Wednesday, March 18, 2009

True Believer - Part I

In all honesty, who can really proclaim what is the correct way to live? The righteous among us and the True Believers certainly have no problem in declaring what they know to be true. They are not satisfied, however, with simply living according to their own principles; they feel driven to judge everyone through their own myopic lens and feel perfectly justified in coercing others to adhere to their ideals no matter how bizarre and distorted. In their eyes, reality itself can not be trusted and must be dutifully reshaped to fit their own ends – a preposterous and impossible task reminiscent of Sisyphus and his benighted rock. To some practitioners of the truly absurd, the world is only six thousand years old and everything was created in one blinding instance by the Master Builder who had such a fine and uncompromising eye for details. In order to maintain this preposterous notion, evolution must therefore be a grand lie; the proponents of science and the scientific method are nothing more than wily conspirators whose only purpose is to disdain the glorious deeds of the Creator and progressive ideas are the work of the Devil. The Devil, now there is truly magnificent creation of the human imagination. All the bleak, morbid, sadistic and chaotic urges of human nature have been judiciously melded together and poured into the singular conception that is the devil. Humans are therefore not responsible for the evil that humans do; it is the nothing more than the workings of the Devil, who is intent on undermining and besmirching our infinite souls.

Consider all the humans who have killed each other over conflicting religious beliefs; beliefs that are equally ludicrous no matter what side of the argument anyone is on. It is like taking two children, with highly charged imaginations, who have concocted opposing word views and placing them in an arena in which they are encouraged, with their followers watching, to bludgeon each other; until, one is victorious. Whoever wins has the right to declare his view to be the right one, regardless of what the real world may suggest. Within the marvelously fanciful stories of gods and their exploits, of saints and angels and prophets, there lies the incessant hunger of humans for immortality and superhuman capabilities. These stories, regardless of where they originated, are obviously the direct product of the human imagination. To assume otherwise is to essentially believe that the living world and its many manifestations are somehow irrelevant. And yet, billions of individuals not only take these incredible beliefs seriously, but are willing to kill and die for them.

True Believers are in a category that is distinct and uniquely their own. A True Believer holds on to a set of principles so strongly and so convincingly that there is no science or exercise of reasoned judgment that can pry the believer from his conclusions no matter how daft they appear to be. We’ve already had a look at religious belief that encompasses the real existence of an immortal demonic creature, spiritual in origin, who prowls about the human world looking for susceptible souls so that he might convince them to join him in hell, that place of eternal damnation. Tell me that this characterization could not have easily been concocted as a full-blown comic book hero. Hell, that’s a concept that deserves some attention. In this particular world there is no guarantee once an individual comes into this world about what how his life will unfold. There is no guarantee about the quality of his genome, the sanity of his family, the historic context in which he is born, the hardships he will endure, the diseases he will contract. To many humans born on planet earth, the sojourn of living could easily be described as hell. Need I elaborate, but I will, nonetheless: men women and children napalmed in Vietnam, Iraqis exposed to depleted uranium, children maimed by land mines, the agony of starvation, women sold into prostitution and slavery, children orphaned by the scourge of AIDS, the intentional maiming of children so that they might be more productive beggars, the Japanese victims of the nuclear holocaust visited on the unsuspecting cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the unimaginable plight of the Jews under the crazed reign of Adolf Hitler, the countless humans who have suffered from chronic devastating diseases, the real toll of mental illness on those unlucky enough to suffer it and etc.. This is a list produced from what has transpired in the human world during my brief stay. It does not include, of course, all that has transpired during the entire course of human history. And yet, given all of this unavoidable evidence, many humans believe that there is a caring God who looks over them and who has crafted a place of eternal damnation for his unruly charges just in case they have not suffered enough. Under the guise of religion, there are those who are convinced that if they sacrifice themselves for their God and bring others along with them in their fiery and suicidal ride to oblivion those who they perceive as God’s enemies, they will subsequently be rewarded with eternal bliss. Amazing! More about True Believers later.

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