Higher Powers

Source: God wants you dead, Sean Hastings & Paul Resenberg

We are defining “Higher Powers” as: Icons to which people grant greater authority than they would to any individual human being.

Such icons may be religious, such as “God” or “The Prophet.” They may be historical, such as “Our Founding Fathers” or “Honorable Ancestors.” They may be geographical, such as the “Voice of the Nation” or “Law of the Land.” They may be natural forces, such as “Mother Nature.” They may even be deliberate man-made constructs, such as a corporation. They can take many forms. What they have in common is that none of them have any physical existence that you can touch. Even the ones that might have been real things at one time are not real, physical, things now. They are only ideas in people’s heads. It is also part of our definition that we may not speak directly with Higher Powers in the way we can speak to another human being. People may attempt to talk to Higher Powers, but few ever claim to receive answers, and we are never able to verify such claims. Any entity that verifiably talks back to you is something different than the Higher Powers we are discussing throughout this book.

Indirect Communication

In order to receive guidance from the Higher Powers, we must either decide that we know deep in our hearts what they are telling us, accept the word of some other individual who claims to know, or read writings which we believe contain their wisdom. In all of these cases the actual communication comes from an individual human being. Either it originates in our own thoughts (we are talking to ourselves), is presented to us by another individual, or is in the words that were written by the hand of another individual human being. It cannot be demonstrated that these communications really do originate from the Higher Power.

Such Higher Powers have great authority in the minds of the people who believe in them. When many people believe in such an entity, it can have a vast influence over our lives, though we have no direct recourse to confront it for its misdeeds.

When we surrender our thoughts to the alleged greater wisdom of a Higher Power, it becomes easy for unscrupulous individuals to manipulate us. (History certainly bears out that statement!) They can easily supply us with guidance that furthers their own ends, in the guise of words from on high. It can’t be denied that this occurs continuously and wherever such Higher Powers are being given authority over individual thought and action.

Even when no individual is manipulating the voice of a Higher Power, blind obedience is still a problem. Once we give up our right to question, no improvement in our thinking on the subject is permitted. We have given up on our own judgment and adopted the judgment of another. Bear in mind that an actual powerful entity wouldn’t need to be protected from examination. On the other hand, an ephemeral impostor would certainly desire such protection.

Which is worse, the commandments of a Higher Power coming from the will of an unscrupulous individual, or the commandments of a Higher Power coming from the spontaneous mutation of ideas within a group?

The first is more malicious, but it can eventually be exposed. (Think of a disgraced preacher.) But in the second case there is no identifiable source, and bad ideas that slip in are far less likely to ever be questioned.

The idea of a Higher Power, mutating like a living system, can produce bizarre commandments that no leader or individual would ever have invented.

Living Ideas

Ideas can be viewed as living organisms; organisms that survive inside individual human minds and multiply themselves by communication to new minds.

No, ideas are not actually living things. At least not in precisely the same way biological entities are. But these widely distributed ideas act in a very similar way, so we find the analogy to living organisms useful – even factually accurate by some broader definition of life.

Consider your ideas as living things that inhabit your mind – idea-organisms. When these ideas help you achieve your individual goals of survival and growth, they are symbiotic organisms. When they do not, they are parasitic organisms.

Blind acceptance of an unseen authority creates a fertile environment in which parasitic ideas can thrive. In such an environment, they are separated from reality, and are not held to an objective examination. This is precisely how every seemingly insane mania works, from Nazism to suicide cults.

In such an environment, the ideas that grow best are not those that align themselves with their human host’s self interests, but those that direct human actions according to the survival and reproductive goals of the ideas themselves.

The most successful ideas will be those that make the host’s actions (that is, your actions) subservient to the idea – an ideological Higher Power.

You become a tool to be used by an invisible authority that cannot be verified, and your actions become those which help that Higher Power survive and grow.

Like any living organism, these ideas must reproduce or they will die out. Because of this, they cause their hosts (people) to take actions that will increase the idea’s chances of survival and reproduction, even to the detriment of the survival of the individual human hosts.

Get that again: These ideas can cause a person to do things that are against their own best interests – perhaps even things that will directly result in a person’s own death.

People influenced by complex idea-organisms will labor to infect others with these ideas. They will try hard to make sure that their children have the same beliefs. They will donate money to organizations that spread the word. They will stand on street corners handing out pamphlets.

They also act to oppose competing ideas. They tend to be closed-minded and unwilling to listen to logical arguments. They will often become uncomfortable or angry when their beliefs are questioned. They sometimes ban or burn books containing competing ideas. They will even engage in bloody warfare to destroy other large groups of people who hold different beliefs.

Since Higher Powers exist on a different level than the individual, their wants and needs are based on different things. This often puts them at cross-purposes with the values and needs of peaceful individuals, which makes them dangerous to individual survival. Sometimes they will even interfere with new ideas and actions that would only serve to make all human life better.

It is important to these idea-organisms to maintain the status quo where the powers of individual humans are concerned. The environment in which they evolved included many human limitations. And it is not clear that they can continue to survive in a world in which individual human beings gain more power – a world in which certain human limitations are overcome.

Think of a field of crops that is growing well, then someone changes the composure of the soil. Will the crops continue to grow properly? Probably not – they were suited to the original soil mix. New knowledge can be like an environmental change to the idea-organisms growing in your mind. Therefore, these idea-organisms resist both personal learning and overall cultural advances in knowledge, even when this is contrary to the survival interests of individual human beings.

It seems quite likely that idea-organisms would be particularly upset about knowledge of their true natures. However, if we wish to remain true to ourselves (despite the best efforts of Higher Powers to bend us to their wills) we must try to understand the nature of these idea-organisms.

The Making of a Higher Power

The key factor that allows the growth of a complex parasitic ideological organism (as opposed to symbiotic ideas), is a common flaw in the way people tend to think. The problem stems from our tendency to want to categorize things. We do this in an effort to simplify our thinking and lives.

While mental categorization is a very useful tool, its miss-application is at the root of the growth of the ideological entities we call Higher Powers.

Categorization makes life a lot easier. For example, if you find out you are allergic to citrus fruits; it is very useful to recognize a pattern. You learn not to eat any fruit with a thick, waxy, brightly colored skin. It is likely to be a citrus fruit, and it could hurt you. It is useful for you to label all citrus fruits as “BAD” and to not bother trying each new one that comes along. There might be exceptions, but it

is probably not worth finding out. In the world of idea-organisms, this sort of thinking is encouraged, even beyond what is appropriate or useful.

If you read a sheet of paper with ten ideas on it, you can easily go down the list, evaluating each one. You can decide if you think each is true or not, based on its own merits.

However, if there is an impressive title that groups the ten ideas into a seemingly inseparable list, it may no longer be easy to think of each idea as separate proposition. It does not matter if the list is entitled “The Code of Gozer the Gozerian” or the “Ten Commandments of God.” Once the list has such a title, it is now being presented as a single unit of thought, rather than ten separate thoughts.

There is no logical reason why the ten ideas should be grouped as one in your mind, but in order for idea-organisms to function, they must encourage this kind of grouping. For an idea-organism to thrive, its various ideas must interact and support each other. Complex idea-organisms can not exist unless your mind is willing to let many ideas work together as a single system of beliefs.

If someone asked you, “What did you think of that list of ideas I sent you?” you could easily say:

“I liked numbers five through ten all right, especially six, eight, and nine. They were my favorites. But I thought those first four were pretty weak. Maybe you should think about getting rid of those?”

On the other hand, if someone asks you what you think of “The Ten Commandments,” there is more of a feeling of inseparability. You will probably feel ideological pressure to answer, “I think they are pretty good” rather than go into specific details about which of The Commandments are good and which of

The Commandments could use some improvement. They are grouped together in a way that makes it hard to separate them. Logically they should be individual ideas that can each receive separate consideration. But the title of the list makes that a very hard thing to do.

This bundling of ideas is how bad information can slip in along with good. It is how complex ideological life forms, such as the Higher Powers we have described, become possible.

Complex ideologies are built of simpler ideas. In order to act as a whole unit, they must convince you that they must either be accepted or rejected as a whole unit. If you start examining the individual ideas that are its parts, the complex idea organism falls apart. If everyone could learn to remember that they are always free to pick and choose the simple ideas that work, from any given set of ideas, while rejecting the bad ones, large parasitic idea-organisms could never survive or continue to evolve.

Source: God wants you dead, Sean Hastings & Paul Resenberg

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