Tuesday, April 3, 2012

A Broken System

My mom recently got a ticket for a seatbelt violation.  She's very small, so she can't wear the seatbelt over the shoulder like the rest of us- it ends up being more "over the face".  Instead, she wears it under the shoulder, so it still protects her and won't rip off her head in the event of an accident.  Today I got an email from my dad describing her court appearance to fight this ticket:
Mom: "May I read you the law?"
Judge: "You don't need to read me the law, I know the law"
Mom: Reads the law anyway..."Blah, blah, blah...Properly Restrained..."
Judge: "Stop right there. There are two key words there, properly restrained" (thinking he has Mom)
Mom:  "right, and properly restrained is defined below as...worn across your chest... chest is defined in the New American Standard Dictionary as..."
Mom:  *shows picture of her wearing seatbelt across her chest, submits as evidence*

*Judge is a pig and doesn't listen anyway*

Actually, I concluded it's a fixed and broken system.  You can't win, the judge will always side with the cop.  There's no argument that can be made that will cause the judge to show up the cop.  And if the cop just doesn't show up, the person goes free.  So the only determination of guilt or innocence is whether or not the cop shows up.  Facts and argument don't matter.
This seems a pretty good summary for my problem with mainstream religion (which is a bit ironic, my parents being devout Christians).  The system is broken.  Since there's no verifiable truth claims made by any of them (at least not that I've found yet), there's no argument that can be made that differentiates one as true and another as false.  We can talk about which makes more sense (or maybe makes the least amount of not-sense?), or which we feel is true, or which we like better, but I've yet to see a rational way of arriving at a claim that one is truth and the rest are not.  So the only determination of guilt or innocence is whether or not you happen to guess right.  Facts and arguments don't matter.

This is, perhaps, not quite fair.  Religions do make some competing claims- though I've yet to be convinced they're competing enough to differentiate truth from non truth with any certainty.  Is God supremely Holy and will judge our actions according to both his mercy and justice to decide our fate?  Or are we saved by grace alone and God requires nothing but our acceptance of this fact?  I don't know.  Both have about the same level of plausibility.  If you're wondering, those are (my understanding of) Islam and Christianity, respectively.

But I do believe that once we acquiesce to the existence of a God, we've given up a part of our strict dependence on rationality.  At the very least we've given up applying a strict rationality to the supernatural.  And if we can no longer consistently apply rationality, then I'm really at a loss as to how we can arrive at any meaningful truth claim that is not wildly subjective and biased towards the status quo.

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