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Transcend This

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I'm never short of people eager to give me advice, and of course I'm always very grateful for it - when I can understand it, that is. Recently somebody who identified themselves as a Christian told me that I need a more nuanced appreciation of the transcendent. I have no idea what that means, and I'm pretty sure the person who said it has no idea what it means, either. I don't think anybody knows what that means. Somebody should ask Stephen Fry if he knows, and I bet he doesn't. Of course I'm familiar with the idea that religion transcends logic and reason. That's its great strength, after all. It's how senior Christian clergymen can get away with explaining themselves without actually explaining themselves. Religion transcends common sense, as we know. Indeed, it's fair to say that religion transcends reality. That's a big job that calls for lots of ethereal words that can't be properly defined, and king among these is the word "transcendent". It's a wonderful boon for the religious flim flam artist, a verbal magic wand that sprinkles fairy dust over religious absurdities and renders them miraculously impregnable to critical examination. As slippery as a greased eel in an oil slick, it's vague enough to give the impression that there's a deeper insight to be had, but crucially not specific enough to pinpoint what that insight actually is. So it's really a word that means nothing at all, while sounding as if it means everything; mysterious, vaguely authoritative, somehow mystical (whatever that's supposed to mean) and therefore beyond our understanding. And, as a rule, we're impressed by things beyond our understanding, especially if they sound mysterious and mystical. "Hmm, the transcendent, eh? That's beyond my understanding... "Call in the experts, I say..." And predictably there's never any shortage of experts on something as elusive and, well, transcendent as the transcendent. But what I don't understand is how invoking the transcendent not only protects nonsense from examination (that's marvellous enough in itself) but it also imbues a person with moral authority, as if (there's only one word for it) by magic. And this means that invoking the transcendent automatically makes you a better person morally, and, of course, by extension, rejecting the transcendent leads to an inevitable decline in public morality, and therefore secularism is the work of the devil. I've never really understood that connection, have you? Some people like to claim that invoking the transcendent can lead to something called intuitive knowledge, as if expecting us to say "Oh, I see, this is not just make-believe and wishful thinking, as we thought. It's actually a form of knowledge. Well, clearly that changes everything. And what's that you say, it's not just boring old empirical knowledge, either, but exotic intuitive knowledge. How impressive, how inscrutable, how gloriously transcendent. But surely if anything can be called intuitive knowledge, it's a sense of morality, the sense of right and wrong we're all born with. We know when we've done the right thing and the wrong thing because we can feel it intuitively. It's called a conscience, and it's one of the many magnificent senses we've evolved with which to navigate and make sense of this infinitely rich and subtle world we're lucky enough to live in. Religion doesn't give you a conscience, despite what it claims. It takes the place of your conscience by overriding it. Religion transcends your conscience. This is why religious people can often do inhuman things, things they wouldn't dream of doing if not for their religion. Their conscience has been quarantined and supplanted with dogma, and dogma has no conscience, because it isn't human. As I see it, the purpose of organised religion, like all political vested interests, is to maintain its own power at any cost, and in our case that means making us feel smaller than we are, not bigger. The men who run religion know the human spirit can't be contained by their miserable dogma. They know it's like trying to force a mattress into a bucket. And they know their religion isn't capable of understanding the things it claims to be expert in because it won't allow itself the tools. They're not in a position to deliver enlightenment to anyone because they don't possess it themselves, so they have to drag us down to their level to stop us from rumbling their racket. This is why it's vital for them that we don't feel at home on this earth, that we feel rootless and disconnected. They even use the word "earthly" as a pejorative term, when it's about as heavenly as it gets. They can't justify any of this logically, of course, so they hide behind smoke and mirror words like "transcendent" while carefully stoking our most primitive fears, because they need to point us in the wrong direction, away from the path to intuitive knowledge, to make us shrink ourselves in our own minds, and to feel helpless and in need of guidance, when the truth is we don't need guidance from them any more than we need a miner's helmet to see our way around in broad daylight, because it's right there for us any time we want it, and it always has been. For those who would call themselves Christians, "Do unto others as you would be done by, "and seek the kingdom of heaven within" is the message of Jesus. That's it. The rest of it, all of it, is just embroidery, and none of it is there for our benefit. There's nothing complicated, arcane or mysterious about the message of Jesus. It doesn't need to be interpreted, explained, or filtered by any self-appointed middle men, and there's nothing that any of us need to transcend except our own gullibility, and the criminally self-serving anti-humanity of organised religion.

Video Details

Duration: 5 minutes and 52 seconds
Country: United Kingdom
Language: English
Views: 2,913
Posted by: patcondell on May 15, 2013

A few words about the "transcendent".

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