Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Holy Spirits and Hogwash

During the seventeenth century when alchemy was beginning to give way to chemistry, it was becoming obvious that the traditional theory of four elements, earth, water, air, and fire, wasn't working.  For one thing, fire was discovered to be a process, not an element.
 
But just what sort of process was it, anyway.  Well, the new proto-chemists decided that whatever the elements were, one of them was phlogiston, and fire consisted of driving the phlogiston out from the other elements.
 
But there were problems with the phlogiston theory, so the new alchemists-becoming-chemists set up some careful observations to watch how this phlogiston was behaving, and discovered that the entire phlogiston theory was hogwash.
 
By contrast, when the Holy Trinity was defined, a dispute arose about whether the Holy Spirit proceeded from both the Father and the Son, or from only the Father and not the Son.  However, instead of following the very successful example of chemists who made a discovery by making careful observations, theologians simply divided the Christian religion in half on the basis of their disagreements.  If they should bother to set up careful observations to watch the Holy Spirit proceeding so they'd know which is true, they would probably discover that the entire Holy Trinity is just as imaginary as phlogiston.
 
A further controversy arose as to whether the Substance of the Son and the Substance of the Father are the same, alike, similar, or different.  Theologians dare not try to analyze these substances for fear of discovering that they don't even exist.
 
In fact, if we made careful observations of all our religious doctrines, we'd soon discover that our entire cast of characters is no more real than imaginary fairies and leprechauns.
 
And that, folks, is why science has given us good things and religion has given us reasons to refuse to get along.

3 comments:

No More Mr. Nice Guy! said...

Good post. This is the difference between religion and science in a nutshell. When there is a disagreement in science, eventually one side prevails because it can win over the other side to its point of view by having stronger evidence. This makes it possible to build up a body of knowledge and make progress towards more knowledge.

With religion, both sides are on arbitrary foundations to begin with, and there is no rational way of deciding between them. Hence no possibility of progress, no increase in knowledge. For the same reason, religious wars are always the bloodiest and most savage because there is no rational way to settle them, you just have to utterly destroy the enemy.

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