When it comes right down to it, we have so little verifiable information about the comprehensive context of our own existence that using the word ‘reality’ with conviction is laughable. Maybe that is the one thing theists have over non-theists. It is possible that the word ‘faith’ is a humble acknowledgement that we are so doomed to such a high degree of ignorance about what is actually going compared to the tiny fraction of a degree we can be absolutely sure of that we really can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is total fantasy.
Nevertheless, as non-theists, perhaps we are the wiser by simply suffering the inevitability of this ‘ignorance gap’ for what it is and avoid trading the probable fantasy of what our senses and reason tell us for the total cognitive dissonance proscribed by religion and superstition. At least we can live in the moment and spend our brief time focusing on personal responsibility, intellectual integrity and joie-de-vivre rather than a rote code and fear of a cruel and angry deity.
After all, the victims of unyielding dogma and staunch adherence to ideology live their lives steeped in the most ridiculous, mind-numbing contradictions.
Here are just ten very commonly held and completely contradictory things I am confronted with on a daily basis from the media, politicians, coworkers, etc. And, keep in mind, that they are averred to be the absolute truth AND do not constitute paradoxes.
1. “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace AND I am 100% against a ban on assault weapons.”
2. “I believe that saying 'god damn it' is 'taking the lord’s name in vain’ AND I believe we should put the word ‘god’ on all our money.”
3. “I believe that, when I die, I will be stripped of my flesh (body), my sinfulness (fallibility), carnal urges, etc. AND I will remain the same person I am now forever and ever, amen.”
4. “I think all books that talk about incest, rape, homosexuality, bigamy, adultery, magic, etc. should be banned or burned AND The Bible is the holiest book ever written.”
5. “I believe God is almighty, capable of anything and the creator of everything AND humans (with encouragement from the devil) are responsible for all negative and hurtful aspects of life.”
6. “I believe in the existence of the world’s oceans AND every type of animal on earth traveled to Noah’s Ark to avoid drowning in a flood.”
7. “I think in vitro fertilization, which results in the routine destruction of unused embryos, is a good thing AND using those embryos in stem cell research that could cure horribly afflicted victims of terminal and debilitating diseases is tantamount to murder.”
8. “I believe god is merciful AND all non-believers will be tortured for eternity.”
9. “I think all religions that are different from mine are foolish superstitions AND I can’t figure out how non-theists get through the day believing there is no god.”
10. “I have no recollection of the fifteen billion years before I was born AND can’t imagine how non-believers can wrap their brain around the lack of a ‘hereafter’.”
Non-theists, let us not become dogmatic in the notion that a tiny amount of empirical evidence (when weighed against all the unknown aspects of a vast universe) allows us to be certain of anything lest we fall into a similar pit of cognitive dissonance. After all, before people had any expectation of leaving their little village in their lifetime, the notion that the world was flat was a perfectly practical and serviceable point of view. It was the persecution of people who thought otherwise that was the real problem.
Howard S. Dunn