Signs and Portents
by: John Tyrrell
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In Talk Back this week we have a prophet who has seen signs. But unlike other prophets he does not know how to interpret those signs, he is seeking help in determining what they mean.
I think he's sincere. He feels he has had a genuine experience even though there is no evidence that anyone else had the same experience.
I'll give him credit -- he's not imposing his own preconceptions on those signs. This is highly unusual. The typical prophet uses signs and portents as a way of promoting the agenda he (sometimes she) always held.
I hate fags!
Look! A 3.8 magnitude earthquake in California today. It's a sign from God!
God hates fags and he wants me to tell you about it!
But underlying all this is the presumption that the Holy Powers That Be think that the best way to communicate with humanity is by signs and portents given to selected intermediaries -- or messengers.
If it is going to work, it relies on the messenger recognizing the sign as a sign, correctly interpreting the sign, and then somehow convincing everybody else that he is carrying a valid message.
For 3,000+ years, the gods have been using this method to try to communicate with us. And yet, those deities still have not figured out that the messenger system is broken. The messenger system does not work. Regardless, that some are capable of convincing a number of people, no prophet manages to convince every listener. Even the supposed son of God could convince not everyone he spoke to personally. How could the gods expect a mere human to do better?
And of course, the various prophets (and Prophets) continually deliver messages that prove wrong.
Our prophet on Talk Back 140 wishes someone else instead of him had been given the signs he received; he mentions specifically Neil deGrasse Tyson or Stephen Hawking, interestingly both non-believers. Tyson is perhaps the most respected person in the non-believer community today. (In my view, anyway.) Suppose he indeed felt he had received a sign from the Higher Powers and felt a duty to share the message with us.
How would we react?
I suspect that overwhelmingly the non-believer community would respond with something like: "Poor Neil - he's gone delusional."
Regardless of his stature; regardless of the respect we feel for him; I think the vast majority of us would not be prepared to listen to a message from him based on his interpretation of a sign from god.
Ultimately we have to ask why the gods supposedly choose to communicate through signs delivered to select individuals, signs which must be interpreted, somehow correctly, before the message can be delivered.
Surely the gods, or God, (if they exist) have the power to communicate a message directly and unambiguously to everyone --- if they so chose. In the absence of such action, we can only recognize the gods have no interest in truly communicating with us.
Signs and portents and those who claim to interpret them can reasonably be ignored.
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