Good morning, Rebels, and welcome back to my life.
Hey, so…you know what’s a fun, uncontroversial subject to talk about? Religion. Nobody fights about that, right?
No, of course the truth is that religion is one of the most controversial subjects that’s ever existed. While it’s a lie to say religion has been the cause of every war in history, it’s definitely helped powerful people motivate OTHER people to do some pretty terrible things.
But MOST people don’t try to persuade, dissuade or enforce religion. MOST people are happy to believe or not believe what they want, and let others do the same.
The media makes religion seem very prominent in the world’s problems, but chances are good that economics and insanity cause a lot more problems than religion does—and no, those two things do not stem from religion.
Human thinking can be broadly divided into a couple of ways to form four quadrants, if you will.
First there’s fact and opinion. You already know what those are. But they have a companion dichotomy in knowledge and belief.
These aren’t as clear-cut as you might think, especially when you speak about them subjectively rather than objectively.
Knowledge means something you know so well that you don’t even question. But Knowledge is not necessarily reliant on Facts, if we define “fact” as “true data that can be proven.” Most people think that to KNOW something, you have to be able to PROVE it…but that’s not necessarily the case.
I’ll give you an example of something you KNOW but can’t PROVE. Do you remember the last thing you ate by yourself?
Good. Now prove it.
Two days ago, I ate a Hershey’s chocolate bar from a gas station, and I can’t prove that to you. It’s gone from my stomach, the wrapper is in a landfill somewhere and doesn’t have my fingerprints on it, and the gas station attendant sold it to me, but he didn’t see me eat it unless my suspicions are correct and he’s installed a button camera in my car.
At the same time, I KNOW I ate that chocolate bar. Nothing you could possibly do to me, short of wiping my memory, could convince me that I didn’t eat the chocolate bar I clearly remember eating.
And there are people who KNOW things religiously, who have heard the voice of God, or remember past lives, or had a spiritual out of body experience, or achieved nirvana. Whether or not you BELIEVE them…they KNOW it. And your disbelief is not going to be able to tear down their knowledge.
But here’s the thing, Rebels: the fact that I ate that chocolate bar doesn’t affect YOU at all. So you’re not likely to care if I try to convince you it happened. Similarly, I have no vested interest in convincing you. So I’ll go on my merry way, KNOWING I ate that chocolate bar, and you’ll go on your merry way, not knowing or caring.
Let’s look at belief, because that’s what most of religion is.
There’s a pretty good chance you believe the Earth will still be here tomorrow. But, and not to be a doomsayer here, but you’re basing that belief on incomplete data. We’ve got pretty good coverage of the skies, but we can’t see everything. There could be a Texas-sized asteroid streaking toward the planet right now that could crack the planet in two. But few of us are living today like it’s the last day of our lives, because we BELIEVE the Earth will still be here tomorrow.
But if we met someone who believed the opposite, there might be some conflict there. That person might want us to act one way, and we might want to act another way.
And this is revealing; other people can believe whatever they want—it’s only when they try to change our minds or behavior that we get controversy.
Say, for example, someone believes being gay is a sin. Fair play to them, I guess. But when they try to get gay people to change their behavior…that’s when most people in today’s society start to object, because you can’t PROVE what sin is, so it’s not a FACT.
This is why science is on such solid ground in most cases. Science is the study of facts. That’s all it is. It’s a sub-class of knowledge that can be PROVEN by facts, and the only time it gets messy is when morally corrupt individuals muddy up the data, people like Aristotle or Goebbels or Kehoe or Jenny McCarthy.
(Yeah, I went there, because she’s not a very good person.)
Conversely, much of religion is based on belief. And even when people do KNOW something religious, it’s usually difficult for them to prove it. But this okay. Most of them don’t feel the need to prove it, because, again, MOST people are not interested in converting others.
But if someone does try to convince you, toward religion or away from it, if you want to be left alone you can always just say: PROVE IT.
If someone thinks you’re an idiot because you’re Christian, tell them to prove God doesn’t exist.
If someone thinks you’re evil because you’re an atheist, tell them to prove God DOES exist.
In the end, your belief and knowledge are your own. They can be whatever you want. But if you want the rest of us to sign up, you’d better make a pretty convincing case based on facts you can actually prove.
Thanks, Rebels, I’ll see you later.