Reason and faith, freethought and dogma lead the seeker of positive well being to different pathways, including support for or resistance to church/state separation.
Introduction: Reason Is In Season – Year Round
No one should throw away his reason, the fruit of all experience.
It is the intellectual capital of the soul, the only light, the only guide,
and without it, the brain becomes the palace of an idiot king,
attended by a retinue of thieves and hypocrites. Robert Green Ingersoll
A sweet sentiment from the seemingly inexhaustible warehouse of Ingersollian brilliance. In a similar vein are these thoughts of Ingersoll, once featured on a plaque at the Gramercy Park Hotel in New York CIty, where Ingersoll and his family once had a private home:
I shall follow the light of reason, be true to myself, express my honest thoughts, help destroy superstition and work for the happiness of my fellow beings.
Note the qualities Ingersoll extolls: Devotion to critical thought, respect for human judgement, observation and experience, the celebration of intelligence, personal integrity, reason and the embrace of happiness. Contrast the credo of reason with the credo of Christian faith:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried. He descended into hell; the third day he rose again from the dead, he ascended into heaven and sitteth (sic) on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. Amen.
On what basis would a sentient adult believe such improbable claims? Would it happen if the individual were devoted to critical thought, respect for human judgement, reliance on observation and experience, the celebration of intelligence, personal integrity, reason and a fondness for the pursuit of happiness?
I find the likelihood of that difficult to believe.
If Ingersoll Lived in Our Time
Wouldn’t it be lovely if The Great Agnostic were with us today, if we had his commentaries on topical matters like the state of the Republican Party that in his era was the Party of Lincoln? Imagine his observations on the not-so-Plumed Knight who seems certain to be the Party’s choice for president in 2016. Or his take on any of the multiple incursions of religion into government and the rights of women, gays and non-Christians? A partial list of such incursions, as shown below, comes from an essay by Iris Vander Pluym; details on the listed violations of church/state separation can be read here at the Palace:
* Religious exemptions for withholding medical treatment from children.
* Religious education that enjoys little to no regulation with a host of predicable tragic results.
* Catholic hospitals that can and do refuse treatment when quality medical care conflicts with dogmas affecting rights to contraceptives, abortion, end of life, etc.
* Pharmacy conscience laws that enable zealots to refuse to fill prescriptions, whenever their interpretations of religious beliefs conflict with recommended medical care.
* A White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives that provides taxpayer support for dogma-guided programs.
* Abortion restrictions, biased counseling, mandatory delays, forced ultrasounds and other theocratic legislative acts that reduce access and close secular clinics.
A conservative estimate is that government supports for religion amount to at least $83.5 billion annually.
The Unfortunate Immersion of Children in Religious Dogma
My take on the sentiments expressed by Ingersoll is that few today consciously discard their intellects though sadly, the neglected soils of youth provide little but a barren harvest of experience. The capital of the soul, in such cases, is capable of little more than the faintest light. This, alas, provides little guidance for the discovery and embrace of freethought as a part of a larger, REAL wellness philosophy.
There is, for most, not much of reason’s light to follow, so the paths of loyalty to the unknown self are unmarked, and convenient impressions are easily mistaken for honest thoughts, at least by oneself. Instead of destroying superstitions, the discarded, un-nurtured intellect defends superstition, a lamentable state in evidence today. Too little reason as a foundation of positive well being does little to advance happiness or improve men and women.
Needed: A Product to Treat Early life Brainwashing
Perhaps there is something to be said for targeted, pinpoint brainwashing. If the local supermarket had over-the-counter brain-cleansing products along with polish removal, mouthwash, rinses and the like, I would purchase and apply it, carefully of course, so as not to suffer collateral memory loss, to the portion of my brain that holds to this day the remnants of jejune Catholic elementary school prayers, such as the voodoo-like Christian example quoted above.
Ingersoll’s words on that plaque deserve our attention:
No one should throw away his reason, the fruit of all experience. It is the intellectual capital of the soul, the only light, the only guide, and without it, the brain becomes the palace of an idiot king, attended by a retinue of thieves and hypocrites.
Well, I suppose re-education is the best method of brainwashing we can hope for, informed by the embrace of reason for a better, secular future for each person and the nation. Reason does not get a lot of support but is it our best hope – and that’s why the positive, life – enriching form of wellness with reason as the foundation dimension of skill-building (along with exuberance, athleticism and liberty) is so invaluable for quality of life promoters to advance at every turn.
Support for reason (versus superstition) is tenuous, at best, as Ingersoll suggested:
I admit that reason is a small and feeble flame, a flickering torch by stumblers carried in the star-less night, — blown and flared by passion’s storm – and yet, it is the only light. Extinguish that, and nought remains.
All good wishes.
Donald B. Ardell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; his latest books are 1) Wellness Orgasms: The Fun Way to Live Well and Die Healthy and 2) REAL Wellness – it can be examined and ordered here.