I have been racking my brain in recent years trying to understand how we human beings still believe in such outrageous ancient twaddle in the face of modern sciences and centuries of accumulated data which so blatantly conflicts with assumptions made hundreds, thousands of years ago by uneducated self-centered simpletons with grandiose petty designs for power by manipulating naive minds and hearts. People have made careers out of defending and perpetuating these myths, particularly among the uneducated on the planet, although the educated are certainly not immune to this phenomenon. There is no cut and dried answer, or so for me thus far. So many factors come into play and I too am far too ignorant to fully understand them all. I simply know this: none of us know the real truth, but some of us try to convince others that we do, with varying levels of success. it’s impossible to easily diagnose the problem which plagues humanity today like a cancer infecting our minds and our cultures. I don’t see how to address correcting it.
Believe pervades every facet of human society. For some the boa constrictor’s tail feels like a teddy bear hug. They wouldn’t want to excise their faith from their lives even if you could prove to them the damage being done. Would life still be worth living if we knew our lives were a lie? It’s so much easier to listen to those who tell you what you want to hear. The comforting lie is so much more seductive and soothing than the cold hard truth.
“There is probably no god, so just enjoy your life.” This reality will not win any awards. It will not help ambitious men and women get elected to their positions of power. There is no profit in this. Songs will not be sung praising the lack of a deity. It doesn’t even make for a decent T-shirt slogan. “There is no purpose to life beyond what we imbue upon it.” …Pull the other one.
There is simply too much money and power fueling the godly engine of mankind. Too many individual people, groups of people, organizations, industries, governments, and other institutions bank on belief to get them through their days, their lives, guarantee security to their descendants and promise something hard cold reality refuses to grant: an eternity of sentience. So much depends, not on the existence of their god, but the longevity and mutual cultural acceptance of their religion. The god is actually the figurehead. It’s the assumptions built around their idol of mind that seems to demand protection and assurance, and this assurance takes many forms, usually through the relinquishment of resources like time, money, property, etc. ..but always it’s not a god which takes these things, but the men who step in and act as arbitrators between the ‘true’ believers and their omniscient, omnipresent being who is never sensed, and never present.
Logic dictates it is impossible for any entity to be both omnipotent and omniscient, because to be such, it would have to be capable of creating a rock so heavy, said creator could not lift it. Despite this, people believe anyway, and make up apologies for why this absurd fact is not relevant.
There is no other species on the planet which believes in a god, but if there were, that species would assume its heaven was made for it, and human beings would probably not be welcome there. In fact, for many species, their ‘hell’ would be eternally being hunted down by swarms of Man. This too, is a concept that most human Believers can’t even contemplate, much less take with any grains of salt.
Logic also dictates it is not possible or even logical to insist upon proving the nonexistence of some thing that does not exist. Science can be utilized to confirm or verify the existence of something that does exist. Science does not confirm what does not exist. It does not try. It has no need to do so. It could not if it tried. This IS absurd to contemplate, and yet many a believer give this more than a few grains of salt.
This is a loophole which Believers have exploited for centuries, since before Galileo looked into a telescope and spotted rings around Saturn. Since science won’t disprove their beliefs, Believers assume that means their beliefs are as good as proved. This is exactly the opposite of what they should assume given the evidence, but as I said before, the truth is simply not marketable, and it can’t make already influential people more powerful. Just cuz something is a poor assumption, that doesn’t stop people from making it.
There is no way to police this. Oh, you could try killing Believers through genocide, but that just turns them into martyrs. History has proven repeatedly that’s not only heartless but foolhardy. People will continue to put faith in unproved worthless twaddle. The details may change but the end result is the same. People want to see their reality as it is not, because you can’t see everything on front of you, and all those things that are unseen are far more interesting before you turn the corner and find out what is actually there.
Except for some of us. Some of us find what’s behind those corners to be far more fascinating than anything the human mind can conjure up. However, it’s also more mundane. As it turns out, magic is simply in the realm of the mind. What ‘magic’ we witness in the real world simply turns out to be the equivalent of a magic trick after you figure out how the magician does it. Gravity could be angels holding everything in place until you study science and realize how it really works, and then those nonexistent angels look very redundant, not to mention a little dizzy. For some tho, angels are still more appealing than a subatomic ‘god (damned)’ particle.
So in the face of facts, these beliefs take precedence for billions of people. BILLIONS. Not just extremists like Westboro Baptist or the Taliban, but even ‘moderate’ Christians and Muslims and even some cultural Jews. They don’t like to think about it, but when push comes to shove they still believe in Adam and Eve with belly buttons, and talking bushes and ex-wife shaped pillars of salt. Heck, they might even believe some men keep their strength in their long hair.
It is not rational, and yet rational people do this. It is not intelligent, and yet intelligent people do this. Religion is not accurate, and yet honest people lie to themselves and each other every day. Why is this? Why are people so willfully ignorant? There are many possible answers, but I find they are all a smoke screen to the real answer. I think individuals and groups use the confusion and the apologetics and the endless philosophical argument to hide other agendas.
The following isn’t THE answer, but I think it’s a significant piece of the puzzle. At the very least, it has an edge to it, so we may more readily be able to figure out how to put it in the picture, and where other pieces of the puzzle might properly connect to it, so the puzzle will begin to take on shape.
People like to be around like-minded people. It’s enjoyable of course to interact with people who differ from you under some circumstances, and many of us prefer that all the time even when it’s challenging. However, when you need to get something done, or if you need to perpetuate something that already existed before you were born which you want your great grandchildren to enjoy long after you’ve gone, it’s preferable to work only with and confide in people who think and feel as you do; people you feel you can trust. It’s difficult to know who you can and can’t trust. These people who prefer their own kind, or at least the illusion that they can find anyone who is like themselves, these people need a kind of shorthand that allows them to judge others and determine whether or not they are worthy of such trust and companionship. The shorthand is a lie, but that doesn’t matter. They don’t necessarily need to actually find like-minded people. They just need to perpetuate the illusion that for all our differences, there are some constants that we share which prove we are connected culturally and philosophically.
Each church seems to have its own creed and these creeds don’t necessarily mirror each other, but if you are a Catholic and you travel, you can find solace in most any other church in the world which is open to Catholics of that area. There will be differences, but there will be hopefully more similarities than differences. Throughout history, when groups of people began to differ among one another in terms of creeds, they’d separate into schisms of that religion, or sometimes entirely new religions would spring from the argument. Those who didn’t like change remained where they were and those who liked change would just go somewhere else if they couldn’t affect that change on the church where they were from.
If you are Catholic and can’t find a Catholic church near you while traveling, perhaps you can stomach visiting an Episcopalian church since they’re kinda Catholic lite. Depending on your rigidity or tolerance, perhaps some Protestant churches would be tolerable in a pinch. There are some people who could not stomach visiting a place of worship that differed from their own personal creed, but others are more open to the possibility. Perhaps you’d even be open to visiting a mosque or synagogue. It’s still the same One True God after all, isn’t it?
Christianity has certain tenets which tend to be universal. A belief in the trinity of God, Son, Spirit being three in one is quite popular. Other tenets change from one denomination to another, from one church to another, from one member of a congregation to another, etc. Islam and Judaism have similar changes across the board from person, place, and cultural division or schism.
If you understand from an anthropological standpoint the history and evolution of religion, you can even see this began before Abrahamics. Perhaps before recorded history. Tribes of people would have Elders who told their descendants what they learned from their ancestors. These stories would be passed down from generation to generation and would change and grow over time to become that tribe’s beliefs. Then if that tribe interacted with other tribes, they’d either merge over time or fight and the winner’s beliefs would be adopted by the loser, or the loser’s beliefs would over the generations merge with the victor’s, and perhaps differences of opinion would lead to tribes splitting up as the first apostates and nonbelievers would be shunned and exiles in lieu of just killing them outright. Over time this led to belief systems and creation myths that we now refer to as pagan religions.
It comes down to this: when a new person enters your life, you may not grill them with questions immediately but you are taking a tally as you learn more about this individual. Does this person believe as you do? If so, perhaps you can invite him to your church and see if he believes more like you do. If not, perhaps you can convert him over time. He may be feeling the same way about you.
So a belief system is like a bouncer. If the new people in your life fit the right criteria, you let them into the front parlor of your life, and as you learn more about them, if you like what they believe, you’ll let them closer in, and maybe introduce them to other people in your life who are also like-minded in the ways that matter to you personally. This is an ongoing process and people fall in and out of various levels of trust with you, but always these levels of trust have something to do with what you believe in, what you think they believe in, and how their behavior confirms or belies what they claimed to have believed.
This is all well and good, if you have a good bouncer. However, if that bouncer is taking orders from forces you can’t control, like say the leaders of your religion, it may be letting in people you don’t want or keeping out people that you do. Perhaps on the surface these complicated criteria used to screen others in your life appears fair, but if scrutinized we would learn that it’s not fair at all and is in fact based on lies and false assumptions. This is how prejudice and bigamy fall into play. This is how otherwise good people sometimes do very unkind things to each other, in the name of what they believe in. As I said, belief is like a bouncer, inside your head, protecting your heart.
How’s your bouncer treating strangers in your life? friends? family? How’s your bouncer treating you?