For whatever reason, over the last few weeks I’ve read some Vonnegut novels, including Breakfast of Champions, Timequake, and Hocus Pocus. When I read him years ago, I found him entertaining but somewhat shallow. Now I think he’s hilarious and profound. Moreover, reading him and some econversations with Mike have helped me get a bit clearer about my problem with religion.
I can’t honestly say that the fictitious (and impossible) impartial, objective, blank-slate observer can cook up some sort of argument showing that religion must be false. This is because “religion” is so slippery. If it means or entails young-earth creationism and contemporary faith-healing, well then, okay, maybe we can gather together something close to a knock-down argument. At least we can show that believing in this sort of “religion” requires either inconsistency or dubious intellectual gymnastics. But if “religion” is less specific in its falsifiable claims and keeps the miracles out of carefully documented historical times, then who’s to say?
But novelists like Vonnegut, it seems to me, paint a very compelling portrait of human psychology. According to this portrait, humans generally are (a) capable of caring for each other, (b) capable of smoking each other, and (c) inclined toward seeing monumental or divine significance in their actualizing either (a) or (b). Now it could be that there’s a divine being behind it all, or it could be that (a)-(c) are merely natural facts of human psychology, and “God” grows out of (c). As I say, I find this portrait compelling, and it seems to me that the human art of self-deception is stronger than the human arts of metaphysics and theology. I do not have an argument for this. It’s a mere “seeming.” All I can do is stare in a kind of wonder at those who know everything I know and yet aren’t pulled by the same “seeming.” This is why I enjoy Harrison’s company so much!
A quick dart into the political. In Timequake, St. Kurt recommends two further amendments to the U.S. Constitution:
28. Every newborn shall be sincerely welcomed and cared for until maturity.
29. Every adult who needs it shall be given meaningful work to do, at a living wage.
Wouldn’t be a wonderful world if these amendments were even possible candidates for debate?