination, and moreover, justifies it. Read the Bible and its condemnation of the Egyptians and Canaanites; read the Quran, and its condemnation against the polytheists and the Jews ('the Jews and the Christians will not be happy with you until you follow them'); this religious justification, once institutionalized and sanctified by making them part of the Scriptures, is very hard to be dealt with. Of course Muhammad's idea is to eliminate Judaism and Christianity (among other religions), converting everyone to Islam, so the hatred would not last; ideally Muslims should hate Christianity, not the Christians. But this is not happening; one simply does not have the energy to convince everyone.