Tuesday, 19 June 2012

My British Fantasy Society Competition Tweets

Julian lay back, swallowed the pill and closed his eyes. Bones cracked, muscles wrenched...seconds later Julia sat up and stretched.

He tapped the screen. “Evidence of two World Wars, 1914 to 1939!" She shrugged. "So we've crossed time-lines. I'm still going down."

"Welcome to the Infinite Library." smiled the Librarian. "The Shakespeare section? Ah yes...follow the signs for M...M For Monkeys."

As I kissed her, guiltily running my hand through her hair - so like my own - I realised that I now knew who my father was- would be.

Abe glanced through the window and blinked as a shadow covered the sun. Another Pteranodon! The time distortion field was spreading!

She crouched beside me in the ruins. "Thing's'll look better in the morning!" But morning came and the sun never rose again...ever.

“Engaging Probability Drive. Standby for Reality Shift.” After a second of disorientation the universe rearranged itself about me...

What looked like a tall potted palm regarded me with a pair of blinking eyes. "Hey you! Earth-person! You put laser down now, Okay?"

Drab Colonial ruins. Industrial purgatory. The last starship left seven years ago. I'd die here...if I could afford the funeral...

His ship a mass of twisted metal, the last of the alien invaders collapsed to the ground...and expired. “We’ve won!” she breathed.

The sun quivers reluctantly on the horizon. Bats flicker like moths. The lights in her eyes shimmer and die. The stars watch, amused.

The station rotated at a cool .9 gee as I ventured into the forest, pulse laser in hand. Somewhere in the darkness a lion screamed...

Religion as Parent substitute

I'm 50 now. I'm an adult with my own children and grandchildren.  But being a human and (allegedly) a higher animal, I am very much the sum of my experiences.  Everything that ever happened to me (that I haven't forgotten) has made me what I am today, and the majority of it is still with me. 

Past experiences can profoundly affect and inform who we are, and the strongest experiences are often the most lasting. Think about what you like eating, what music you like, what your favourite colours are, what you find attractive in the opposite sex, even what your definitions of morality say about you. Now think about when those tastes were formed.  OK some of them may have changed over the years, but in the main what you like and what you think were set down when you were quite young.

Now think about your parents.  If you're as old as me it's possible you may have lost one or both. So how did that affect you?  For the majority of people the loss of a parent, even when we are parents and grandparents ourselves, is still a devastating experience.  Why is this?  I'm 50, I don't need a Mum or Dad in the same way as I did when I was 5 years old.  But the thing is, that 5 year old is still there inside my mind.  The memories of being that young are still with me, as are the emotional attachments and feelings of being that age, and when I was 5 my Mum and Dad were the most important people in the world to me.  They did everything.  They fed me, comforted me, clothed me, soothed me, protected me, reassured me, and loved me.

If we are the sum of our experiences then those feelings are the strongest we've ever had, and they don't just vanish when we get to middle-age and beyond.  They're still there.  Even if we don't need our parents to stop us crying when we bang our knees, or cook our meals for us and tuck us into bed, to some extent we still need them.  We need the reassurance that they are there if we really want them.  And that I believe is the most traumatic effect of losing a parent - losing the person who unconditionally loves us, and who will "make it all better".

To a certain extent we kind of lose them earlier on though - generally about the time we enter adulthood, when we realise that our parents are just ordinary people and they can't right all our ills and bend the world to suit us, even though deep down we do still want them to. So what do we need?  We need a parent who can still do all the things they did when we were little children.  We need someone who loves us unconditionally, someone who will reassure us that everything will be alright in the end, and someone who actually has to power to do what he promises.  We want our parents back in the same way as we had them when we were 5. And who fits the bill?


God's perfect.  He promises that he will make it alright for us. He promises that he loves us and he always will.  And he will always be there for us.  Forever.  He will never grow old and die.  He will never leave us.  But like any parent he does reserve the right to punish us if we transgress.  If we're naughty, we get a smack (how many times after some mishap have we heard people say "God must be punishing me"?).  God is the perfect parent, and this could be a good reason why adolescents sometimes turn to religion during the second decade of their lives - they are old enough to become disillusioned with their parents, but still young enough to want and crave parental comfort. 

But is this desire for a parent substitute unique to humans?  You know, I don't think so. I think we can see something similar happening in other higher animals.  Think of dogs and cats that we keep as pets.  What is their relationship to us? We feed them, give them security, comfort them...everything their own parents do to them when they are young.  In short we are our cats' and dogs' parent substitute.  We're their God.

Does this apply to all higher animals? Probably only to those who actually have the concept of a parent.  So where does that concept come from?  Well simply from the fact that you are brought up by your parent or parents. So any animals that aren't...won't have a need for a parent substitute.  Think turtles, crocodiles, fish, where the eggs are laid and the offspring left to fend for themselves. Those animals would probably not have a concept of a God, as they don't have a concept of a parent. 

Would it be possible for such an animal to evolve higher intelligence without understanding the concept of a parent, and therefore not needing the concept of a God?  Unlikely, since higher animals need parental contributions to pass on things like language and learned skills. Instinct can only take an animal so far. 

Depressingly this means that any intelligent life we find outside of the Earth is likely to at least be familiar with the concept of religion.  You can't have parents without eventually ending up with God.