Thursday, November 29, 2007
I think I may understand a piece of the religious mind. It seems to me that many religious people profess faith, but in their heart of hearts, hope is their true refuge.
For instance, I've never understood why religious people cry at funerals. They profess the belief that their loved ones still exist beyond death and may have even achieved eternal bliss! Still they mourn. Why? Because they fear their loved ones are in hell? Do they weep from selfishness, wishing they could have just a few more days together? What's the point? We'll all be together again soon enough. Or perhaps they weep because they fear eternal punishment for themselves?
I think these reasons are all very unlikely. I think religious people cry at funerals for the same reason I do, because, deep down, their hope fades a little, their false piety melts away, and they think "I will never see this amazing person again"
I remember thinking it seemed very revealing that one of Matt's questions early on in our religious conversion discussions was something to the effect of, "Well let me ask you this: what's wrong with believing just to be safe?" Of course, Pascal's Wager is so intellectually vacuous that I need not refute it here, but I think for many, maybe even Matt, it is a convincing argument.*
But if you accept Pascal's wager, that's not faith, that's hope.
So here's my personal experience, which I believe may offer a window into the mind of the religious. Way back in high school, I remember reflecting on my parents with full scrutiny and thinking "No way. Someone must be unfaithful. How could anyone go so long like this?"
But very quickly, I tied that doubt into a little knot and buried it way down deep in my head. I reasoned, "Well, maybe they've found transcendental love. Maybe their sex drives have slowed. Maybe there's something I don't know" and after all that justification, I just stopped thinking.
I had hope and that hope allowed me to shelve my doubts in some forgotten library of the mind. I developed a sort of faith-based reasoning for my parents' spousal bliss. In my mind, my parents were okay because I hoped they were okay, and that was enough to stop thinking about it. Not only that, but I reasoned if I thought about it too much, the truth might hurt.
A year ago, my faith was shattered. And as of two days ago, my parents have separated. My studies of life have prepared me for the inevitability of change and death, so getting too emotional is difficult. Even so, I find myself fighting against change. And like the religious at a funeral, I cry.
* Matt also admitted that he never understood Darwin's despair about the staggering amount of waste and violence in the natural world. I also found this very revealing; for me, it was the final nail in the coffin as far as the flimsy case for faith was concerned.