A few years ago a frequent visitor to my home must have noticed the pile of books I was reading. They were books on science, skepticism and philosophy. During one of her visits she placed a little gift on my ever-growing stack of reading material, a small wooden plaque that said “Believe.”
I discovered it after she had left, picked it up, looked at it, and said to myself, “Believe what?”
I quickly came to the realization that the sentiment was a religious one. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. I thought about it some more, and came to this conclusion: Belief is easy; critical thinking and forming your beliefs properly is hard, very hard.
Everyone believes in something. Simply telling someone to believe is like telling them to breathe.
Unfortunately, we live in a faith-based, belief-oriented culture, where desire and convenience trump facts. When our deepest longings and cherished traditions fail to make sense, we cement the cracks in logic and reason with the absurd notion of “faith.” This is what is used to buttress the untenable claims of heaven and hell, despite no good evidence to believe in either.
There are people who believe they have been taken aboard an alien spacecraft and sexually assaulted in some sort of cosmic scientific investigation. They’ll tell this story in eerily religious language. These inter-galactic visitors just want what’s best for you, they’ll say. These smart, professional people are earnest and intelligent, and they seem to believe what they claim. (If you are a Canadian truck driver or a suburban housewife in Texas, beware: You are a prime candidate by alien demographics.)
Flying saucers, ghosts, bleeding statues, Elvis, healers and fortune tellers These are just a few of the absurdities that people claim “belief” in.
Advertisers, magicians and scam artists prey on these people who simply “believe.” They will delicately massage every presupposition and bias as if you were a fleshy robot. Communicating with a lost loved one is only a phone call and a credit card number away.
Speaking of scam artists, the upcoming presidential election will no doubt be a case study in the failure of our electorate to think and just believe.
Will Obama supporters hold him responsible for funding his new jobs bill the way he so optimistically claims it will be funded? They should, but I doubt they will.
Will republican supporters continue to allow their candidates to duck and dodge direct questions of fact, as Texas Gov. Rick Perry did in the most current republican presidential debate? I hope not, but I get a feeling they will.
I refuse to simply believe things on bad evidence, and I detest the absurd notion of “faith,” in the majority, if not all, of its equivocations.
I am committed to vigilantly informing my beliefs by rigorously seeking evidence, practicing intellectual honesty, and engaging in spirited debate. This is why I find religion so distasteful and the idea(s) of god(s) so untenable. Our children need to learn how to think and think critically, and not just to “believe,” because belief is inherent in thought. Religion doesn’t teach that, and this is why we’re raising a nation of religious dupes.
Next time you want to pass along a cute little sentiment on my stack of books, how about this: Think. That little trinket may not end up in the trash.