11. Why Belief?
Why do we believe? Why do we place so much emphasis on faith? It is a question many churchgoers take for granted, but it is a question which deserves the utmost attention, because if we are to keep from lying to ourselves and instead be honest, we must come to an awareness of why we believe, not simply “accept” our beliefs wholesale without questioning them.
Belief, or “faith” if you will, is unavoidable in several areas of our lives since nobody knows everything about everything, and nor can we. If our car needs repair, and we do not know anything about cars, we will have to put our “faith” or trust in a mechanic to repair our vehicles. We have faith we will not be poisoned by the food we eat, and that the elevator we enter at our workplace will not shut down while we are inside it. We believe and have faith in more things than we can ever possibly be conscious of, as we take so much for granted out of convenience and necessity, rarely questioning why we believe in things.
We usually do not question something if we have reasonable evidence something is true and/or correct. It is reasonable to believe a mechanic with years of training and work experience, along with positive reviews by other customers, will know how to fix our car. It is reasonable to believe a bridge made of stone which has stood for over 75 years in which there have been no incidents of it faltering will likely not fall down if we cross it. In both of these cases, we have sufficient or reasonable evidence to have confidence or “faith” if you will in these things. And that is the point – we have empirical evidence to back up our belief, our “faith” if you will. In the case of the mechanic, a very conscientious person would research the mechanic’s credentials and reputation by means of reviews, other customers’ input, etc., to be sure their prices are fair and their work has been positively reviewed by others. Some do not assume because one is a mechanic, they are necessarily a competent one. Some question before making a commitment of faith. Unfortunately, this overwhelmingly tends not to be the case in matters of religion and spirituality.
Why is it we tend to question and test “mundane” matters such as the quality of a mechanic or a product we wish to purchase, and not matters of spiritual, existential significance? Why is it okay to question these “worldly matters,” and not “spiritual matters?” Why this double standard? The reason we tend not to question the “deeper” aspects of life, nor encourage others to do so is because it hits too close to home. They are questions of our very egos, of our most primal notions of self-worth and “meaning,” of our presumed notions of measurement and value. That essentially comprises the whole of what gives “purpose” to our lives. A lot is on the line when we question “deep” matters because these questions bring us face-to-face with the truth of ourselves. Somewhere deep down inside, we all know the truth our egos are temporary, impermanent, and illusory, but we never want to face this reality. It is no wonder we are so obsessed with television, gossip, “reality” shows, and celebrity newspapers. It is much easier to divert our attention from truth, and instead focus on the shallow mundanities of everyday life.
Basically, we either know something, or we don’t know something. When we don’t know something, we have options. We can either believe in something, with little or no evidence for it, to “fill in the gaps” which make us uncomfortable, or we can admit we don’t have an answer, and search honestly for the truth of a given question. Searching for the truth of a question, or admitting we don’t know what we don’t know, is at least honest, while simply believing in something we do not know simply because it feels good to do so is dishonest. Matt Dillahunty is famous for his willingness to simply and honestly admit, “I don’t know,” much to the consternation of many theists who would debate him. I just heard a sermon last Sunday in which the pastor preached on “what we should believe.” The title of the sermon alone had my head rolling before he even began, and my suspicions as to how the sermon would unfold were correct. On the bulletin, it read Christianity knows nothing of “blind faith,” but that it is based on “evidence.” If we call the constructs of Christianity – namely pseudo-science, hearsay, apologist theological musings, third-hand, decades-later written accounts and the like, hard “evidence,” then we are delusional.
Some religious people get upset with freethinkers and their huge presence on the internet because they fear they will cause others to “lose faith” or heaven forbid, question their faith. And this is a bad thing? It is a bad thing for those who run the profitable big business of maintaining the lie of Christianity, Islam, and other false religions. When knowledge is the enemy, as it has been since the beginning of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we have a serious problem. The god of the Judeo-Christian tradition didn’t value knowledge from the beginning, according to the first Biblical book of Genesis. The Tree of Knowledge contained fruit from which God commanded Adam and Eve not to eat. Why would God do this? Why would God command humanity to remain ignorant, and punish us for investigating things for ourselves, for questioning out of the natural curiosity of human nature God instilled within us? The more I look at the story of the fall from Genesis, the more disturbed I am by the insidiousness of it. It is no wonder leaders of Christianity do not value serious questioning and truth-seeking. Since the god they worship doesn’t value it, why should they? They, like their god, believe ignorance and “blind faith” is better, and knowledge is “of the Devil,” and is “the enemy.” It is incredible how just under a third of the world population in this day in age still worships a god who values ignorance over knowledge.
Knowledge of truth is enlightenment. To squelch honest truth and knowledge-seeking, is to promote ignorance and all the misery and suffering that goes with it. The fact many religious people are afraid of the influence of questioning reveal it is not truth they are defending, but the lie. The truth needs no defense, and will stand in the midst of any questioning since the correct answers to these questions will reveal the truth for what it is. That is why the truth always endures. This is not true of the lie, which is why the religious fear questioning. They instinctually know they are defending lies, which is precisely why they feel threatened.
Apologists and theologians are not authentic truth-seekers because they always have an agenda to defend – their pre-conceived beliefs. Genuine, credible scientists, on the other hand, have no conclusions going into an investigation, and are open to what the data and evidence presents to them. Apologists such as Lee Strobel are not scientists. They are apologists for a reason – because credible science cannot support their outlandish claims. If it could, apologists would not exist, and matters of religion and spirituality would fall under the jurisdiction of genuine scientific facts and credible, sound reasoning. The reason religious apologists have zero credibility, and are not taken seriously by the scientific/freethinking community is because they are not honest. To enter into an investigation such as “The Case for Christ” with the answer predetermined, is neither credible nor honest scholarship. It is an exercise in confirmation bias masquerading as honest and “hard-nosed” scholarship as Strobel claims he engages in doing in his series of “case” books, when they are nothing of the kind. Apologists have their conclusions before they even begin to compose their defenses, and then craft their writings from selective “evidence” to support their desired conclusions – again – confirmation bias. Genuine truth-seekers defend nothing, since truth is uncompromising and has neither conclusion nor agenda to defend. Genuine truth-seekers stop at nothing to know the truth of what IS, not necessarily what they want things to be, thus deluding themselves.
As long as we are defending our beliefs, we are not about truth. We are about ego. The reason for this is because truth is about knowledge, awareness, intellectual honesty and integrity, while religious faith is about conjecture based on our hopes and fears – conclusions about things which justify our egos, without any true evidence to back up our beliefs. Wishful thinking, hearsay, and “hunches” from personal experience do not constitute hard evidence. Again, if we have knowledge of something, if we know, we don’t need to believe. We only believe when we do not know. Hence, belief is always the product of ignorance. That is why when we “believe” and “have faith” in matters of religion and spirituality, we are not being honest with ourselves because what we are actually doing is accepting a conclusion because it pleases and justifies our egos, excuses our ignorance, and makes us “feel good,” rather than either honestly admitting we do not know what we do not know, or seeking the honest truth of a given question through evidence and sound reasoning, no matter how it makes our egos feel. The fact apologists defend anything at all proves it is the lie they are defending since the truth never needs defense or justification. Only the lie requires justification, as stated previously. Apologists and theologians are liars and defenders of lies. They are defenders of the hopes and fears of their egos, and do nothing more than provide endless justifications and rationalizations for these lies, whether it is for “the betterment of society,” or some other lame excuse. All of these lies, double standards, special pleading, and justifications prove the non-reality they serve. And by their fruits we shall know.
The Apostle Paul was perhaps the first such Christian apologist/theologian who if he did not invent Christianity, certainly played a major role in its proliferation. One of the most honest things I have ever heard in a film about Jesus was from “The Last Temptation of Christ” in which Paul tells Jesus the following words.
“I created the truth out of what people need and believe.”
Jesus argues with Paul, telling him you cannot lie to others and pass it off as truth. While this conversation never actually happened, I could see such a conversation taking place. And what does the fictional Paul say in “Last Temptation?” He tells Jesus the same lame excuse we hear time and again – that creating “truth” is ok as long as we give people what they “need.”
Charlatans like Paul and modern-day preachers, mediums, and the like, are opportunists and sugar salesmen who fill ego needs – period. They sell what pleases the masses, and are not at all concerned with telling the truth, but are instead dedicated to telling people what their egos want to hear – that we can “buy” our way into Heaven by making someone else a scapegoat, believing in the delusion someone else can die “in our place” for our sins so we don’t have to accept responsibility for our actions, that we get an eternal reward for our everlasting egos as long as we “just believe” God was gracious enough to provide us with this means to “get to Heaven,” to cover for his ineptitude in making us “sinless” and “perfect” to begin with. Had God created us truly “perfect,” without the ability to sin, he would have spared humanity all the misery and suffering we have endured for millennia, and prevented himself from the need to wipe out almost the whole of humanity and creation with a flood, and then have his only son brutally tortured and crucified to satisfy his anger over our inability to do what he made us incapable of doing in the first place after he realized the mass annihilation of creation in a flood failed to make humanity “better.” This would be like me constructing a train, and then being angry with my invention for being unable to fly. This entire notion of God is completely inhumane and makes no sense whatsoever.
So, in a nutshell, what Paul and Christian theologians/apologists are telling us is if we do or believe in the “right” things, our egos get to live forever after death in a pleasant place with God called “Heaven.” The delusion of this is crystal clear as soon as it is understood the ego or “self” is impermanent and illusory. All is One and undivided, making the ultimate reality of any selves or beings of any kind – including the notion of a separate “God” – illusory. It is therefore impossible to “be with God” or “apart from God,” because nothing is ever separate from “God,” ALL, the Oneness of All since All is One. The ego does not see it that way, and instead fears unless it can be validated in the illusion of its permanent, separate, self-essential “reality,” it has no purpose for living, and human society will cease to exist. In other words, the ego lies to itself by convincing us if we realize the truth our egos are illusory, life will cease to exist and be “worthless” since we will have no “purpose,” “meaning,” or “value,” and humanity will fall apart. This is an illusory fear, and is not at all true, since it is precisely in discovering the illusion of our egos, and realizing ALL is ONE where we have True Life. Paul and those who created and perpetuated the delusions of Christianity were those committed to egotistical self-preservation out of fear. Such is the insidious nature of Paul and the other gospel writers. When you take away the goal of egotistical validation, little of the message of Paul or the gospel writers remains.
The preacher last Sunday said we believe in something for various reasons, with one of the reasons being because it “feels good,” another because we were told by others something is true, and finally because it actually is true. It is impossible to believe in something because it is true. We can believe something which may be true, but we can never believe something because it is true. The reason is because belief is all about conjecture based on our hopes and fears of what we do not know. Hence, belief only exists out of ignorance because when you know something, belief is unnecessary. If something is true, and we know it, that is knowledge, not belief. We don’t believe what we know. We either know or we do not know. Belief has nothing to do with knowing anything.
The fact is, we always want to believe something we hope is true, or what we fear is not true. We do not necessarily believe what actually is true. It may be true, and it may not be true. But we never believe in something because something is true. Belief exists because of three things – hope, fear, and ignorance. Without these things, belief does not exist. While the pastor preached we do not believe in Christianity simply because it “feels good,” I could not disagree with him more. We do believe in Christianity because it feels good. It feels good to know we will be counted with the “blessed elect” in Heaven, while the “sinners,” our “enemies” will be counted among the damned in Hell. This belief is tremendously satisfying to our egos. Belief is never about knowledge or truth. It is about egotistical validation of our hopes and fears. When we believe, we never know. That is precisely why we believe. This fact is readily admitted by Paul, in Hebrews 11:1.
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”
In other words, faith is about hoping for what we want, not about awareness and honest acceptance of what is, of truth, and being one with truth. In short, faith is about ego and its inability to accept the truth of what is.
Faith is only a copout substitute for knowledge and seeking honest, truthful answers to our deepest questions of what is. Or to paraphrase Matt Dillahunty, faith is the excuse people give when they have no good reasons for what they believe, or when reason fails. To quote Mark Twain in a related saying,
“Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
We believe because we want to have hope in the things we want to believe are true, and validation in the idea that what we fear is not true. Hope, fear, and belief (ignorance) are therefore all tied together, since all three serve to validate the ego. This is the “unholy trinity” that has nothing whatsoever to do with knowledge, truth, or the Oneness of All.