Friday, August 9, 2013

Searching for God Knows What, chapters 6-10

Miller spends much of chapter 5 talking about the Fall and lifeboat theory. Basically, he proposes that a relationship with God is necessary to give human beings a sense of worth, and that ever since the Fall, we've all been scrambling like crazy to prove our value. Because we no longer have that perfect connection, that innate sense of self-worth and of being loved, we feel the need to somehow demonstrate that we are worth loving, worth the air we breathe and the space we occupy. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to prove that we are worth more than someone else.

This is where nearly all human culture comes from. We explore new technologies so we can be smarter than someone else. We buy cosmetics so we can be prettier than someone else. Every year, teams of athletes compete fiercely to find out who is the best, and whole cities stand or fall on the outcome of the (Superbowl, world cup, semifinals, take your pick). And then the next year, everyone gets traded and shuffled around to new teams, and they do it all over again. What's the point?

"Here is how it feels: From the first day of school the conversation is the same as it would be if hundreds of students were told to stand in line ranging from best to worst, coolest to most uncool, each presenting their case for value, each presenting an offense to the cases of others, alliances being formed as caricatures of reality television (or vice versa)." (pg. 97)

He talks about the old "lifeboat" thought exercise, where there are a bunch of people in a lifeboat but they don't have enough supplies for everyone to survive until they reach shore/are rescued. There's an 87 year old man who was a Boy Scout and Marine, there's a nursing mother and her baby, there's a Black female lawyer, there's a rabbi, there's a kid in a wheelchair, etc. And then you debate about who should die for everyone else. No one ever hesitates in ranking people, no one ever says that all are equal and no one should sacrifice him or herself involuntarily. We assume that our value can be quantified.

"If there are ten people in the lifeboat, and three of them are Jews, adhering to the philosophy that Jews are inferior is enticing. If Jews or Americans or Democrats or whoever are inferior, then I am automatically ahead of 30 percent of the population in the lifeboat. Racism and socioeconomic prejudice would be the very first thing [sic] to start happening in a culture absent God. Not simply because people are "bad" but because a certain system of internal mechanisms would immediately ensue." (pg. 117)

There's an interesting anecdote on pages 157-159. I won't repeat it here because it's long, but read it.

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