The headline to this post was the hardest part of the whole post to write. How do you tell an 800 pound Gorilla you think his decision-making skills are miles beyond stupid? Same struggle: How do you tell theists — many of them your friends and loved ones — that you see the process they use to make decisions and you cringe for them. And for whoever that decision will impact.
How do you tell them that if it weren’t for Waze on their phones, they’d never have a clue where they were — in their neighborhood, in their town — on the whole stinking planet!
And yet — those same friends are convinced that they can see more clearly than I can see. Let me frame it this way… Picture this simple scene —
We sit across a table from each other, strangers to each other. Nonetheless, I lean forward and say, “Trust me”.
Mind you — I’m very persuasive. You feel like maybe you could trust me. But still — we’re strangers. “Why should I trust you,” you ask?
“Easy,” I reply with a confident shrug. “Because I believe in Truth. Everything I say is based on the things I BELIEVE IN MY SOUL And they’re ALL ABSOLUTELY TRUE.”
That sounds good to you. Belief… souls… Absolute Truth…
“Okay,” you reply, warming to the idea of trusting me. And to make sure we’re really on the same page, you ask one more question — “These things you believe in your soul (to be absolutely true) — what are they exactly?”
And I draw myself up, mustering all the gravitas I can. “I believe,” I intone (what I’m about to say being that serious that I have to intone it rather than say it), “That the moral basis for EVERYTHING IN LIFE… is Noodles.”
After you stop laughing uncomfortably — suddenly concerned that I’m not laughing with you — you look askance at me and you see: I’m as serious as a heart attack complicated by cancer and an earthquake.
I mean it. NOODLES. It turns out, you learn, that I honestly believe a large slice of Lasagna is God and various preparations of Cappalini a la vongole are the angels.
When I need to commune with my spiritual side, I tell you as you try to scrape your jaw off the floor , I hear my spiritual side speak to me — and tell me TRUTHS. And then I take those Truths and ‘do things’… like preach. Which I’m doing right now to you.
“So,” I say, keenly aware that your eyes have glazed over with a mixture of uncertainty and disbelief, “do ya trust me now?”
Of course you don’t. I just told you that my whole belief system is unsupported by any sort of practical reality whatsoever. I believe the secret to life is Noodles fer fuck’s sake!
If I told you to do anything — play in traffic, swallow poison, vote a certain way — you’d dismiss it out of hand BECAUSE — at my core — I believe something that causes YOU to doubt my decision-making skills because it’s based on something deeply preposterous.
Because the basis for what I believe — Noodles Uber Alles — is dubious. Worse, it’s stupid. There are limited rules and the rules keep changing (as if I was making them all up as I went along). Nothing I say about the Noodle God
Okay — that’s a very, very extreme example of my (very, very belabored) point — If the core values for a person’s belief system are dubious — or based on unsubstantiated, unprovable or outright unlikely incidents and events — and they USE that belief system to, say, guide their votes or legislate — as someone who DOES NOT use unsubstantiated, unprovable and outright unlikely incidents and events to guide the core values underlying their decision-making, I find it HARD to trust someone who does.
I don’t have a problem with a person having spirituality — or using their spirituality to guide their moral principles. I kinda do however if their spirituality is based on Noodles. Or some other bullshit.
And when someone who believes utter bullshit rises to a position of power — and, per their religious bullshit, attempts to make THEIR religious bullshit everyone ELSE’S religious bullshit — if my math’s right, that’s bullshit squared, cubed and raised to a power of a million.
And therein lies the problem. From an atheist’s point of view, a guy who believes Noodles are the basis for everything is a guy who cannot possibly make good, reasonable, logical decisions about anything (except maybe by chance).
Now — to be fair — an awful lot of my theist friends are reasonable people. They find the underlying MESSAGE in their faith — and they live by those principles: “Do Unto Others” for instance. Their faith is part of the moral overlay that they rely on for guidance. They bring perspective to the dance and perspective serves them well.
But huge swaths of this country do not seem to have that perspective — or any perspective where their faith is concerned. It is a question they dare not ask themselves because the answer might be exactly what, deep down, they fear it is.
What compounds it all is this: Faith is based on feelings — about how the world works, about who or what the deity is, about what anything means in that context (whatever that context is). But not a whit of it is based on FACTS. Our theist friends may have FEELINGS about FACTS they’ve heard or read but the two are not the same.
Too bad too many continue to act as if they are.
Maybe that’s the answer to my question — How do you know you can trust a theist? If they have an ounce of perspective, go for it…