Monday, September 18, 2006

God Did It

Sometimes you have to have faith. You have to believe that the sun will rise tomorrow. You have to believe that there will be enough food for you to buy at the grocery store. You have to believe that when you flush the toilet, it will be processed properly and not just dumped into a stream. But each of these things is based in some way on previously understood and verified facts. The sun will rise tomorrow because it rose today. There will likely be food at the grocery store because there was the last time you went shopping. You can visit the sewage treatment plant and see how it is processed for yourself.

Faith in the supernatural is necessarily a leap of faith. The supernatural has no indication in the natural world. There is no precedent, no previous instance, no tangible evidence of the supernatural. Any idea based on the supernatural must therefore involve the unknown. All that is known about the supernatural is that it is not natural. Other than that, it is an unknown defined by unknowns.

This makes it practically worthless. It tells us nothing about how the real, tangible world operates. It offers us no insight into our current troubles or even what happens when we die. It is all speculation built upon speculation.

So why do people insist on having "faith" in the supernatural? Why do people believe it because it is absurd? I have yet to answer this question the way it was asked. And therein lies the problem; I don't think there is an answer the way the question is framed. This kind of faith is not based on understanding. Explaining the unknown in terms of the known would make the unknown knowable. And that's not the idea behind this kind of faith.

For some people, their whole worldview is built on the idea that there is an ill-defined "something" (a god), that makes reality and everything possible. This is mind-boggling and scary. Someone can have an entire set of memes based on one major and nonsensical meme. They cannot define it, you cannot define it, because, by definition, this kind of faith is undefined. The base meme becomes a sticky ball of possibilities. You can stick anything on it so long as it is couched in the proper terms. Religious and political leaders do this all the time to get people to do what they want them to do. Cleanliness is next to godliness. Every sperm is sacred. God hates fags, etc.

There is a serious problem with this kind of faith - it is unassailable. If I wanted to claim that the holocaust never happened, or that the earth is flat, there is information and evidence available to let me know that I am wrong. I can compare what I know and understand to available evidence. The undefined has no evidence. It has no rightness nor wrongness. It cannot be processed and determined to be true or false. This makes it very, very dangerous. How do you tell someone that their belief in 72 virgins waiting for them in heaven is based on nothing? How do you tell someone that their love of GWB is based on an unknown? They don't ask for evidence and they don't need evidence. All they know is that they have faith in this *something*, and that is good enough for them. If faith were to be held in the same light as all other claims, it would be the linchpin of someone's belief system. Change the base meme, and you can bring their entire worldview crashing down.

When I was younger, I would ask all sorts of questions about everything I experienced around me. Most of the time, I received satisfactory answers. Every once in a while, though, I would ask someone a question and they wouldn't know the answer. Instead of getting "I don't know", they said "god did it". The more people I met in life, the more I came across people willing to use that as a legitimate response. I also met people that were given that as an answer to many of their questions.

Start with a basic, underlying meme like the undefined faith we discussed earlier. Add to it all sorts of other memes that can be made to link to it via some spurious connection. Also include as an understanding of many natural phenomena "god did it", and you will end up with a warped and twisted mind that has very little chance of learning and independent thought. How many inquisitive minds have been snuffed out by those three simple words? Imagine all the potential botanists that asked "why is that tree there?" and received in reply "god did it". Or all the potential physicists that asked "why do things fall?" and heard "god did it".

Why do people believe silly things?

God did it.

If you want to destroy a mind, teach it to accept things without evidence. Teach it to accept only those things that appeal to ill-defined concepts and unknowns. Make the mind resistant to attempts to reshape it by cloaking it in ignorance. When you understand the danger of faith, how restrictive and destructive it can be, you cannot help but conclude that faith is one of the most dangerous forces that language can create.

Faith is the mind-killer.


Blogger Mookie said...

If you don't believe me, check this out:

I almost shit my pants. Raising little xian terrorists.

19 September, 2006 11:41  
Anonymous SH said...

I agree with your post. However, and this is really off topic of your post but something I think about every once in a while, I think the word "faith" is somewhat misleading. It seems to come to indicate believing into something without a reason. But the more I think about it the more I realize that people don't really believe things without reasons. Believers even in the most outlandish ideas have some sort of rational or emotional need for holding their beliefs. To say that they have no reason to hold their beliefs serves to dismiss their reasons, however insignificant to us they might seem, out of hand. Their reasons might seem silly to us but they are very real and very important to the believers. I think it is very unproductive to simply ignore them instead of trying to understand the reasons behind their beliefs.

20 September, 2006 19:43  
Blogger Delta said...

Holy shit, that video was terrifying. That's the worst kind of abuse a parent could give to a child. As you correctly pointed out in your post, teaching a person to believe things without evidence (often, IN SPITE of evidence-->Satan put those fossils there to trick us) is very likely to destroy any chance of them ever developing critical thinking skills. Those kids are certainly going to impact society in very negative ways.

20 September, 2006 19:51  
Blogger Delta said...


In many ways I agree with you. Of course there really are reasons for why these people believe in this type of stuff. Very natural and more or less predicable factors went into why they believe it. But at the same time, it's important to take away the idea that "faith" is an intellectually defensible position. And they do in fact believe that. Get in any debate with a christian and the word "faith" starts popping up everwhere. But you're right, it's more productive for us to determine the emotional and, yes, intellectual reasons for why people believe things without evidence (different than without reason) so that we can try to shape our world in a better way.

20 September, 2006 20:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone forcefed ideals from a young age will grow up believing those ideals without ever questioning them ,even in the face of overwhelming evidence. One of the biggest crimes of religion, is allowing children access to it before they develope good thinking skills.

21 September, 2006 04:49  
Blogger Mookie said...

"it is very unproductive to simply ignore them instead of trying to understand the reasons behind their beliefs"

I agree. I know it is not so simple as them just having faith. I do understand the emotional side to it. People very often associate positive moods and feelings with god or their religion. I respect that only so far as it makes them happy and better people. After a while, though, I worry for their grasp on reality. Hiding behind emotion and faith is a popular tactic for people who have been led so far down the religious road that they cannot face up to reality in any meaningful way. I don't want to come off as being horribly mean, uncaring, and cruel, but sometimes it is necessary to tell people that their feelings and reality are not always in agreement. Believing in god and getting happy feelings as a result is not really evidence, and doesn't serve to convince me. On top of that, when one does NOT have such feelings, they think there's something wrong with the person, not with them. I have often been the target of this "pity". You can be sure it was mutual.

"It's important to take away the idea that "faith" is an intellectually defensible position"

It is, which I think that was the point of the post. Also, I met some xian parents who had a little kid. I was worried for the child because I was imagining what kinds of answers it would get as it was growing up. Curiousity is usually sated when an answer is given. If that's not enough, if the child asks "what made god?" or "what is god?", and the parents say something equally nonsensical, that child will be severely limited.

"One of the biggest crimes of religion, is allowing children access to it before they develope good thinking skills"

It is a crime in many ways. But can't the same be said for any meme or ideology? Maybe not. Maybe there is a slight difference when it comes to veracity and import of the idea. Rancid god-belief is much worse than a devotion to Santa Claus (though not by much).

21 September, 2006 10:25  

Post a Comment

<< Home