What, who, when, where, whither, whence, which, why and how? All these words that we use to ask questions are both similar and odd! Is there a reason why they nearly all start off with the same two letters "W" and "H"? The only exception is the word "How." Even that is so close in appearance to the other interrogatories, one wonders if it, too, used to begin in the same manner? Words are tools. The progress made from primitive man to the present day depended a great deal on the ability to invent and utilize a lot of special inquisitive words. There must have been many clever ways that our ancestors devised to question themselves and others as they stumbled through life, surrounded by the wonderful but terrifying experiences from birth to death. Primitive people advanced in proportion to their ability to ask and answer certain important questions. If the answer to questions meant knowledge, then the possession of special knowledge must have been the real key to power. Unfortunately, the keys of power were always kept in the hands of the few. Throughout history, in spite of all their native curiosity, Homo sapiens was unable to free themselves from subjugation. Humankind stagnated for millennia in the swamps of superstition, never able to rise up above the morass of the local brand of mythology, in other words, religion. Perhaps there was an inborn need for mythical certainty and absolute values? Maybe it was this yearning that made our forebears forsake their freedom and sell their birthright for a mess of religious pottage? I doubt that anyone knows for sure why mankind did not ask more penetrating questions. Suffice it to say, those who were in power, the kings and priests, decided long ago to forbid investigation. The majority of mankind had no right to think for themselves!
Kings had divine rights and priests spoke with the Kingís authority when they declared, "Thus sayeth The Lord!" The only kind of questions which most religious groups permitted were catechisms and these, by their nature, were the very antithesis of liberty. A catechism goes like this: "Who was Mary?" "Mary was the mother of God!" Questioning as a form of ritual is a travesty of freedom. It succeeded only in producing robots and morons. Rituals tend toward narrow-mindedness. Robert Ingersoll once remarked that "Orthodoxy is the dead limb on the tree of knowledge"  It could be added that catechistic questions are not questions at all but another dead limb in the form of ritualistic propaganda.
Let us look at the basic interrogatory words again. For the purpose of this talk we can dispense with all but three. Namely WHAT, WHY and HOW. Precisely what do these words mean and in what manner do we use them?
Definitions can be tricky. Let's take the word "What" first. This is a word which can be used as many varied parts of speech. Essentially when used as a question it means.."1. Which specific thing or things, action, etc., and 2. That which asking for information"  "What" questions are basically different from those using the words "Why" or "How". They seem to be asking a person to explain, or give an answer, if they can. For example, questions like "What happened?" - "What do you think?" - "What if we tried?" are typical. "What" questions can sometimes be assumptive, which is to say they assume an answer. For example, think of the well-known query, "What is the meaning of Life?" This kind of leading question assumes that there is a meaning to life. It's rather like the infamous legal question "Have you stopped beating your wife?" If you say "Yes," you admit to doing it: If you say "No," then you are still doing it!
A few years ago, Life Magazine asked a long list of famous men and women "What is the meaning of life?" The answers were interesting but, in spite of the implied assumption, several independent people denied that life had to have any meaning at all.
Next comes "Why" - a truly remarkable word that means, "For what cause, purpose or reason."  If you think about the word "Why" you will find that there are two major kinds of "Why" questions.
First, the closed or presumptive "Why" in which an answer or purpose is presumed. Take a sentence like "Why did God send his only begotten Son to Earth?" The catechist answers, "So that Mankind could be saved." It's simple. It's presumptive and it defies testing such as proving or disproving.
Second, there is the open, curious or inquisitive "Why" question in which the answer is not assumed. Hence, for example, if we ask - "Why do bees gather pollen?" The answer could be, "In order to make honey and survive the winter" if you are a beekeeper. Or, if you are a botanist, "In order to fertilize plants." Or, if you are a behaviorist, "Because their hard wiring makes them do it." All of the answers are more or less correct. They may not be very complete answers, but then the question was not really specific. "Why" questioning is also prevalent among children. They are forever asking "Why this?" and "Why that?" and every answer which they get is followed by yet another "Why?" I like to think of the latter type of questioning technique as an explanatory or how-come "Why."
Normally speaking we reserve our "Why" questions for asking something of human beings such as, "Why are you late?" "Why are you happy?" "Why are you tired?" All these are perfectly good questions when addressed to real live people. The reason is that men and women, by and large, can explain what they think their basic feelings and purposes are. We tend to get into a lot more difficulty when we ask a "Why" question about Nature and mythology. This is because the question implies that inanimate objects and forces are, in fact, animated. Look at the problems that occur when we ask something like, "Why did a tornado destroy the town?" "Why does the planet Venus control your love life?" "Why did Jehovah let a serpent into the Garden of Eden?"
Mankind lives in an apparently "logical" world of needs and purposes. He "thinks" that he sees "purpose" in his everyday life. When he speaks so eloquently about his liberty and the pursuit of happiness he makes good sense. When he assumes that the Universe in which he lives is animated also, he is probably wrong.
"Why" questions are usually answered with a "because". Thus the very act of asking a question with the word "Why" seems to beg for a definitive answer. You can expect the response phrase to start with "because." Unless, of course, the person being asked the question simply and honestly replies, "I don't know!" If we put ourselves back into the primitive mind set we can easily perceive that such answers would not be compatible with the maintenance of political and religious power. A response of "I don't know!" would put the King and the High Priest on a level with the common man and that would never do! Kings and Priests had to know, it was their business to know, and that's why, on the whole, they always had to pretend to know.
Finally, we have the word "How" - meaning, "1. In what way or manner. 2. To what degree, extent or amount." In fact, it is not until dictionary definition #4 that we find - "For what reason or purpose." 
"How" questions are a great deal more demanding for the questionee because they have the effect of asking for, and insisting on, an explanation. The answer to "How" cannot be "because." "How" asks a different kind of question from "Why." "How" probes for a more significant answer. In fact, the answer to "How" questions is know how "How does a watch work?" When you learn about a watch's complicated machinery you will "know how" a watch works! The same is true throughout science, ask how and learn "know how." Take, for example, an identical question asked with a prefix of "How" and "Why." "How did the Universe come into existence?" Compare this with -- "Why did the Universe come into existence?" The first is a Scientific question and the second is a Religious one. The first is capable of serious study. The second is not. The second question is totally without meaning. Worse yet, it assumes that there is a valid reason for the existence of the Universe. It implies that one particular brand of Mythology knows what the reason is!
It is true that the words "What," "Why," and "How" do overlap to some degree. Even so, most people have a clear understanding about the subtle differences and implications of their meanings. Everybody knows that if you ask different kind of questions, you get different kinds of answers. Here are some examples of the major questions that the religions of the world, the organized mythologies, claim to answer.
1. Why did the Universe begin?
2. Why did life originate?
3. What is the meaning and purpose of life?
4. What are the rules for the conduct of life?
5. What happens at the end of life?
6. What happens in the "next" life?
7. Why should you revere the priesthood?
8. What are the duties of man to "god" or the "gods?"
9. Why is it better to believe than doubt?
10. What is the ultimate purpose of the Universe?
Such so-called questions [and answers] are the foundation of most, if not all, supernaturalism. It is customary to state with deference that nothing can ever be done to challenge or dispute such religious belief structures because they are outside the scope of the scientific inquiry. I disagree.
Scientific methods can be devised to study just about anything. However, there are some questions that are so poorly designed that have no answer. The trouble with theological beliefs is that, by and large, they don't make any sense at all, they are not verifiable or falsifiable. In other words, they cannot be proved or disproved because they are not based upon sound premises. In matters of logic, if the basic assumptions are wrong then no amount of questioning and reasoning, or theorizing and arguing can ever be fruitful. For instance, let's take a hypothetical question like this, "Why do horses have feathers like birds?" This could be answered dogmatically as follows. "The reason that horses have feathers like birds is to add beauty to the world..." or, "To help little mice to build their nests..." or, "Because their genes evolved like that.." or, "Because God wanted them that way.." etc., etc.. All of which is sheer (horsefeathered) nonsense because no one has ever seen a horse with feathers in the first place! Mind you, there is no way you can prove beyond a doubt that such creatures do not exist.! They just might. It could also mean that animals like these are either extremely rare or they could be extinct. All of the evidence confirms the fact that based on probability, the feathered horse does NOT EXIST, but you can never be absolutely sure they are fictitious. In any case, the question, as worded, simply has no answer. The trouble with the original question is it assumes (incorrectly I believe) that horses DO indeed have bird feathers, even though no-one has ever demonstrated it!
There is a little story told (probably apocryphal) about Michelangelo when he was decorating the Sistine chapel. He had just finished painting a wall with a magnificent picture of an angel wearing sandals. A church official stopped by and said, "Hey, Mike," or whatever they called him, "Who ever saw an angel wearing sandals?" To which the great artist allegedly smiled and replied, "Who ever saw an angel?" He could have said, "Horsefeathers!"
Let us change the subject and ask another tough question: "Why can't we turn base metals into GOLD?" This is very similar to the horsefeather question. It was assumed during the Middle Ages that given enough time, prayer and effort, base metals could be transmuted into gold. This is what the Alchemists tried to do by magical means. Unfortunately, the true nature of elemental chemistry was unknown until early 19th century when Dalton, Avogadro and later, Mendeleef, finally understood something about the science of matter. Yet 600 years or more of time, effort and money had been totally wasted in the useless pursuit of Christian Alchemy. The question as it was worded was unanswerable but none of the wise men of the world doubted it or had the temerity to suggest it. It is easy to dream up unanswerable questions that are based on fallacies. For example, how far do you have to turn the dials on an AM radio before you can pick up an FM station? Or, how long do you have to wait at a bus stop before you can catch a train? These are impossible questions because in actual fact they do not make sense!
Armed with this knowledge let us now review a few of the standard "stock in trade" religious questions. For instance, "Why did the Universe begin?" - "What is the ultimate purpose of life?" - "Where does your soul go to when you die?" Surely there is a marked similarity between these types of questions and those about "Horsefeathers" and "Alchemy"? There is no answer and there could be no answer because there is no validity in the question. These are assumptive questions. Before any such question can be asked or answered the assumption must first be shown to be valid. Such questions should not necessarily be overruled, or discarded. They should be reworded. Instead of asking "WHY was the Universe formed?" students should ponder "HOW was the Universe formed?" or better still, "HOW did it evolve?" This is a scientific question because it allows for verification or falsification, that is to say, proving and disproving the hypothesis. Granted, it may never be possible to fully describe what happened in the field of Cosmology but a great deal of knowledge can be learned once the right type of questions are asked.
Imagine trying to answer medical questions about disease by asking "Why?" "Why do we have Small Pox? Why Rabies? Why Polio?" The answers used to be -- "Because some higher power wants us to have them!" "But, why?" the childlike query goes on. "Because we are evil, that's why!" Then along came Jenner, Pasteur and Salk with their vaccines and, suddenly, it's all over! These great men asked, "How can we prevent Small Pox, Rabies and Polio?" and they discovered the "know how!"
Take the second question -- "What is the ultimate purpose of life?" Here's a typical "horsefeather" question. I do not believe that anyone, especially among the mythologists and theologians, have the slightest clue as to any purpose in life, let alone an "ultimate" one. The only question worth asking might be, "How did life, as we know it today, evolve?" The answer is found by studying fascinating subjects, like Biology, Embryology, and Evolution. It is true that mankind is still a long way from total understanding but given the right approach we are now gathering a lot of facts and in time we will get the right answers. The final question of "What happens to the soul after death?" is a two-fold assumptive trap. In the first instance it assumes the actual existence of a soul that is everlasting. Secondly, it concludes that there are, in fact, official destinations which the above mentioned soul can visit. Better questions might have been, "What evidence can be found to prove that a "soul" actually exists?" If a soul can be shown to exist, the next question could be, "Is there any reasonable proof that it does not die with the rest of the body?" The fundamental differences between religious [mythological] thinking and scientific thought lie in the method of approach and the nature of the questions asked. The religionist (mythologist) usually asks the question "Why" and assumes purpose. The scientist usually asks the question "How" and assumes that if the premises [or assumptions] are fairly accurate there will eventually be verifiable answers.
Actually, it wouldn't be so bad if theologians (mythologists) genuinely asked inquisitive "Why" questions, but by and large, they don't. They tend to pontificate and enjoy making grandiose pronouncements like -- "This is WHY the Jews came to the Promised Land," or, "This is WHY Jesus came to Earth in human form to save mankind." Over and over again we see that the religions (mythologies) of the world have preempted the question "How does something work?" and supplanted it with "Why is it here?" The results have devastated Mankind. I disagree with Joseph Campbell that we need myths to live by. It is my opinion that the belief in Mythology is the most divisive force in the world and it has been the major source of misery since the beginning of human history. St. Augustine lived in the 4th and 5th centuries (350-430 AD) His attitude was fairly typical of the early Church Fathers.
His doctrine went like this: "NOTHING IS TO BE ACCEPTED SAVE ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE SINCE GREATER IS THAT AUTHORITY THAN ALL THE POWERS OF THE HUMAN MIND."  Can you imagine the stifling effect which this exerted upon mankind and the aspirations of science? The Bible myths were believed to be divinely inspired and everything Man could ever need to know was to be found within their contents! Why study the stars? Why study disease? Why study the Earth? Why study anything? All of the "answers" could be found in God's own book? Were religious mythology and science ever really compatible in any field? The answer is NO! A thousand times NO!!
Look at the history of Medicine and you will find that all the early theories of disease were based on RELIGIOUS MAGIC. They varied between Divine wrath on one hand to Satanic intervention on the other with a lot of Astrology in between. Treatment consisted of getting help from Saints who interceded in appeasing an angry God. The Doctor had to be good at insulting the Devil and skilled at blood-letting. Astrology was helpful for the patient, plus great faith in the use of Holy Water and fetishes like the bones of dead saints. Demons were expelled by means of special incantations. The Churches always considered themselves to be better informed about Medicine than the Physicians, which is why they banned the dissection of human bodies. In those dark days everybody knew "Why" diseases occurred but nobody knew "How" to cure them. Look at Astronomy! Religious myth declared that the Earth was flat and stationary and in the center of the Universe. Heaven was above the earth and Hell beneath it. It was a sin to believe that the Earth was spherical or that anyone lived on the other side of it! St. Augustine knew "Why." "Scripture knows of no such descendants of Adam." The Almighty would not allow people to live there because they would miss Christ at his second coming descending through the air!  Astronomers agreed with the Mythologists or bore the consequences.
Under such conditions Christianity failed to produce an Astronomer for 1500 years! Just imagine it!! Even when Copernicus [1473-1543]  rediscovered the truth about the solar system, a fact known to the Greeks in the 3rd century BC, he was afraid to publish his opinions until he was on his deathbed! He knew "How" the planets revolved around the sun but his priest, Osiander, slipped in a little preface into Copernicusís book, "The Revolution of Heavenly Bodies" stating that it was just an exercise and not to be taken seriously!  Galileo also knew the truth. He knew that the earth revolved around the sun and so did the planets. In 1609 with his primitive 42 power telescope, he was the first to see the rings of Saturn, spots on the sun that moved across it, and the phases of Venus. He also observed four moons orbiting the big planet named after another God, Jupiter. [Did you ever notice that the Christians and Jews never have any stars or planets named for them?] Galileo had the wisdom to understand the real significance of his observations and the intellect to realize what it meant in terms of the sun and the earth! He rashly published his views  and the Church mythologists were furious. THIS WAS HERESY! They made him recant! Why? Because the clergy disagreed. Such ideas, you understand, were contrary to the scriptures!
No doubt Galileo remembered what had happened to Giordano Bruno,  the enlightened monk, a few years earlier. The Church had disagreed with his very similar heretical views about the Universe. The unrepentant Bruno had been imprisoned 7 years and burned at the stake in 1600!
Here's what the Inquisitors made Galileo say: "I, Galileo Galilei, swear that I believe every article which the Holy Catholic Church of Rome holds, teaches, and preaches...I have been enjoined, by this Holy Office, altogether to abandon the false opinion that the sun is the centre and immovable, and forbidden to hold, defend, or teach, the said false doctrine in any manner because the said false doctrine is repugnant to the Holy Scripture. I have written and printed a book  grievously suspected of heresy, that held and believed that the Sun is the centre of the world and immovable, and that the earth is not the centre and movable. I am willing to remove from the minds of every Catholic Christian this vehement suspicion rightly entertained against me; therefore, with sincere heart and unfeigned faith, abjure, curse, and detest the said errors and heresies, and I swear that I will nevermore in the future say, or assert anything which may give rise to a similar suspicion of me. If I know of any heretic or anyone suspected of heresy, I will denounce him to this Holy Office or to the Inquisitor... etc., etc...Signed June 22, 1633 Galileo Galilei.
Let me remind you that the works of Galileo remained on the Index of Forbidden Books, the infamous Index Expurgatorius, until 1835, a period of 202 years! Poor Galileo. I do not know if there is any truth in the story that when it was all over he said under his breath "It still moves!" However, it is an undisputed fact that he was forced to recant. In a nutshell, Galileo thought that he knew "How" and he was RIGHT! Those in power were sure that knew "Why!" and they were WRONG!
Take the science of Geology and you will find that it was shackled to the Biblical mythology for 1700 years! Earthquakes were considered to be the explicit will of God. Everything taught in the Universities had to conform to a world created in 4004 BC. It was the most stupid unbelievable nonsense because it was mythological nonsense .
Look at Biology and you will see that it was fundamentally impossible for real progress to be made until Darwin  and Wallace  broke away from the absurdities of "Special Creation" in Genesis and described the theory of Evolution.
Consider Meteorology. The Churches knew all about the electrical storms that toppled their steeples and ruined their places of worship. This was the Devil's work! It could not be prevented but it could be lessened by the use of holy water, bell ringing, special prayers and an occasional witch burning. Bell-ringing, by the way, with rain soaked ropes was a very risky job during a storm! It took Benjamin Franklin, the so-called Infidel, to invent a lightning rod which could protect a Church both from the "wickedness" of Satan and "wrath" of God.  Some thoughtful people have wondered what it was that caused religious fanaticism to drive men to persecute their enemies rather than to persuade them? What made the True Believers so intolerant? What else but the pseudo-morality that abounded in their "Holy Books?" The God of the Old Testament was bloodthirsty and barbaric. His son in the New Testament predicted an early end to the world and threatened his enemies with torture and eternal damnation. Is it any wonder that beliefs like these encouraged the Church and its followers? They persecuted those who disagreed with them in this world, just as their Gods promised that they would do to their enemies in the next world. The devout are fond of proclaiming that there is a big difference between Religion and the Church. Religion was "good," they like to say, but some of the Churches and their agents were "bad." I simply do not believe it. The Judaeo-Christian Mythologies made the churches what they were and all of the Churches with all of their intolerance were firmly based on their own religious doctrines.
Another thing that must be made clear is that the Roman Catholic Church was no worse than any other religious group. Luther called Copernicus an upstart astrologer and a fool!  The founder of the Lutheran Church was violently anti-Semitic and advocated that synagogues be destroyed, property taken and that the Jews should be expelled from the country. "The existence of Jews, who for 1400 years have been and still are our pest, torment, and misfortune," Luther raved, "They are just devils and nothing more."  Good old Martin, a man who never asked "How" because he was so sure he knew "Why!" Lutherís ideas provided suitable texts for Hitler four centuries later who claimed to be doing Godís work with the Jews.  Maybe you prefer a man like Calvin, who founded the Presbyterian Church? He preferred to believe that the Earth could not be moved and quoted the 93rd Psalm to "prove" his case. Calvin had a little difference in opinion with his old Unitarian friend Servetus. They had a dispute over the myth of the Holy Trinity, so he settled it by having Servetus burned at the stake. Calvin knew "Why" he was right and what did he care about "How"? Remember Wesley, the founder of Methodism? He thought that it was preferable to give up belief in the Bible than belief in witchcraft.  I like to think that he was right he should have given up both of them!
The myths of old are like dinosaurs whose antique bones are draped with garments of gold. Everything about them is out of place in the jet age and yet their worshipers tell us that they are warm and loving, real and alive. Let us not be misled. No amount of revival and modernization can make ancient myths compatible with the 20th let alone the 21st century. The Churches claim to have become "scientific" but this is an impossibility. They can tie a rocket to their dinosaur and proclaim "He is risen, we too shall live again," but they will no longer convince the multitudes. The power of orthodox religions is waning. Religion, mythology and supernaturalism in every shape and form have been tried for centuries and they have failed. We see the same type of magical thinking in all of the creeds and cults both ancient and modern, from the oldest type of ancestor worship to the so-called new age psychics. Whether we are dealing with Tarot Cards or Ouija Boards; Astrology or the Athanasian creed; whether we talk about the Pope or the Voodoo Doctor, they differ only in matters of degree! They have asked the wrong questions and they have obtained the wrong answers! Maybe it didn't matter two to three thousand years ago that the soothsayers were totally ignorant about the world in which they lived. Today we are living in a jet age with nuclear weapons and we have the scientific keys of knowledge in our hands. How much longer should we listen to mythological garbage? At some time in the future we may live to see the total replacement of organized mythology by a man-centered, action-oriented philosophy. A type of secular humanism [by which I mean a non-religious concern for mankind] that will be both scientific in principle and humanistic in content. It will work to develop a universal social consciousness based on the needs and interdependence of each individual member of society. It could develop a deeper sense of awareness and a concern for all humanity based on a mythless Humanism. It could try to solve human problems by understanding them. Such an action-philosophy of the future will insist on the truth as a scientist insists on truth. Nothing else will work. Nothing else will suffice.
1. The key words in human progress have been "What?" - "Why?" and above all "How?" In the past and even today a lot of the questions asked were assumptive. As a result natural curiosity has been largely replaced by myth making and rote learning.
2. The study of mythology may be fascinating but the practice of mythology is dangerous.
3. Science and mythology [that is to say magical thinking] in any of its forms are totally incompatible.
4. Throughout the history of the world mankind has always existed either in a state of "knowledge" or in a state of "ignorance." Science is what we know and mythology [religion] is what we don't know.
5. The authoritarian attitudes of organized mythology [magical thinking] have been a stumbling block to the advance of science through the ages. Much of the trouble has stemmed from the methods used and the greedy monopoly of power.
6. Religious myths are no longer believable. The clergy and the theologians have had to reinterpret their so-called "Holy" Scriptures from beginning to end.
7. In future an action-centered philosophy could develop which is free from myths. It will have science as its method and a type of humanism [concern for mankind] as its creed. The exact nature of scientific humanism men and women and children will have to work out for themselves through trial and error.
In conclusion, the choice of questions is the key to knowledge. We should try to avoid assumptive questions, and remember there are no easy answers. We should be careful not to believe in anything without good evidence and we should doubt all of our beliefs on a regular basis. We should be suspicious of people with magical solutions who claim to know WHAT is the meaning of life. Neither should we depend on those who claim to know WHY mankind is faced with problems. The future belongs to those who ask HOW to make the world a better place for all mankind.
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