On faith, and its value in society.
I’ve got a demon inside me. I call him Ralph. Apparently, anytime I think I’m thinking for myself, speaking for myself, or otherwise not following the religious line that other people believe I should be following, it’s Ralph speaking instead of me.
I can imagine this could be useful at times. “No, I didn’t call your mother a nasty gold-digging whore, it was Ralph.” “I didn’t eat all the chocolate candies with nuts, it was Ralph.”
No, I’m Not Kidding
OK, I am kidding – but plenty of people, it seems, aren’t kidding and really think this is reality. When my father’s wife told me about Ralph (OK, she just said “You’ve got a demon inside you, and we need to get him out,” in the same tone I might use to say “You’ve got a tag showing, let me help hide it.”) my first impulse was to simply think the woman was insane.
The problem with that is that the world seems full of equally insane people. My good friend Don Ardell, publisher of the Ardell Wellness Report, “The Catholic Church has certified over 400 new exorcists. Figures are hard to obtain, but it’s estimated that thousands worldwide do this kind of thing.”
So apparently a majority, or at least a significant minority, of the world literally believes that there are magical, invisible beings out there that get inside of people and control them, and that priests, preachers, or witch doctors can remove these beings by prancing, babbling, and sprinkling them with special water. Water, by the way, that there is no evidence is any different than regular tap water, just as there is no evidence that the beings exist in the first place.
Evidence? Who Needs Evidence?
After all, for the majority of the world, the most important decisions of their life are made on faith, not evidence – and isn’t faith supposed to be a good thing? People name their children Faith – anyone ever heard of a child named Evidence, Reason, or Logic? No, people give their children emotional names like Hope and Chastity and even Temperance, though interestingly they don’t seem to give such names to male offspring. Hmmm, wonder what that says about their thinking?
So what exactly is faith? From what I can gather, it boils down to this: Accepting something because someone else told you it was true, even if there is no evidence backing up their claim, in fact it even seems that a lack of evidence or contrary evidence makes faith all the stronger.
In everyday terms, this is exactly as insane as it seems. If the world operated like this under normal circumstances, police would arrest people simply because they suspected them of a crime – and let them go if they denied it. Con artists would love it, and in fact they do, because faith is one of the most common elements in any scam. People would swallow all sorts of strange potions because they had been told the potions were good for them. Red lights would be ignored, because people would have faith that they would change, and no amount of evidence would convince them their faith was misplaced.
So why does religion get a pass? I really don’t know. Books have been written on the subject, notably Michael Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things, but I’m no closer to really understanding it than ever. I never did that, and still don’t; I treat religious claims just like any other claims, and from the evidence I’ve been shown, they are all false.
Try it yourself. Imagine the stories told by a religion being told to you today. Would you believe them?