Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Why prooftexting?

Because life is really complicated, the world is big and scary, and we no longer have any tradition of "passing down wisdom" from generation to generation, or much of any common metaphysical understanding of life.

And, in particular (and even more important):  Protestants have no Magisterium (which is a collection of "passed-down wisdom" of religious and philosophical claims about meaning and morality).

Proof-texting is the utterly predictable outcome of overthrowing the church's collection of teachings and striking out on one's own.   Everybody does it - because how else can a human being, born naked and with only a rather rudimentary system of instinct (it would appear) make sense of living, and make decisions that will affect their lives and those the people around them?   How can anybody respond to an event or situation of which they have no personal experience, except with some sort of script (AKA proof-text)?

Non-religious people seem to be taking their cues from various political platforms and points of view, which as far as I can tell seem to be taken as complete systems for understanding the world and responding to new data.  This is why people are not responding to reality, but to the script itself; they are enmeshed in "mimetic desire" (which is my own prooftext of René Girard!) and continue to respond according to their inner script, having forgotten what the actual issues are. 

Some go right to the Gospel of Ayn Rand, which comes complete with a highly dramatic metaphysical story - and an entire worldview  to go with it.

Proselytizing online atheists proof-text from and their inner "I'm smarter and better than you" convictions.   I see the same phrases used in argument time after time:  "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence."  "Theism requires intellectual dishonesty."  "The flying spaghetti monster.  Ha Ha."

There is also the large-scale debate over behavior, online and via social media; these debates are establishing the standards for acceptable and unacceptable behavior according to a) gut reaction (AKA instinct) and b) political and culture-war opinion (AKA "proof-texting").  The process then appeals to the herd instinct, complete with worldwide condemnation and shunning.

We have no personal philosophical systems any longer, so these may be the only real options for people to create their own systems of proper morality - "meaning" seems to be entirely absent in many cases - and then to proof-text from them.

IOW instead of using an already-worked-out philosophical or religious system, we are  now all subject to ad hoc factions and their various religious claims and texts.   Which are, mostly, in the process of being made up on the spot, according to personal taste - and the herd instinct.

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