I must have sent variations on this letter to the New Scientist five times or more since my book, Sun of gOd, was published. Sure, they might tag me as a nutcase but I saw that as a risk worth taking, and being tagged nutcase has never stopped me in the past.
An article in New Scientist on atheism as a faith, related only to the Abrahamic alternatives, moved me to write them once again. Whoop whoop – after major cutting, they published my letter last week as the Editor’s Pick! I earnestly hope it will plant the seed of stellar consciousness in a few scientific minds.
My long-winded original is underneath. New Scientist did a brilliant edit, but I like to think the redacted content is what finally cut through their built-in rejection reflex. Perseverance furthers.
The Original – Dear New Scientist,
Someone from another planet reading “Faith of the Faithless” (15th April) might easily think the three Abrahamic religions and atheism are the only belief systems on the planet. Buddhists and Taoists do well without any creator god while Hindus can attribute spirit to just about anything. Zoroastrians revere light and its emissaries, Sun and fire. Shinto worship a female Sun goddess.
The most worshiped deity in human history, and one that even atheists can recognise is entirely omitted from the article. Our local star actually IS the light of our life and it is NOT a delusion. The more that cosmologists study Sun and other stars the harder it becomes to explain their behaviour as random balls of plasma entirely directed by the laws of physics. How to explain Sun’s corona or the “magnetic portal” connecting it to Earth, discovered by NASA in 2008? How to explain the movement of stars in a galaxy?
As Carl Sagan put it, “Our ancestors worshiped the Sun, and they were far from foolish…. If we must worship a power greater than ourselves, does it not make sense to revere the Sun and stars?” It was not science that burned all thought of a living Sun from our culture but the Church, and scientists maintain this religious taboo out of habit, not the scientific method. When science lets go of that old Christian imprint perhaps we will, mercifully, be able to consign dark matter to the same dustbin as the luminiferous ether.
Whilst beheadings are undoubtedly savage and brutal the fundamental problem is that they are terribly old-fashioned. Today, civilized nations blow people up, obliterate them with drones, riddle them with bullets, and execute them with chemicals cocktails. Many of those killed with hi-tech weapons die slowly in excruciating pain, their bodies ripped to pieces. But this is somehow okay since it is the modern way and done from a distance – however savage, brutal and indiscriminate the results. Most of the weaponry involved comes from the guardians of peace and democracy in America and Britain, with average cost-per-kill running into tens of thousands of dollars per “insurgent,” millions by some estimates.
The drums of full-spectrum war are beating once again, stimulated by outrage and hysteria over this single video. Bearing in mind the fallacy of WMD it would behove us to see this war-worthy video but no, we are banned from doing so, with the mere viewing of it in the UK declared a potential terrorist act. Let me tell you right now that no execution takes place in the video, which is 4 minutes 32 seconds of propaganda. The other eight seconds of the video show a small knife being pressed against James Foley’s throat without drawing blood or cries of pain, then shifts to a prone headless corpse (or mannequin) with a severed head sitting on its chest looking almost as realistic as those in movies and TV series. James Foley may well have been killed, but it certainly did not happen on camera. Many who have viewed the video comment on the absence of copious blood, the green screen look, the omission of a neck on decapitated “body” or head, and even differences between the face of this James Foley and the one we see in previous television interviews.
If journalist Foley is reading from an Islamic State script, then he does so without notes and appears to have spent considerable time rehearsing IS’s message to the world. He doesn’t falter or show any sign of fear and included messages to his family and his brother, a serving air force pilot. It is a crude but effective piece of propaganda and with the “execution” edited out is far less gruesome than the killing of innocents we see in other Islamic State actions, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, the Syrian civil war, and even the cold-blooded shootings by US police in Ferguson and elsewhere. It may sway the minds of young Muslim men looking for purpose and excitement, with its twisted message being no more distorted than some of the blatant mendacity fed to us by our media – mendacity that led to phony wars killing over a hundred thousand innocents. Though difficult for a Westerner to find online (check LiveLeak), it must be easy for those searching in the Arab-language web.
The banned video is, of course, the propaganda of an evil and despicable group who have beheaded thousands of men and children, putting their heads on sticks, and abducting their wives and mothers. I despair at the appearance of this gruesome new player on the world stage; a player armed with the latest US hardware and rich with billions of US dollars seized in Iraq. For those who make the arms, of course, this is all good for business, as they effectively supply both sides in the conflicts of the Middle East. They will be rubbing their hands all the way to their bankster backers.
Responding to the beheading, Obama tells us emphatically that “no faith teaches people to massacre innocents.” Correction Mr President, your faith does. Let us briefly dip into the Bible, believed by fundamentalists of Judaism and Christianity to contain the indisputable word of God. Muslims credit this too, except for those bits that differ from the Quran. Perhaps this selection from Deuteronomy will help us better understand both the mentality of the Islamic State and that of fundamentalist Christians in the US who see themselves as players in catastrophic events visited upon the Holy Land and predicted by the Bible.
Deuteronomy 13:12-16 New International Version (NIV) If you hear it said about one of the towns the Lord your God is giving you to live in that troublemakers have arisen among you and have led the people of their town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods” (gods you have not known), then you must inquire, probe and investigate it thoroughly. And if it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done among you, you must certainly put to the sword all who live in that town. You must destroy it completely, both its people and its livestock. You are to gather all the plunder of the town into the middle of the public square and completely burn the town and all its plunder as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. That town is to remain a ruin forever, never to be rebuilt.
If we seriously want to neutralize the threat posed by Islamic State then let us join with the well-organized forces of President Assad of Syria, a secular leader. It was Western efforts to bring down his government through aiding its Islamist enemies that gave new wings to Islamic State, originally born out of the turmoil in Iraq. Their brutal slaughter of innocents appalls me, whatever means they employ, as does the slaughter of innocents in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria, and wherever factions fight for ownership of the right to take money from a nation’s people and tell them how to think and what to do. It’s the same old stuff that has been playing out on the world’s stage since Sargon of Akkad started the ball rolling around 2250 BCE.
Is there anything we really cannot manage without a top-down coercive state running it, other than protecting us from other varieties of themselves? Many are rightly concerned about corporations running the state, though one could argue that it might be preferable to being ruled by fundamentalist Muslims of the Islamic State, or a military junta, or the sort of Christians who burn heretics. But as long as we accept the state as some kind of a “necessary evil” then somebody will always be calling the shots and we will always be arguing over whether we prefer cat shit to dog shit to chicken shit.
There is another way and we already self-govern the majority of our social structures. Civilization preceded, by a few thousand years, the top-down state that Sargon initiated, and has often survived its collapse. Humans are good at self-governing when they are well-connected, doing it with feedback loops instead of threats and sticks.
Last week’s New Scientist featured a cover story on the Multiverse, a curious concept born out of the head-scratching improbability of this Universe accidentally having the exact and precise parameters needed for matter and stars to exist, let alone things like us.
This is my Letter to the Editor:
Perhaps in centuries to come we will look back on physicists’ estimates of a multiverse (26 November, p.42) containing 10^500 universes in the same light as we see early theologians arguing over angel counts per pinhead. It was those theologians who set the template for the physicists’ dilemma by sweeping away a common assumption of the ancient world and its scientists – the assumption that other aspects of this world also experienced consciousness. It was the Church that decreed only humans enjoyed this special experience, together with God, angels and the devil, replacing the notion of a living world with that of a dead unconscious place created by some imaginary external Character.
Science still clings to this unfounded religious restriction on consciousness, though it may have removed the devil, angels and God from the club. In your following article on consciousness and anaesthesia (p.49) you state that “Consciousness has long been one of the great mysteries of life, the universe and everything…yet we cannot agree on how to define it.” Most would agree, though, that it is not a physical thing but an invisible energetic phenomenon. How can we know enough about consciousness to be sure that only we are equipped to experience it?
If consciousness is energetic, then our Universe’s most common occupant has all the qualifications for being able to experience it. This appeared obvious to all pre-monotheistic cultures and their scientists, though they knew nothing of the complex activities powering the Sun and other stars. They knew nothing of stars’ invisible energetic coronas, or of the enormous electro-magnetic fields linking stars and even galaxies together.
Perhaps if we embraced what was once a universal concept, instead of remaining in thrall to religious taboo, we would be equipped to arrive at a far simpler solution to this special Universe’s fine tuning.
Watched a fascinating programme recently on the Oracle at Delphi – Ancient Worlds presented by Dr Michael Scott. The Oracle pulled in visitors from across the Mediterranean world for over a thousand years, finally falling silent with the spread of the new Roman Church during the fourth century.
Considering the lack of trains, planes and automobiles in the ancient world, we must be impressed by the pull of Delphi for ten centuries. Go that far back in British history and William the Conqueror was still known as William the Bastard. Can you think of any facility in Britain that has enjoyed uninterrupted public support for such a period? I can’t.I have one underlying complaint to make about Michael Scott’s presentation, however. Though he has clearly studied the amazing history of the Oracle in great depth, never at any point during this programme does he even consider that perhaps, just perhaps, there was something genuinely oracular about the place. Could a thousand years of patronage by the good and the great indicate that valid advice and prediction was dispensed at Delhpi?
Today we just dismiss all this as stuff and nonsense and superstition…we know so much better now. Or so the Church and science tell us. Are we being arrogant in our dismissal? The ancients, after all, were not a bunch of stupid dunces living in caves. They had great civilizations, even twin water conduits, with one for drinking and one for washing (no bottled water for the Romans or Aztecs). They built pyramids and temples; developed mathematics and astronomy; fostered agriculture and commerce. Perhaps, just perhaps, they knew some things that we do not.
In the course of writing my last book, Sun of gOd, it became apparent to me that the so-called “ancients” were in many areas advanced to us today. Whilst they lacked our level of technology, they understood more of the vibrational world of spirit, understanding the nature of metals and other fields of knowledge that have simply disappeared from our cultural heritage.
The pyramid-builders did not only have the ability to build monumental precision devices and align them to the heavens, they also recognized that the stones, the stars, and themselves were all part of the same interconnected system. It was a different way of looking at things and a different way of connecting with them.