The Hanging Christian – Episode 4
Our plucky heroine falls deeper into the new world Professor Seydowsky has introduced her to as the Sunday Serial continues…
Catch up on Episode 3 here.
She’d gone straight to the college library when she got back from the meeting. Her mind was ablaze with the glittering edges of ideas.
Technical terms, concepts and methods of thinking had been bandied about that she had never heard of, but the crystal-sharp rhetoric and just obvious obviousness of everything that had been said by the hooded men and women beneath the Eagle had her hooked. Rationality, atheism, utopian ideals, the real desire and means to genuinely change the world for the better; all these things she’d known about, of course, but she’d never had it explained to her so clearly, she’d never seen how blindingly clear it was that any sane and intelligent person should hold these beliefs.
As she crisscrossed the philosophy/theology section pulling books off the shelves it was bizarre to finally feel the spark of pure, unadulterated intellectual curiosity. She felt like people looked in Oscar-winning films.
She read all night, and then for most of the next week’s waking hours, tearing through rationalist literature. Feynman, Regis, Wright, Vinge, Hofstadter, Dennett.
Gödel, Escher, Bach blew her mind. Dawkins’ The God Delusion blew it again. Of course there wasn’t a fucking god. She’d been mumbling “oh I guess I’m… an agnostic?” for years when she’d always fucking known it was all bollocks. She soaked it all up. The impending certainty of a technological Singularity, cognitive science, Fun Theory, the logic behind cryogenics, the massive importance of Friendly AI, and of course, the glory that was Bayes’ Theorem. Days bled by and she barely moved from her chair in the library.
But Formal hall on Friday she’d already booked, and she decided that in any case it would be good to give her eyes and mind a break.
Freya relaxed into the steady buzz of friends, the clinking of wine glasses, the subtle splashes as those glasses were pennied, and the smell and taste of the reasonable food (apart from the inedible crab soup starter).
Beatrice and Charlie opposite her were discussing whether Johnians or Trinitians were better in bed, and whether ‘Trinitian’ was a thing, but Freya couldn’t help but pick up on the conversation being had to her left, between Ellie and her Jesus-hoody-wearing Christian friend Todd Alban.
Todd was trying to convince Ellie to come to a talk on why God is still relevant in the modern world.
“Don’t you ever think that we can’t be alone out there, that there has to be some kind of benevolent being guiding us?”
Ellie looked stumped.
“Why?” said Freya.
Todd turned to her, surprised.
“Well, because… because there’s something, there’s a connection, I have, that lots of people have, that I think everyone has if they just let themselves accept it, it’s a feeling of something better, something–”
“So wait, because you’ve got a ‘feeling’ God exists, he definitively does, without any need of further proof? Just because you or however many people want something to be true, doesn’t mean it is, Todd.”
Todd looked taken aback. Freya leant back in her chair, expectant. This was fun. Thanks to her reading she knew what she was talking about and she knew that there was nothing he could say that wouldn’t have an obvious logical weak point for her to attack.
“Look, Freya, you know there’s actually no evidence that God doesn’t exist, so actually you’re putting just as much blind faith into–”
“Oh that is just total bollocks, why the fuck is the onus on me to prove that your conveniently invisible and physically intangible spaghetti monster doesn’t exist? I expect you haven’t heard of Russell’s Flying Teapot analogy–”
“Guys, can we talk about something else,” interrupted Ellie, clearly looking uncomfortable. Todd was looking shaken, actually pretty lost for words, Freya decided as she rejoined the Trinitian/Trinitite controversy. She revelled in the thrill of victory and having demonstrated her blatant superiority. If she could made an intelligent guy like Todd look like a complete idiot after just a week of reading this stuff, just imagine what she could do in a few months time.
Her supervision with Professor Seydowsky couldn’t come soon enough. She was five minutes early, and the hour sped by as the Professor went through various basic rationality principles and techniques for overcoming cognitive bias. He was clearly impressed by how quickly she’d taken to the subject, and how much she’d already read. This time it was she who was surprising him with her unexpected answers, and Freya left his bare office flushed with pride.
In order to fill her time before the evening’s meeting, she went to Todd’s room intending to maybe apologise for being quite so forceful at formal, but also to hopefully continue the argument.
His door was wide open, and his keys and uni card were lying on the desk, but of Todd himself there was no sign. She waited for five minutes, examining his Bowie wall posters and thinking he might just be on the loo or something, but with no result.
She sighed and left, heading towards the library to continue reading about Decision theory.
Todd opened his eyes, groaning. Darkness. He stretched out his hands, and touched the cold steel bars of his cage…