The Theology of Calculus

Logic: a science that follows clearly defined rules and tests for critical thinking (Sorta like mathematics, which you’ll know if you’ve ever taken a course in symbolic logic).

Reason: the application of logic to understand and judge something.

There are those within the atheist community who argue that the absence of theism, replaced by near-universal atheism, will be the antibiotic to our raging cultural and political sepsis. Some are quick to note that their atheism isn’t prescribed as a cure-all, rather a cure to what most acutely and severely ails us. It might clear our bloodstream of the ravenous infection, but I won’t cure the fungus on our toenails. Blood poisoning now, tinea unguium later. So far, so good.

I ask one of these atheists, in the absence of God, what are we left with – mere reason? To this he says yes – and that most of the world’s ills will be solved by a proper application of logic and its offspring, reason, through application of science and empiricism. Or, if not completely solved, progress toward solving our problems will come most efficiently in the absence of God. We need to make room for more reason in the candy jar by expelling that silly old religion, he argues. Get rid of that shitty old ribbon candy that only grandma likes for some M&M’s and Hershey’s Kisses.

Then I ask, “But what about bad logic or reason.”

He scoffs and pretends to not understand, “I don’t know what you mean by bad logic or reason.”

I’ll admit, this mild belittlement sorta hurt. It was meant to suggest that maybe I’m stupid. And, I’ll admit too, that even this far, even though I studied philosophy, I had to look up the difference between logic and reason in hope of keeping them straight, which I’ve already resigned myself to the indignity of their misapplication as I move forward.

So he scoffs at my use of bad reason even though I realize there is a band called Bad Religion and I was never all that confused by what they likely meant by that. So why’s this smart guy resisting and so dismissive of the idea of its antithesis?

So I say, for example, that some men hate women or blacks and they’ve gotten there, not by divine inspiration or intervention, but mostly by their own experiences and from drawing silly conclusions from those experiences (i.e. bad reasoning). These are what they’ve concluded based on reason and emotion, not theistic influence. So I say it seems that many problems are a matter, not so much of religion, but of the struggle between logic and emotion and how easily the latter fucks up our reason and consequential understanding of things. So don’t we need to focus on eradicating emotion as well? And, if so, what priority do we give to the elimination of emotion relative to the elimination of religion?

Somebody once interpreted the indifference of an elderly couple passing the storyteller on a walk in the park as the unease triggered in others by a person who’s “going alone”. In his story, he is strong and independent and solitary, all noble characteristics. Yet, when others who don’t possess these are confronted with them, they turn away. This was his reasoning behind the event, which wasn’t contradicted in the comments that accompanied his story. It’s wasn’t that the couple could have been engaged in thoughts other than him. And any rational person would understand there was no reason for them to give a shit about him and that it’s okay – for he is more more special than all the people he ignores day to day. His is bad, probably horrendous, reasoning and it’s everywhere – even supported and reaffirmed within misanthropic and paranoid subcultures. But this is how reality gets fucked up through socially displacement, isolation and loneliness – not divine influence.

And the flat earth fanatics and the vaccine skeptics, where’s it all come from? God or just plain old faulty information and stupid people? We don’t always seek reason, you see. What we often seek is comfort, for example, by believing we are members of cabals privy to secret or privileged knowledge that makes us a little more special/woke than everybody else. No, we are not seekers of absolute wisdom through reason. We adjust our reason for our own comfort, even in the absence of God.

My interlocutor goes silent. He thinks I’m being a shitty troll but I’m not. It seems REASONABLE that we must consider all this. We must consider to what degree we are to expel emotion along with religion. But I gotta say there are things about emotion I like: I like the music it’s produced and I like the way it makes me feel toward those I love. And I sense that the anger I feel toward those who commit evil is something I oughta feel. So yes, I am apologist for the emotions and much of what might come with it, perhaps even religion.

And, though I’m no cheerleader for any system of theology, I gotta say I’m not huge fan of “absolute reason for the masses” either.

There seems to be some naive belief that reason – devoid of the influences of fantasy or mysticism – is going to be the miraculous antidote to our ills. But all you’ve got to do is look around and see how shitty we are applying the rules of logic and its consequent reason to give any sane/reasonable person cause for alarm.

The guy who aces calculus might figure anybody, with enough education and tutoring, can ace calculus too. All they need is a lot of time and to put in a lot of effort. But not everybody’s got that time and most people’s efforts are directed, by necessity, elsewhere. Plus, some of us aren’t all that smart.

It frustrates this mathematician that the rest of the world doesn’t operate at his level of understanding and application of mathematics. It upsets him that all of us don’t see and interpret things the way he can and does, with his level of mathematical sophistication. He sees that any fool can understand 1 + 1 = 2. And many folks can even grasp some things about geometry ( Area = pi x radius squared ) and maybe even physics (a = Δv ÷ Δt). But most of us, with our jobs and loves and hates and responsibilities and lusts and laziness are still never gonna figure out:

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So when it comes this kinda shit, the really complicated shit…..like heavy calculus or figuring out if homosexuality is okay or not or the ways in which races are superior or not or whether socialism is bullshit or not…..we gotta rely on somebody else. We gotta rely on the experts. Not even the engineers who just apply it, we gotta rely on those who create it. We turn to the professional mathematicians and scientists to tell us if the sun’s 92.96 or 92.97 million miles away from earth. The difference between the two suggest a flaw in somebody’s logic or the application of it. But how the fuck am I supposed to know who’s right? I I can’t. I gotta listen to somebody else. Not only that, but it helps save face to spout some of the expert’s stuff about inflexion points and feel good about it rather than admit I’m too stupid to get beyond simple geometry myself.

We are stupid and irrational by nature. Sorry, Mr. Mathematician. You guys, the professionals at understanding us and world, even have a whole discipline dedicate to understanding our irrationality – Behavioral Economics. But you, Mathematician, in demanding our understanding of your systems, are just the preacher who wants us to overcomes our petty vices with mathematical formulas, replacing God’s Will, and a supposedly rigorous scientific method which loosely applies to the social sciences and psychology – two disciples where, in trying to explain us, the method would seem most crucial.

The holy man might preach from James, “Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.”

The Holy Man’s sermon displaced, The Mathematician sermonizes the integrating root tanx integrating square root of tanx instead. The discipline not to masturbate gets replaced by the discipline to learn the calculations behind thermal dynamics. To be understood, they must be studied like scripture. Any man who doesn’t is just weak willed. He is too lazy to put in the necessary effort to find truth.

“Without this basic and fundamental understanding, you are lost in the world of complicated mathematics and science,” the new one will preach. And that might be true.

“So you must study every night. You must understand the integrating root tanx Integrating square root of tanx to ever comprehend the vastness and full complexity of mathematics and science and all that it explains, including yourself.”

The Mathematician brushes back his unruly hair. He looks a bit disheveled for a professional but we accept his eccentricities, for some reason. We accept this in the geniuses that guide our lives, though we wouldn’t accept it in a professional financial advisory or the guy preparing our food.

Nonetheless, we attend his sermons on mathematics and physics and astronomy and sociology and political science in strip mall churches where the Christians one rallied. Where parishioners once studied Matthew, the Mathematician now instructs them, “Let’s turn to chapter 11.5, Linear Algebra in Three Dimensions.”

But many of us aren’t that smart. And even if we were, we struggle with things other than mathematics that distract us from the gospel. Day-to-day things, immediate crises that keep us on the brink of sanity. Most have neither the time nor temperament nor intelligence for the mathematician’s fancies

So we sit with our books open at Chapter 11.5 on Linear Algebra while The Mathematician preaches and our minds wander to our problems, both trivial and grand. Grand problems like the meaning of life that, somehow, linear algebra in three dimensions doesn’t help explain neither in-and-of-itself nor in combination with last year’s sermons through Quantum Gravity. And they can’t explain, cause I’m too fucking dumb and otherwise distracted to understand. But it’s all we got left cause The Mathematician says anything else is rubbish.

In the absence of our understanding of Quantum Gravity and in the absence of religion, we rely on The Mathematicians to give us his understanding. Yet, even them, the geniuses, aren’t genius enough to comprehend it all. They have their sub-specialties.

Mathematics can be broadly divided into pure and applied mathematics – not unlike, within Christianity alone, divisions such as Protestant and Catholic. And within the subdivisions, more divisions/areas of expertise: calculus and analysis, number theory, logic, combinations, dynamical systems and differential equations, game theory, computation, probability and statistics and on and on and……..

All that stuff with their mutual foundations in 1 = 1 = 2, not unlike Christianity and Judaism and Islam, all based on God, which subdivide into Catholicism and Lutheranism and Baptism and Reconstructionist Judaism and Karaite Judaism and Sunni and Shia and Kharijite and on and on and……

Or democracy or oligarchy or autocracy or theocracy or anarchy…….

And in order to work, all this math and science stuff’s gotta resonate with the welder and the secretary. And if it doesn’t, we can’t really abandon it, for it’s all we got when we abandon God. All we can do is turn to the geniuses for their answers.

Thankfully, we can, with faith, rely on their processes and conclusions. But there are several mathematical experts who come to different conclusion. Ugh oh. As a dumb plebeian stuck at trigonometry, who do I trust? Which mathematician do I put my faith in? Whose calculations on thermodynamics and mechanical acceleration do I trust if their conclusions vary, even slightly? And why do I choose one over another? Won’t it just come down to who owns the most capital within a subdivision of their narrative?

And when one of our mathematicians goes a bit loony – through ordinary madness, megalomania, illness, etc – to radically conclude the sun is the same distance from the earth as previously concluded but by a radically different method or mode of calculation – whose method or mode am I to believe? For fuck’s sake, I won’t know. But it’s pretty fucking important cause it’s no longer just sending a man to the moon. In the absence of God, it’s everything.

But I’m too busy and stupid and otherwise anxiety ridden to even care. Yet, if somebody tells me this new formula has implications for other things that I want to believe – based on inductive or deductive reasoning or mathematics – that’s what I’m most likely to accept. That’s the version of reasoning I want and that’s the version I’ll support. And if enough of us want to believe it – regardless of its truth – then we own the narrative. We get to shape a more comforting reality with it. That’s the easiest road for a dumb and weary and wicked wretch such as myself to take.

And in employing reason in the absence of God to conclude that homosexuality is okay or destructive according to another expert’s social science, who do I trust? Who’s logic do I trust? The one that gives me the answers I want based on his science.

Presently, if I abandon those silly old theists, I get a wily cast of characters who are/were eager to replace the mystics as my new spiritual….oops…..my new guides though a reasoned/non-theistic interpretation of the world.

Noted atheists (l to r): Aaron Ra, Sam Harris, Ayn Rand, Joseph Stalin

The folks above are prime examples of what you might expect to get with atheism. Who’d you pick? None? How about the arguably egomaniacal but unarguably boozehound-ish Hitchens? Even then, which version of a guy like Hitchens – the liberal/atheist/socialist or the (arguable) Islamophobe?

If you choose none of these desperadoes, then who would you pick to lead us? Or is a cult of personality even necessary for unity? Is 1 = 1 = 2 a simple and complete enough unifier in and of itself that it will lead us all to the same enlightenment? Or are we gonna be left alone to our own devices….our own reason….and somehow, magically, all come to some clear-headed understanding…..individually….of how the world works?

Left to his own devices of meditation, the peasant will come to a secular understanding of the world that the silly Monks and Priests and Imams misunderstood through their theologies? Unlikely.

What we’ll need are Priests of Reason cause I’m sure as shit too stupid and lazy to decide if/when I oughta switch my mortgage from 30 to 15 years, let alone figure out the meaning of existence on my own. So I’ll need you, Aaron or Sam or Ayn or Stalin. I’ll need somebody to explain to me an atheists spirituality (or whatever we’re going to call our meaning and purpose) cause I can’t even figure out what kinda mortgage is gonna give me the greatest saving while not over extending myself in the short term.

In the absence of our Prophets of Atheism to explain how things oughta be, we’ve been left with some of the bullshit below, which sure as shit don’t seem that much better the Stalin or Rand. So maybe we ought consider if a balance of something in between (i.e. a little bit of both) is worthy of consideration. Cause in all of their bullshit, both theist and not, there’s some truths, whether metaphorical or empirical, we might want to keep around.

I don’t make examples of the atheist desperadoes to make fun of your atheism. I present them only to suggest that what you get with them might not be all that great compared to what you get without them. But it’s interesting to note how, for example, a guy like Sam Harris’ atheistic reason leads him to some politically unappetizing conclusion (for some) and, consequently, how quickly he’s forsaken (throw overboard) by some atheists. See, if the conclusion of his secular reason doesn’t feel right, then it must be tainted. So we go looking for another atheist who applies reason that feels better.

I am a plebeian. I will accept what is easiest to understand or what makes me feel best. If castigating homosexuals or the black man makes me feel better, that is the explanation – based on REASON via something like the social sciences completely devoid of God – that is the one I will choose. And I’ll do the same when it comes to man’s superiority to woman and I will seek out the preacher of these reasoned conclusions to tell me I’m right.

Another genius will shake his head and say, “No. This is not correct. You are accepting the wrong formulation.” But I don’t know advanced calculus or the principles of sociology, in part because I’m too dumb and, even if I could get past trigonometry, I ain’t got the time since I got bills and kids to tend to and a mother who’s deathly ill and needs attention. And his explanation of things – based on the logic of mathematics or the scientific method – even if I’ll listen, won’t give me the comfort of the other mathematician, who tells me I am superior. So I won’t listen.

We can be kind and callous. We can be stupid and smart. We can be rational and irrationally emotional. We look, perhaps by necessity, for simple answers to complex things. Answers to explain ourselves in either black or white while we are neither black nor white. We are always something in between.

Religion isn’t necessarily better than irreligion. I am suggesting that people are influenced by emotion as much if not more than reason, both individually and collectively. Reason isn’t always a better appeal than an appeal to emotion. Reason can easily be used as a tool for exploiting emotion. In the absence of religion to exploit our emotions and irrationality and ignorance, reason replaces it as that manipulator. Who uses it most effectively? The best practitioner of pure logic or the one who twists logic to best manipulate our emotions? And for what purpose will he do it? The the good of all mankind or to serve the selfish interest of himself or a select group?

You may say that in the absence of religion, there will be less for men to set themselves apart from one another. I suggest that, in the absence of religion, we will find new ways. For, whether it’s difference between our religions or skin or gender or nations – or the difference between having religion or not – we always find ways of setting ourselves against another.

If all we leave ourselves with is reason, then we sure as shit better use it to get collectively a whole helluva lot smarter. We all better get ourselves up there around the 140 IQ mark. But how are we gonna do that when most of us gotta produce stuff that doesn’t require that much intelligence? Where’s the incentive? And what are we gonna do with all that left-over intelligence. Write more poetry and produce scientific breakthroughs or create more efficient machines that give us more time to jack off? Then what? They say, idles hands are the devil’s workshop. Well, thankfully, in the Age of Pure Reason, the devil doesn’t exist. Yet, if this tsunami of IQ increase don’t happen, we’re gonna have a lot of the same old dumb people looking for new answers, which seems like the perfect opportunity for a Charlatan of Reason to slip on in.

The megalomaniac says, “Let’s wipe out the rest of the world.” A cleric might have said, “No.”

“But we need to prosper and it’s a dog eat dog world,” the megalomaniac says. And those conditioned to reason and who are oppressed and anxiety ridden agree and so it comes to pass. We are wiped out by something other than our theology. We are wiped out by our secular fear and stupidity, which, through the silliness of mysticism, our religion had tried to constrain, however imperfectly. This is not probable, but as least possible. As possible as our religions keeping us from becoming even worse monsters and fools than we already area.

Religion is no perfect solution. As evidence has shown we are still largely fools under its influence. But we are also fools under the influence of reason, leading us hate based on slander and bad personal experiences, sometimes prompted by religion and sometime not. As the fool is one to insist on perfection, it’s the wiser man who considers which is the lesser of two evils and, in this case, it is hard to judge. I am too dumb for that and I don’t know if it’s more theism or atheism I need to make that call. But I see that, even in the presence of both religion and reason, we kill that which doesn’t need to be killed for convenience, with the theists and atheists being mostly on board. And I’m down with a tasty steak too so I’m not absolved of the bullshit and consequential guilt either. But it goes to show how an example of shitty morality and conscience is so easily manipulated and shaped by convenience, with God being mostly absolve on this one.

We live in pretty good health, but imperfect health (physically, socially, politically). We live in pretty good health between extremes: Emotion and reason. Indulgence and restraint. Selfishness and generosity. Freedom and law. Liberalism and conservatism.

Maybe it’s time to add another one to the list. For a canvas painted in either all black or all white gives us no image. The freedom to explore between gives us the freedom to paint most anything. But it takes more to produce an image out of black and white. More time and effort and energy and skill than just slapping one or the other on an empty canvas.

And fuck you that it takes more effort or skill to produce your black paint or your white paint. Or that there’s something inherently better in one than another. You’re both laboring over the same old bland bullshit on opposite sides of same bullshit coin. So fuck you and whatever precious principles keep you from seeing the fools that you are!!!!

There’s some bullshit about black and white being and presence or absence of all color. When you make room for all the shit that’s in between, some pretty cool shit gets made.

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