“Those who understand binary, and those who don’t.” People like dichotomies and people like to simplify. Who wants to listen to the complex opinions of a fox when he could hear the simplified and polarized view of a hedgehog? (A reference to Tatkin’s analysis of political predictions .)
I was listening to more Long Now lectures. In particular, I’m thinking about Jim Carse’s talk. He’s the guy who wrote “Finite and Infinite Games”. He talked about belief. He set aside “belief” in its weaker sense to mean “opinions” and focused on what you could call the belief that is religious.
These are some aspects he observed:
- Belief is based on a fundamental and unquestionable source, and the world is interpreted in light of this truth.
- Belief cannot exist in a vacuum; a believer needs an unbeliever to exists in opposition to.
Not all belief is religious, nor do all religious adherents have this style of belief. Some communists have belief in this style, for example. The writings of Karl Marx are their source, capitalism is their opponent. And many religious people are spiritual rather than feeling a polarizing identification to the group.
In my personal reflections on the topic, I was thinking about science. It seems to me that one of the aspects of science is to reject this style of thinking. We might not be perfect at it (it’s human nature to dichotomize and simplify), but scientists try to question everything and take no single source as absolute truth. I think this difference causes misunderstanding. To the religious believer, he thinks a scientist simply has a different belief — that Darwin is his source, and religion his opponent. In this context, science becomes “scientism”, just one more belief to exist in opposition to.
Since 9/11, we have been emphasizing religious tolerance. The propaganda we have heard is this: “Do not blame the Muslims, we respect and accept other religions into the fold of American society.” So, yeah, we still distrust Muslims some. But the dialogue has shifted. The Christian belief can’t exist in opposition to other religions, not if we’re encouraging tolerance.
Well, of course, belief needs an opponent. So the new opponent is natural. If you can’t exist in opposition to other religions, then you can exist in opposition to the anti-religion. For atheists to be the most distrusted isn’t surprising at all in light of recent propaganda encouraging religious tolerance.
When Nietzsche lamented the death of God, what he meant was the death of a belief in absolutes. But belief can be in Communism, in Scientology, in any number of things that can take the place of religious doctrine. Alas, I lament, I think Nietzsche was wrong. It is human nature to fix our world upon unquestionable truths.