Matthew T Grant


Tall Guy. Glasses.

How the World Works

We all carry around with us an idea of how the world works. This idea isn’t necessarily super detailed, but it does lay down the general guidelines for what we deem possible in the world and what we deem impossible.

For example: I am an atheist. This means that I don’t believe it’s possible that a supernatural being may, from time to time, intervene in human affairs (in response to a petitioning with prayer, for example), if for no other reason than that I believe such beings to be, all interventions aside, impossible.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that no matter how sophisticated one’s notion of the world’s machinations, there is always something that one just doesn’t yet get or know about the world.

If we ever experience something like a revelation, then, what gives such revelation its jarring force is the way in which it reveals a fundamental and unsuspected truth about how the world works: that the imagined impossible is, astonishingly, possible.

And sometimes the realization of this possibility is nothing short of apocalyptic.

On Religious Tolerance

When we are asked to “tolerate” the religious views of others, the assumption is that we harbor no religious views of our own or, at least, that such views do not lay claim to absolute truth.

In other words, calls for religious tolerance (and this includes the “freedom of religion” ensconced in our Bill of Rights) tacitly imply that all religions are equally valid, which is just another way of saying that no one religion is the true religion.

Of course, at least in the case of Christianity and Islam, such an insistence is baked into the religion itself. For this reason, asking Christians to be “tolerant” of (in the sense of neither criticizing, mocking nor lampooning) Islamic doctrine, or vice versa, is tantamount to asking them to disown (or at least relativize) their own creed.

That many believers are in fact willing to do so, thus accepting the relatively modern perspective that one’s religious beliefs are a matter of personal preference, rather than universal obligation, testifies to humanity’s willingness to favor social bonds over dogmatic, doctrinal fidelity. It also suggests that many people understand their religious identity to be as much an accident of birth as their native language or particular ethnicity.

That others are unwilling to do so and, in fact, ready to persecute and attack adherents of rival faiths or be martyred in the name of their own, strikes us as both hopelessly antiquated and, if seen as an act of principled, unwavering devotion, oddly heroic.

Which does not mean, however, that such “heroism” need be tolerated.

Is Science Satanic?

“Oh, who can wonder at that old reproach against science, that it is atheistical?” – from The Confidence-Man, by Herman Melville

126871387_bd10728463_mFor a long time I’ve harbored the notion that enmity towards the Devil stems not from the bad things of which he is capable or to which he drives men. Rather, it arises from the fact that the Devil, in his infinite relativism, questions the hard-and-fast division of acts and events into “good” and “evil.” Thus, the truly satanic perspective says, “There is a reality prior to your ethics, even your perception, and it knows neither good, nor evil; good and evil are post-hoc projections onto this neutral stuff.”

Of course, this is precisely the view of science which suggests that all matter is built up from fluctuating, quantum states of energy (or something like that – look, I’m not a scientist.) Science does not see any particular moral value inscribed in the hierarchy of electron shells, Avogadro’s number, or Planck’s constant. Ethical norms are epiphenomenal.

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