It’s been my thought for some time now and has become even more cemented in place over the past few years. People will believe anything, especially if it fills their desire for meaning and purpose, even if it is ridiculous at face value. But don’t mistake the for a shot at tradition. Karl Marx said that religion is “the opiate of the masses” and yet his alternative drug produces delusion, rage and violence. I’ll take Jesus and love over that any day of the week.
Sure, this quote could have some truth to it:
“Organized religion is a sham and a crutch for weak-minded people who need strength in numbers. It tells people to go out and stick their noses in other people’s business.”E. J. Dionne Jr
But that same statement could be applied to almost every popular secular movement or established consensus. Certainly not all, not even many, who believe in various narratives or theories are qualified experts. Most have simply bought into a system and are riding the ideological bandwagon. Good science is religious and organized, scientism is a cult and a way of silencing critical thinkers who are outside of the political mainstream. I would certainly take Gospel tracts shoved in my face over social media censorship of my ‘wrongthink’ and higher taxes that won’t do anything to save the planet.
Call me a skeptic of everything, I just find it difficult subscribing to anything anymore, to me it is all easy-believism. I mean, does it seriously change anything about my day-to-day life to believe in climate change or go to church? Probably not. People might make a symbolic sacrifice here and there. However, for the most part the commitment doesn’t ever match the rhetoric. The faithful aren’t walking on water nor are those who loudly proclaim their extreme consternation about the climate giving up their private jets or beach homes.
But it is much more basic than this, go ask people about who is the best president ever (or worst) and you’ll get completely opposite answers. To some Trump was the guy who spoke to their own concerns and delivered, to others Biden is the guy who has restored the normalcy they craved. Both sides can support their own perspective if given the chance. Can they all be right? Okay, so it is subjective, an opinion which man is better or worse, and yet we don’t agree on what is objective either.
I love talking to the most sincere people, the true believers, because they are so confident about what they say and it is enviable. If you have had a bad experience with those who espouse their ideology, then that’s the rare exception, an anomaly, and is not the real version that is represented by them. I’m just not like them. I can’t help my skepticism of their beliefs. I’m not very easily sold on their the basis of their sureness and claims alone, show me the undeniable evidence. I do not fall for their conviction or consensus.
People do not seem to know where reality ends and their imagination begins. Basically every narrative we create is a sort of fiction we create for ourselves. We take the bits of data, very often distorted by our own flawed perception, and interpret it into a story that makes sense to us. Systemic heightism, for example, describes something very real, is even quantifiable, and yet is also an overlay that doesn’t truly describe the truly complex picture. What we accept or deny is often a product of our conditioning, social status and base desires.
The primitive communism that Marx used to fashion his ideas were as much a fabrication as any religious mythos. Idealistic children likely subscribe to his theories for the same reason they love Disney fairy tales or Marvel comic book heroes. Utopia ahead is a very strong motivator, in that we are very willing to make huge personal sacrifices when we believe that heaven awaits us. And yet, as much as see the ‘faithful’ fall for obvious con-men, it makes every testimony questionable.
The problem with my own unbelief is that I also believe this too. I trust myself enough to mistrust. Maybe my own ambivalence, and sometimes agnosticism, will make me miss the one truth in the sea of lies? Still, I’m convinced my only ability to be sure of anything will have to be direct revelation from God, because I know too well that I’m a blind man in a world of full of blindness. I’ll admit, this isn’t the most comforting or easy answer, but people believe many things that simply are not true.
What do I believe?
I believe what is most beneficial. Maybe all of religious narrative is a fabrication and yet the real question is it useful, will it produce results that make the world better?
The Christ I believe teaches me the value of delayed gratification. In other words, when we invest in others, in faith, there is a chance that we make a friend and split the dividend of our peace. In doing unto others, in love, there is a chance of solving our conflicts and ending hostilities. Christianity, unlike various popular political systems, makes no utopian promise in this life, and yet it does help to push behavior in the right direction.