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In which John talks about religion and nihilism. Let's continue this conversation in your pants:
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A Bunny
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Good morning Hank; it's Monday. Nerdfighters often ask us if we're religious, a topic we've been reluctant to discuss over the years mostly because the quality of discourse about religion on the internet is...atrocious. That said, many nerdfighters know that a decade ago I worked as a chaplain at a children's hospital. And I was also briefly enrolled in, although I actually never attended, the University of Chicago's divinity school. So today I'm going to share everything I have to say about religion. Hopefully that will lead to a productive and thoughtful conversation, although given the history of the internet and conversations about religion...probably not. Okay Hank, so I would submit that almost all human lives are usually lived in a state of, like, functional nihilism. Very few of us believe that human life is devoid of all meaning and that all we should do is answer to our base urges and fulfill our basic desires and try to distract ourselves from pain or fear or unpleasantness, but almost all of us act as if we believe that. Like I have this massive parallel processing unit that sits on top of my neck that I could use to, like, contribute to cancer research or write a novel or puzzle through quantum mechanics. And I have this amazing body that I could use to plant trees or fight wild fires or harvest food for the poor. Hank, remember that time I said I have an amazing body? I don't mean that I have an amazing body. I mean everybody has... it's amazing what our bodies can do. But I don't usually do any of that stuff. Hank, most of my free time is spent, like, watching television, playing video games, or searching for lols. Christians, Muslims, atheists, whatever, all of us share this worldview; almost none of us would abandon our comforts to help others; almost all of us would acknowledge that much of our time each day is wasted. In short, Hank, if we just judge humans by their actions, we look like a bunch of nihilists. But we aren't nihilists because we all feel called to make the world better. To understand and observe the universe. To make art, to bring beautiful things into life. To contribute in some way to the human experiment. Everybody wants their lives to matter, to have meant something. That call to meaning is the foundation of religious worldviews, but it's also the foundation of successful secular worldviews which is why I don't really care to debate the existence of God with people. Like, Hank, imagine you wake up in the middle of the night and your house is covered in smoke and you hear an invisible voice shout "Your house is on fire!” Hank, in that situation I would find it, like, totally uninteresting to have a discussion about where that voice was coming from and how it got in the house and was it God or a fireman. I would just, you know, leave. In short, Hank, for me at least, debating the mere existence of God is a way of avoiding the deeper and more devastating question of how we are going to bring meaning to human life. I think that's, broadly speaking, the point of religion. Religion is essentially a response to revelation. And that revelation almost always calls us to embrace meaning, or, if it doesn't innately exist, then to create meaning. But that's also true for atheistic humanism. We are all facing the same question: what are we going to do with our consciousness? Will we seek to fight poverty or climate change or disease or war or spend all our resources ensuring that we have a beautifully manicured lawn with absolutely no weeds? Sorry, I'm on a bit of a lawn kick at the moment because my next door neighbor is not terribly happy with me for leaving the country for two months during the, uh, lawn growing season. It's just grass, dude! Actually... it's not just grass. That's his problem. It's also a lot of dandelions. So what are we going to do about consciousness and how are we going to balance our urge to be more than nihilists with our need to blunt the sharp edges of consciousness with funny stuff like Paula Deen riding Paula Deen riding me or Humpy Hank? Those are interesting questions, Hank, and Nerdfighteria has been talking about those questions for years now. Some of us through a religious lens, some of us through a secular lens, but the lens doesn't interest me as much as the questions. Sorry this video didn't contain many jokes. To make up for it, here is a baby rhinoceros. Also, as penance, I will eat 36 disgusting sandwiches on Friday. Hank, don't forget to be awesome. I will see you on Wednesday.