"When a man has once brought himself to accept uncritically all the
absurdities that religious doctrines put before him and even to
overlook the contradictions between them, we need not be greatly
surprised at the weakness of his intellect"
-Sigmund Freud: The Future of an Illusion
"The religious man has no trouble believing the ridiculous and only wonders why he's so much better at it than everybody else is. This he takes as a sign from God."
-St. Brian the Godless
What is a belief?
If I think that I have a belief, I’m not sure. But if I believe that I have a thought, it implies certainty.
Belief is a tricky subject. The words “belief” and “faith” both imply thinking something is true without evidence. Most of their definitions seem to entail this. And yet, most believers see it quite differently, as beliefs somehow trumping mere thoughts, as in being preferable and somehow superior to them.
If I think that there may be a God, or even if I think that there is a God, I am still open to discussion. If new data comes in, I can change my mind easily enough.
But if I believe that there is a God and have faith in it, there can be no more discussion. My mind is closed to new data that may disprove my belief. Forever.
In the Christian mind, belief and faith are seen as very good things indeed. They are held up as the optimal mindset. In my mind however, they’re anathema to human growth, both personally and as a society.
As little children we are asked by our parents to believe in many things. In a Christian home, belief in God is a central tenet. You have to believe, or you’re bad, evil, and wrong. You have to love God with all your heart and mind, even if you can’t see Him or really talk to Him, and even if the things that He does make no sense. Even if there’s not one shred of hard evidence for His existence. Even if people that call themselves believers and faithful seem to do a lot of bad things in the world. Against all logic and reason, you must not question. You have to believe, or you’re bad, bad, bad.
There are benefits to belief and faith in God. They make understanding an incredibly and possibly infinitely complex reality, utterly simple. GodDidIt. Period. Next subject.
Having belief and faith makes thinking about one’s own death much easier. If you’re good, you’ll live on forever in heaven, playing cosmic badminton on clouds and watching people you didn’t like in life fry in hell on the widescreen. Such bliss! Of course, if you’re not good you burn forever in hell, because after all, God loved you and you spurned him, and he’s a jealous, wrathful, shallow God who cares about such things a lot. But of course you’re good. You know this because you believe in God, so you’re good by definition. So no need to worry about the place downstairs. You’ve got Pascal’s Wager covered.
So what end product does this produce in a person?
It produces a person that is absolutely sure of their own rectitude at all times. They know that they’re right about their God and about reality, and thus that all other faiths and non-faiths are miserably wrong, and even evil. They do not question themselves, since to do so is considered evil. If you have the audacity to question them about their faith, they automatically "know" you to be evil and perhaps even satanic, so it will only reinforce their own position. They see this life as a game, a conflict between good and evil, presumably represented as God and Satan. If you point to any crack in that logic, you’re the stupid one in their eyes. And on the side of Satan as well. Nice way to dismiss it.
The end result of this is a self-serving egomaniac, not a spiritual person. Pride kills real spirituality like Raid kills roaches.
The senselessness of all this, the affront to logic that it represents to any person not involved in the religion, is astonishing. And yet, the faithful “know” that God is real, and all the rest, to the exclusion of all evidence offered. “God works in mysterious ways.” How many times did I hear that litany as a child? Too many to count. If you rephrase it to more reflect the reality of the situation, the more accurate version reads “God works in illogical and seemingly evil ways completely contradictory to how we insist on seeing Him in spite of all that.”
If we sometimes marvel at pederast priests, or at serial killers that are leaders of their congregation, or at the hypocrisy of an abortion clinic bombing, we need to remember that we’re not dealing with people that think about things at all; they merely believe and as such are enormously handicapped in this life. They are blind to reality, having willingly rejected it. They are easily led, by anybody that knows the right keywords. They have been taught never to question themselves, so how could they know that they’ve let themselves become deviant? They can’t even see the reality that we’re judging them against, so how can they know when they’ve deviated from it into a self-congratulatory psychosis? They cannot.
So in that light, I have a question for all True Believers, those with Absolute, Unshakeable Faith.
Can you think, or do you just believe that you can? And how would you know if it was only the latter?