Sometimes it seems there isn’t a corner of life not overburdened with rules. Some are probably necessary – Sammy Hagar still can’t drive 55, after all, even though in many places he can get an extra ten to fifteen miles per hour. He must be that guy driving slowly in the left lane! Games need rules, though some games have more rules than they need. Other rules are subjective, especially in the absence of an independent arbiter. Anyone who watches a grade school kickball game quickly learns that no offensive player is ever out and no defensive player ever fails to get the offensive player out. Most games soon deteriorate into pushing and shoving with a fair amount of yelling thrown in for good measure. Maybe that’s why kickball only recently made a comeback with adults, though in fairness the game still requires an impartial referee.
Thought has rules, though if you pay attention to contemporary discourse you might think it doesn’t. Flaws in logic have been identified as fallacies, though many people still fallaciously forge ahead. We call them politicians and con artists. Religion has rules, and quite often those rules have been used to create a members-only club, restricting who may enter and who cannot, what must be believed and what must not. Such rules have led to more atrocities than perhaps any other kind of rules, especially when the rules are applied to define what is evil and what must be done about it. Witches were burned, women excluded, the disabled demonized, good people were declared evil without any evidence beyond what the Church declared to be true.
It seems pretty clear that there are at least two kinds of rules. The first kind tell us how the game is to be played. The game in question could be kickball, or it could be living together in society. The latter would be things like stopping at a red light, not robbing banks or mugging old ladies, and other rules that establish order. The second kind tries to tell us what we should believe. In the interest of full disclosure, in general I despise this kind of rule. It’s the rule of the religious institution, the politician, the con artist, the salesman, and the educational institution. If we are dealing with facts, these rules are helpful. They tell us not to jump off a bridge because, well, gravity. They tell us certain things are dangerous.
Most of what religious institution tell us is really quite arbitrary. When questioned, religion often responds that God revealed these truths to religion. The problem is that there really isn’t any proof of that revelation. There’s no signed letter from God informing the Church of these things. What’s more, over time we learn new things and develop new insights. Some religious traditions seem to have a profound inability to ever admit they were wrong about anything. Some even have doctrine that says they can’t be wrong, claiming that the Holy Spirit told them so. I think not. I have found that rules in the form of doctrine and dogma are quite arbitrary. If a belief doesn’t help you, drop it. If someone tells you what you must believe, run.
By the way, God just told me that everyone who reads this should send me one thousand dollars. If it was up to me, I’d say forget it, but God thinks otherwise. No bitcoin, please.