Friday, October 30, 2009

Belief Is Not Enough

You don't believe in magical dragons.  You'd seek professional help if voices in your head started telling you to exterminate all squirrels.  And if you had yourself mummified upon death like an Egyptian, it'd be as a joke.  I'm sure of it.  And if that's not the case, please don't leave a comment here suggesting otherwise or I might think lesser of you.

And the fact of the matter is that there are all kinds of crazy in this world that other people find as the only answer.  Like the Heaven's Gate cult who killed themselves as a way of saving their souls before the world was "recycled;" thus allowing them to go on to the "next level."  And that's just crazy.  I'm sorry, I'm not anti-religious or anything.  In fact, I think religion can definitely be a positive thing, whether it's real or not, but the Heaven's Gate thing was just crazy.

And the problem is that belief is just too easy.  It's just too low of a bar to attain.  It's the easy answer that's so easy all you have to do is want to have it and it's yours.  The Get Smart Quick scheme that anyone can adopt.  Rather than spending years and years of gaining your own wisdom while carefully self-analyzing yourself, it's all right there for you.  You read a few books, think the right thoughts, and voila!, instant knowledge.  No fuss, no muss.

Giving Up Yourself

Like with the Heaven's Gate people, for which I read this:
[O]ne summer, on the banks of the Rogue River in Oregon, among the wildflowers and sugar pines, Bonnie and Herff were struck by a “vibration like thunder,” a simultaneous disclosure that they were the two witnesses foretold in the Bible’s vision of Apocalypse.

This is what they told a group of 80 people assembled at Joan Culpepper’s house in Studio City in 1975. By then, they had abandoned their given names, instead calling themselves “The Two,” “Guinea and Pig” and “Bo and Peep.” After 30 minutes, they concluded by saying, “If you follow us, you must obey everything we say. That includes giving up your possessions, your family and yourself.” ... Nearly a third of the audience — people from all walks of life — left with their new leaders shortly thereafter, traveling the highways looking for more recruits.
 Really?  That was it?  I'm a smart fucking dude who knows an awful lot about this universe, but I sometimes struggle to get thirty people to read this blog, and it doesn't require people to obey anything I say or give up a damn thing.  Maybe that's my mistake.  Maybe I need to be a bigger dick to everyone.

And it's obvious that these people were looking for an authoritarian with easy answers, and Bo and Peep were the authoritarians they were needing, and a few decades later, they led their flock to their own deaths.  And while I'm definitely not suggesting that other believers are similar to these fools, these people should be an object lesson in the dangers of belief. 

And hell, I seriously doubt most Americans would ever take their religion this seriously.  It's more about a social circle than a belief system, and when you get down to it, most of us do whatever the hell we were going to do anyway; regardless of religion.  I'm definitely of the opinion that most Christians don't know very much about their own beliefs, beyond a few basic ideas which they really really like.

Trusting Belief

Yet all the same, it's quite obvious that belief can betray us, and the people who have the most belief are likely to do the craziest things.  So why do we trust it at all?  If belief can force loving parents to allow their children to die from preventable diseases or force their underage daughters to marry creepy old dudes, how do we know it's not betraying us too?  Is it that our experiences which form these beliefs are better than the experiences of these other people, or is it simply luck that we weren't stuck with the bad beliefs?

And the problem is that belief isn't enough.  Belief can fool you.  And if the hardest step you have to take to find your answers is to merely want to find them, you're probably doing it wrong.  Easy answers are easy.  Trying to figure out all this shit on your own is difficult.  And sure, at a certain level, we all have to accept what our lying eyes tell us, as well as the lying brains of our brainest people; but all the same, there is a method to that madness. 

Science and empiricism are tools which are only as good as the men who use them, but all the same, they're something.  I might not ever touch the sun, but I know enough about it to tell me that it wouldn't be a good idea if I did so.  And while I have to accept on faith that the sun is real, my belief in it is not entirely faith-based.  And until the All-Mighty submits himself to our tools, we know about as much about him as Heavens Gate knew about the Next Level. 

And until someone explains to me how a good god could possibly punish me, or allow me to be punished, simply for wanting empirical evidence, I don't see why I should bother making a decision on any of this.  I'm agnostic on dragons, squirrel extermination, and the necessity of mummification; as are the rest of you, I hope.  I fail to understand why I shouldn't expand my agnosticism to all these other unknowns.


Betsy said...

Very nice indeed. You are a good brain boost to my own bio-brain every day. I appreciate your attitudes, knowledge and your habit of talking me down about politics.

Mike Goldman said...

Blind faith is foolish, but anyone who meditates for awhile knows what science lacks.

word verification: indecida

Doctor Biobrain said...

Yes, and anyone who understands science knows what mediation lacks: Verification.

Science is a tool. It can't find all the answers, but at least the answers it finds can be double-checked...always. The answers found in meditation are the same ones that convinced thirty-nine believers to kill themselves before this world got recycled. If you can't verify your answers, they're shit and shouldn't be trusted.

Your brain will trick you. Science never will. And for all the failings science is accused of, it's always human error. Human error caused by believers who refuse to accept what science is telling them. The only flaw with science is that it can only learn things that are provable, and that's the only system that makes sense to me.

Meditation can only show you what you already think. Science, if used properly, can tell you things you never knew. You can argue that you already know everything because you're one with the universe, and I will agree that that is an interesting theory. But the difference between us is that you insist that your one theory is the "true" theory, while I continue to ponder all the other possible theories. I will never understand why you continue to limit yourself by these beliefs of yours.

Mike Goldman said...

False. Meditation is entirely verifiable by anyone. Just not by instruments. So keep on being blind, if you like.

Mike Goldman said...

Only a complete idiot would suggest that meditation leads people to kill themselves.

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