Reporting Afghanistan

John Wendle

Rationality

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By Jack Wendle

I was watching a heron out back a few minutes ago. As so many times before, in about six inches of water it was doing its slow walk about five yards from one mangrove to the other. This is how it gets dinner. About half way there it suddenly turned and slowly walked back the other way. To me this was a rational act: “Facts” were gathered through its senses, processed in its little “bird brain” to a reasonable level of understanding, thereby causing the change of direction and apparently — though not apparent to me — a different objective. I’m not a scientist and do not know this from scientific know-how. But it seems obvious that rational acts are run-of-the-mill behavior throughout the animal kingdom — even where the brain is quite small.

Then I came in for the evening news. I tuned in when a story was running on Indonesia. A young man had lost his leg in a tsunami. His mother or grandmother was quite upset because, to her, this meant he had been evil in his previous life. (And “thinking” like this prevails throughout the world.) To me the beliefs we humans come up with and the passion we devote to the faith we have in these “ideas” is utterly irrational. Somehow the superior brain power we humans posses that fosters imagination, creates wealth, engineers and builds wonderful products, inspires great art and produces scientific achievement also seems to allow “gut feelings” about existence to prevail in our thinking — at least for most of us.

Some animals are cunning loners. Some mastered hunting in packs. Some communicate danger to others of their kind. I have read about the caring nature of a flock of crows. I have “owned” dogs that have loved me back as much as I loved them. I have watched primates amuse us for the pleasure they appear to receive from our joy. Without being too anthropomorphic I find it reasonable to conclude brains throughout the animal kingdom are rational. But somehow ours also allows for a level of irrationality that fosters everything from mystical beliefs about past lives and future heavens to crusades to impose religious or political beliefs on others. To preach that we humans were deservedly put here on earth to reign over creation is not only irrational it is so full of hubris it should alienate every thoughtful person.

I have long ago given up belief in Jesus as God. I am a Jeffersonian Christian. The stories I find convincing are those wherein Jesus teaches us that the good life is lead by following the Golden Rule. That’s rational.

Although professor Bart Ehrman (below) didn’t influence how my views have been shaped, I find — particularly toward the end of this interview — that they are nearly a perfect match to what I believe and how I feel.

‘Did Jesus Exist?’ A Historian Makes His Case

Some claim that Jesus is a myth, created for nefarious or altruistic purposes. Some truly believed that Jesus lived and breathed. But did he really? Is there any historical evidence? Historian and religious studies professor Bart Ehrman answers these questions in his new book, Did Jesus Exist?.

dad/grampa/jack

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Written by johnwendle

April 8, 2012 at 1:44 pm

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