The advantages of believing.
One of the advantages of being a believer is that one is supplied with ready-made answers. All the really hard work of thinking is done for you. Now it may not be right, but the believer doesn’t care. In fact they have convinced themselves that the ready made answers have to be right. After all if they weren’t right they wouldn’t be answers. Circular thinking perhaps but that’s called faith.
Life, unfortunately is not simple. To assert that any one principle answers all, or perhaps even most, questions is not warranted by the facts. Sometimes I think the best we humans can do it chisel out some good principles that work most of the time.
We can accumulate evidence and draw conclusions and continue to refine our conclusions as new evidence comes to light. But for the believer that is not necessary. Some critics of the fundamentalists, from within their religious camp, call their system “easy believism” on the basis that many fundies think that merely “accepting Christ” is the be all and end of all of their faith. I think Christianists practice “easy thinkism.”
Faith removes complexity. It answers questions that evidence does not answer. To a very large extent it removes the necessity of even asking questions. This is one reason that theology appeals so much to the less intelligent in society. And the lower the level of intelligence, in general, the more likely said believer is to be a fundamentalist.
The so-called “liberal” faiths have a tendency to admit that life is complex. They actually think that there are baffling questions in life and that at best we have general principles to help us grapple with them but that we do not have ready-made answers only guidelines. To the fundamentalist this is borderline atheism. It goes against every thing the fundamentalist finds comforting in his faith --- the ability to coast through life without thinking.
Ready made answers come in so handy. What does the believer do when inconvenient facts arise? He dismisses them. He has no real need to consider them or even understand them. He has the assurances they are wrong simply because they go against the ready-made conclusions that he believes were handed to him by a deity.
I was amused to accidentally come across some blog of some fundamentalist child. I believe this boy was something like 17 or 18 years old. But he was an instant expert on a myriad of topics. His expertise comes because he is a fundamentalist, born again, cultist. So he knows the answers and that is so convenient especially to the young who tend to be arrogant and experts in general.
One of the drawbacks of youth is the certainty that one brings to any discussion. At 18 you are always impressed with how much you know. Then you spend the rest of your life discovering how much you didn’t know after all.
The most recent topic for this child was the discovery of the Tiktaalik. This is considered a major find for fossil hunters as it is one of the species bridging the evolutionary gap between fish and mammal. But our child expert was able to dismiss the whole thing with hardly any personal knowledge of the field he was dismissing.
Why? Simple. God’s word doesn’t mention evolution. It says man was created and that’s all he needs to know. So those fossil experts, who spend decades studying the field, are easily dismissed by this child who is still wet behind the ears. He is absolutely convinced that he is right and that these men of science are all wrong. What a wondrous thing faith is; it turns children into instant experts on palaeontology.
If you don’t think that faith turns children into instant experts try reading the rantings of the chickenhawk Benjamin Shapiro. He’s a darling of the nutty Right because he’s young and tells the Right exactly what they want to hear. He puts himself forth as a virgin but is an instant expert on human sexuality --- something which he says he has no personal experience with. He’s a rabid hawk who wants other kids his age to go to Iraq and die but totally unwilling to go there himself though he is of age. But he’s an expert.
I read Christians attacking films they have not seen. But they don’t need to see the film since they have a ready set of answers in hand. Their faith tells them what they need to know.
Now I’m no fan of the Left in general. But I would rather talk to someone on the Left these days than someone on the Right --- well the American Right in particular. And the reason is that people on the Left, on a whole, don’t think they have a ready set of answers. They do have an over confidence in man’s ability to order his society. But they are a bit more reality based.
They think globalization is evil and bad for the poor of the world. They are wrong. But at the very least I can sit down and go over the facts with them. I can show them that the evidence overwhelmingly shows net benefits for the poor of the world from global free trade. They accept that facts matters.
But a conversation with the Religious Right is almost impossible. They don’t need facts. They are oblivious to evidence. They have faith. If I debate the issue of gay marriage with a religionist they will normally make some apparent “fact based” statements which are usually false. And they are usually easily shown to be false. But those arguments are merely the smokescreen. When you blow away the smoke they resort to their real argument: “God says it, I believe it, that settles it.”
They are immune to reason. And those “facts” they used were picked and deemed “facts” because they apparently supported the faith-based conclusions that were handed to them by their religion. It was not this way in the US before. Before the rise of the Religious Right but Left and Right could be reasoned with. But as the Right began repealing the Enlightenment it became more shrill. And the Left, idiots like Michael Moore, started yelling back. And things degenerated to the point where they are today. Dialogue is gone. Reason is abolished and screaming is considered argumentation.
But at least if you calm the American Leftist down enough they can rediscover the deeper, all be it, hidden acceptance of facts and dialogue is possible. But at the core of today’s conservative is faith and that shuts off dialogue. That’s what it’s meant to do and it does it well.