The Religion of Self-Enlightenment is a novel about a man called Carrick Ares. He has a Near Death Experience, goes mad and writes a new religion.
Here is a sample from the book…
“The Language of Belief
There is something about the language of belief which reduces experience to broad concepts split into polar terms, alongside a manipulation of indefinable words. Human beings use words to communicate and understand their world. Such words, however, are problematic: a person can talk of physical things and be roughly comprehended by another, but only roughly. Should two people witness the same robbery, as police reports show, they will recount two differing events. Things get even more problematic when people try to discuss beliefs, for when speaking of inner concepts of life it is not concrete terms that that are used but abstract terms: truth, goodness, love, evil, sin, holiness and more. Words such as these are the very lexicon of belief. The definitions of them affect all global culture. However, these terms have no set definitions, and they are all paired with insulting opposites with no middle ground.
Humans have invented such concepts and words. This means that they can never be defined in purely concrete or fixed terms. However, when speaking of them people make no mention of their individual ability to define them; each person speaks of ‘goodness’ and ‘sin’ and all the other terms as if they have absolute definitions, but the very status of the words as abstract nouns or adjectives means that they can have no such categorical interpretation.
The potential for harm here is seen, to give one example, in the way in which many objectively destructive activities such as war are redefined through words so they appear at least to have a claim to be ‘good’. It is the broadness of such key words that makes this possible. This aspect of human language, with regard to belief, is constantly abused by people with a vested interest in keeping public opinion on their side, or in getting a large number of people to do as they suggest.
There are many kinds of truth, all wrapped up in a single word. The first and most basic definition of truth is that which agrees with fact. For example, if you are shown a blue pencil, and when asked what it is, you call it a blue pencil, this would be true. A second meaning of the word ‘truth’ is to do with people’s internal beliefs, however, which cannot be seen or verified as easily. If a devout Christian were asked if Jesus Christ is the Son of God, they would say that this is ‘true’. If an atheist were asked if there was no God, they would say that this was ‘true’, there is no God. This is belief not fact. There are therefore two key aspects to truth: that which is external and factual, and that which is internal and belief.
This sheds light on the central problem: that we have to use identical terms when speaking of external and internal truth, knowing full well that they are different things. This is what leaves us prone to arguing. Anyone who describes a ‘blue pencil’ as a ‘rhinoceros’ and claims this to be true has made a mistake because there are objective references for set terms like these. Beliefs, however, have no such objective terms, so if beliefs clash there is no objective framework to hold up against them. Arguments can then only be resolved by means other than logic.
This yoking of beliefs and fact within the one term, ‘truth’, has been disastrous for humanity. For one example, it was once ‘true’ that the world was flat, and not round. This was not ‘true’ in the sense of fact, but because it was believed to be fact at the time, it was considered to be ‘true’.
Such broad usage means that the term ‘truth’ can be associated with very strange ideas, smuggled in under the guise of accuracy, honesty, adherence to general opinion and so forth. Once things that are actually belief are held to be fact, they are considered inarguable. They are protected by being included in the same linguistic category as things which are totally inarguable.
Many worthwhile ideas which do not align with a particular theory held to be ‘truth’ are immediately summarily dismissed. This highlights the second characteristic of these abstract, yet central and vital terms, which is that they are poled with negative opposites in a black or white manner, and with an absence of descriptive terms for the grey in between.
If something is not ‘good’, it must be therefore ‘bad’. It cannot be ‘not good’ and still not be ‘bad’; the only word we have for this is the colloquial idea of it being ‘okay’ – which is only a dismissal of the matter at hand as something barely existing, something tolerable but nothing more. This too, then, leads to aggression, for if someone says Islam is ‘okay’ or tolerable it will offend a Muslim. When something has been classified as ‘right’, ‘true’ or ‘good’ by a culture, then everything that might be opposed to it is at risk of being considered ‘wrong’, ‘false’ or ‘bad’, even though it is possibly true.
The one, true, clear, identical message to all peoples of this planet has been subject to an excessively mischievous game of Chinese whispers.
The definition of words is secretly the most fought-over of all issues.
After something has been determined to be truth by whatever means – violence, persuasion or simply an idea’s originality – it is then that logic comes into play.
After the initial building blocks of truth have been laid in place, therefore, we then use formulae or syllogisms to elaborate deductions from them. We say:
I know this is so and this is so, therefore this is or is not so.
Aside from violence and brutality, there is also then a logical structure to help us decide on our truths, the A + B = C approach to defining our ideas. For example:
This colour is the colour blue + I see a car that is that colour = that car is blue.
If this person were to say that the car was red, he would then be lying, because he understands the criteria, and it can only be a blue car as a result of them. Yet this logic can become more complex:
I was born in Hungary and have lived here all my life + the natives of this land are called Hungarians = I am Hungarian
Yet if this person claimed to be Russian, however, it is not absolutely certain they are not telling the truth as well – perhaps their family was from Russia and they consider this their true place of origin, or they have changed nationality. This means that how they describe themselves is to some extent at their own discretion, and is also dependent on the attitudes of those listening, who may question this ‘truth’ if presented as different to their own ideas on nationhood and race and so on.
Given that the initial inputs for beliefs are often decided by force and not by intellectual worth, there is very little chance that we are getting this right with things we cannot touch or feel or physically prove.
The system of working through truth and beliefs is no longer working and so it is being abandoned, allowing things which do not make sense to exist simply because people believe they could do. For example, many years ago if a person used given A’s and B’s to discern C’s it may have been feasible that:
We are unable to know what happens outside of our tribe or village + people are born and die = perhaps people come from other places and go to these places after they die.
This was a logical assumption, and may feasibly have been true in a factual sense. Having formulated a ‘C’ then, they may try and establish where this place is and what it looks like, every single region in the world having a different theory about this realm.
There is a place people come from and go to + we have brown skin and look a certain way = this place is the home of the creators of us who also have brown skin and look like us but more amazing.
This would have made sense. But there are problems with the formula now because the results of this process, the ‘C’s which have been produced and expanded upon considerably by now, have been declared ‘absolute truth’ and not ‘our idea of truth at the moment’. They become entwined with actual fact in a linguistic sludge, and therefore, as time has gone on, these C’s have been challenged, but will not be changed easily.
Some, therefore, have come up with the following formula (which is very popular after centuries of battling to decide the C of all Cs, or the God of all Gods):
Many people believe in different deities + they then harm one another in their deities’ names = belief in deities is harmful, thus they should all be abandoned.
Once again, this ‘C’ then becomes a truth and is intermingled with ‘facts’ to become an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ of subsequent formulas, resulting in yet more ‘C’s.
God does not exist + there is evidence of life after death = the evidence of life after death is wrong.
This, once more, is a result of input claimed to be more than that: ideas declared facts and not beliefs.
If ten oranges are laid out and one is picked out as being very ‘good’, the others are not thrown away. But if ten ideas about life are laid out and one is said to be the ‘truth’, the others become ‘lies’ immediately, even if they are almost identical in shape and form. The person picking out that belief may want to say, ‘All of them are true and interesting and relevant, but I feel this to be the most true from the way I see things’. In the language of belief, there are no words for such opinions.
The only solution is to reconfigure our idea of what words mean and how we use them: more carefully, more clearly, and with less polarity. In the same way that words are at the root of many of our actions, it is ‘truth’ that is the one word at the centre of all of this. Every term regarding good and bad, right and wrong, and so forth, must spring from some notion of ‘truth’, and it is obvious that there is a link between the abstract nature of theological terminology and its claim to truth. That which is deemed ‘true’ has a concrete element because of its association with material facts, and this is the only aspect to any belief which is physical and has a claim to solidity. This is the seed from which beliefs tend to grow.
Primarily, then, there must be a separation of internal facts from external facts. Rather than deeming those who disagree with our ideas of truth to be ‘liars’, which incites passionate reactions, it might be better simply to insert the word ‘personal’ before any idea of truth.
There is thereby no need for contrasting views to become, merely by conflict with one person’s interpretation of truth, ‘lies’ or ’wrong’ – they are simply another truth as defined by another person. Two people can have different personal truths and no one has the right to call one lies and their own beliefs true.
Alongside the distinction between fact and personal truth, there is another prominent distinction: between personal truth and absolute truth. Here too, the mixture of beliefs and fact, and the vagueness of the word ‘truth’, means that people currently speak of their personal truth as if it were eternal truth: objective, all-knowing, inarguable. This is because no distinction is made between ‘personal truth’ and ‘absolute truth’.
There is a relationship between the two but they are clearly not the same thing. An image can be made to clarify the differences: there are infinite roads of personal truth, all leading to absolute truth. Such a way of thinking of the relationship between personal and absolute truth, after separating them out, instantly removes the conflict between the terms. We are all on our individual road, and so why fight amongst ourselves about which path to take?”
Buy it now on Amazon, if you want to: http://t.co/2GEpk5pCCX