Up@dawn 2.0

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Group 1: Savulescu - "Three Stages of Disbelief"

A surprisingly good little essay, really. It's much more personal and emotional than the others that I've read in Blackford's group, and I found it a nice change of pace.

Sometimes we get lost in the philosophy, and the arguments, and the justifications, and we lose sight of the fact all of these things have to be filtered through our own personal experience. Yes, we all share a great deal of commonality with every other person on the planet, but none of those other people will ever be *you*. It's all well and good to understand the arguments against God's existence, but what do they mean to you, personally, uniquely? Alone in your mind, how do you deal with the fact that we are accountable to nobody but ourselves and those we share this planet with? I will readily admit that such questions can be overwhelming, at times. Questions of meaning and purpose aren't easy, and shedding the false comforts of religion offers no guarantee that things will be any easier.

The point that I liked best in Savulescu's essay is a simple one, though: Life can be a bitch, and you will certainly not make it out alive. You may live to be 100, surrounded by material wealth and persons that you love. Or, you may get hit by a bus crossing the street this afternoon. Or, you may contract a debilitating disease that promises a slow and agonizing death. Such is the way of life in a cold, random, uncaring universe. There are no guarantees, so make the most of this life while you have the opportunity to do so. Seize the time you have, because you have a finite amount of it.


  1. Carpe diem! Before it was a Hollywood cliche it was deep life wisdom, and it still is. But the acknowledgement that we all must fashion meaning by giving our respective experiences a personal stamp makes a pluralist point, doesn't it? And as Ross Upshur (a medical practitioner like Savulescu) says, "comfort is comfort." I would not want to deny anyone their life-sustaining religious sensibility (illusion or not), if that's all they've got.

  2. I think the expression "if that's all they've got" is overused as a pass for religious believers. It's a big world, and we know an awful lot more about it than we did 2000 years ago. If someone claims that religion is all they've got, they're probably just suffering from a lack of education (or curiosity, or imagination, or some combination thereof.)

    Unless you're in prison, or lying facedown in a gutter, I would say that there are better options than fairy tales. Am I advocating that we should deny them their fantasies? No I am not, so long as they keep that crap to themselves. If you want to get drunk, go to a bar or drink at home. Same goes for religion: go to a church or worship at home. Keep it out of public.

  3. I agree with you, of course. But I was thinking specifically of terminal patients in their deathbeds, including those in public health facilities. And for them I'd amend the statement: "if that's all they think they've got." They want and need comfort, and don't have the luxury of time and a philosophical seminar in which to go seeking it at their leisure.

  4. I think that is ultimately the root of religion's hold on our species. We are *all* terminal patients of life, doomed to die from the moment that we're born. We all want and need comfort, and religion got a firm hold on us before we knew any better.

  5. Yes, as Hitch kept saying when asked how he was: I'm dying. So are you...