January 11th, 2005
| | Posted in Personal
"Hope is a pathological belief in the occurrence of the impossible." – H.L. Mencken
I’m terribly sick of the religious "oppressed minority" complaining about the fact that their beliefs are under cultural assault. First of all, they’re not under assault at all: this country is overwhelmingly Christian, and the right-wing "moral majority" has shown an impressive lack of morals in their total takeover of every branch of the federal government. Second, they should be under assault; they’re archaic. Look that word up before you attempt to debate that fact. But that’s not what this post is going to be about. This post is going to be about why people believe in God.
What is it about human nature that requires us to justify our existence by proclaiming our self-importance? Why can’t we just be what we are, without some cosmic connection to a controlling force? When someone claims to be "spiritual", we nod and smile as if this is a positive atttribute; they must sense some divine presence that we cannot. No, the truth is they have numbed themselves (through drugs, meditiation, cultural brainwashing, or just plain repetition) into a feeling false connection to nature or the universe, because they are too scared to be alone. For some reason I will never understand, be it vanity, loneliness, fear, pride; people need desperately to feel that they are a part of something bigger than themselves.
I have had countless conversations on this subject with scores of my religious friends; smart, intelligent, warm, funny, educated people who persist in believing that a book their parents gave them when they were little was written by an invisible man in the sky. They have never seen him, never touched him, never heard him open his metaphysical mouth, but they are sure he’s there. I consistently ask them one question, to which I have never heard a good response: Why do you believe the Bible is the word of God?
Most existing religions, and specifically Christianity, take pride in their suspension of rational thought. They discuss "faith" (by which they mean drawing conclusions without any logic or evidence) as if it is a noble quality. Call me crazy, but I believe in empiricism. In a search for knowledge, you never jump to conclusions; you put forward hypotheses, you test those hypotheses against physical evidence, and if they hold up, you promote them to theories. Through extensive experimentation and analysis of the data you gather, sometimes you even prove those theories to be true. But one tenet is paramount: you never insist something is true just because you want it to be true.
This also means that you never try to label the unknown without evidence. You accept that there are things you cannot explain and you do your best to explain them with new ideas. I believe in the theory of evolution and more specifically in the theory of natural selection because those theories are the only ones that fit with the evidence we currently have. If tommorrow, new physical evidence and experimentation conclusively proves creationism, I’ll want to know how and why. If I’m satisified, I’ll adopt that belief instead.
Lastly, and most important, I believe that the feeling of contentment people get from religion is attainable through other means. If we stopped looking for something intangible for just one moment, we might realize that all we’ve got is each other, and we’re all in this thing together. Being alone together on a chunk of rock floating in space doesn’t makes our laws and rules pointless; it makes them the only thing we’ve got, and that much more important.
Why not take comfort in that instead?