I remain bemused by belief and gullibility

Why are we so gullible? The other day, I saw a video shared on Facebook – featuring a bodybuilder versus a martial artist. The share stated that it was evidence that big muscles don’t make you a fighter, and the article showing the video carried on about the number of black belts owned by this particular martial artist, and went on to describe how he schooled the bodybuilder, even slapping his ears after pinning him down for extra humiliation, and then allowed a female student to take the man on, after the man asked her if she “wants to do my dishes”… I found the video eventually again now. Let’s see if you see what I saw, or what that article described…

 

Did you see what I saw?

I saw a video that was 100% staged. Disclosure: I did not watch to the end. I closed the browser tab in disgust just after the guy taunted the woman student about doing his dishes.

There are a number of things wrong with this video, and I’ll just list the most obvious ones:

  • Why does he remove his shirt? If he’s there to fight, he would fight, and taking the time to remove your shirt is not a great way of getting a fighting advantage. Unless of course, if the point is to show your muscles and demonstrate that they are not as good as a black belt in a totally staged video.
  • His dialog – and I call it dialog because it is poorly scripted – is quite pathetic. (Excuse me if I get this wrong. I only watched half the video… once… and I am not going to watch it again.) “I’m back… something about an apology”… and then later to the girl, “What, you wanna do my dishes?”. It sounds like the sort of stuff you’d hear at the start of a porn movie; poor acting of a bad script by people better qualified to do other things, such as swallowing penises while making fake gargling sounds.

I’m not claiming that a martial artist couldn’t beat a bodybuilder – I don’t know. But I do know that this video was fake and staged. The bad acting alone was enough for this to be obvious to me straight away, and I was unable to maintain interest in watching the video to completion.

And yet that isn’t what anybody else on Facebook saw. They really saw somebody fighting, for real, not a staged video. They were convinced that it was real and that the bodybuilder was “schooled”, presumably for the second time, despite the obvious staging of the video. Why? Should I really ask this, considering that people believe professional wrestling like WWE is real too?

But this is different to professional wrestling… Presumably the people who enjoyed this are martial artists or martial art enthusiasts. The article waffled on about the guy’s six black belts, and listed his accomplishments as a world renowned martial arts expert. So this was framed with a biased article, and his achievements did look rather impressive. But that isn’t a reason to accept them at face value. In reality, no matter how famous this Bryce (I forgot his surname) guy is, and no matter how impressive his qualifications and achievements may be, if he has to resort to staged videos to show off his skill, one should be highly skeptical of all his previous claims.

This reminded me of an argument that was forced on me by a lady at work a few months ago. She brought up religion, and argued with me about my lack of belief. When I explained my position as simply as possible – I don’t believe there is a god because there is no evidence for one, she asked me why evidence is important. Baffled, I replied that if there is no evidence for something, that thing is most probably not true. It’s that simple. And she scoffed at that.

She insists that she knows god exists. And I can’t argue with that.

Nobody can know that something exists, having never seen that thing, or any evidence for that thing whatsoever. (Edit: Theist debaters often argue that “atheists” – quoted as it is a straw man – have faith in science because we have not seen atoms, molecules and so on. But having learned about certain things that are based on hundreds of years of science and accepting that the experts are on the right track, as well as knowing what goes into a scientific theory… is not something that is fair to compare with an unsubstantiated hypothesis about the existence of a deity, unchanged for thousands of years because that’s how dogma works.) You can believe anyway, and that’s what faith is – believing despite a lack of evidence. But then you need to understand that you do not know anything of the sort. You are indoctrinated. That is, you were taught to believe in god (whichever one it may be) before you were old enough to think critically, and as an adult, you no longer question this. She refused to accept this, even though it is clear and undeniable fact.

This is something that I have understood since I was a teenager. You can not possibly know that there is a god. If it was knowledge, then everybody would know and atheism would not exist. My position as an atheist is not one where I profess knowledge in the unknowable… I simply reject the claim that a god exists, especially when such a claim comes from somebody who simply assumes it to be true, without any actual knowledge, and does not know the difference between knowledge and belief. And after partaking in online debates for some time now, I can say that I know this is always the case. Every theist who debates does not know that god exists, but does believe that they do know. (And starting with the assumption that your claim is true leads to terribly fallacious arguments – generally arguments from ignorance and circular reasoning; with the occasional straw man of the opposing view.) Some are not honest about this detail though, although I remain uncertain whether they are aware that they do not know the difference between belief and knowledge, as well as that they cannot possibly “know” that god exists because they feel it.

Going back to that video, and other cases where people credulously accept things presented to them because it fits their preconceived beliefs… I have a feeling that there is more to this… No, I don’t mean that there is more to life than this; there must be more to the psychology of belief. I am left with questions, not answers. Why do some people, most people, accept things like religion, WWE and other obviously staged videos, homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, astrology, and other bullshit as real? And why is it that some of us, few of us, can tell that such things are bullshit? It’s not just about detecting bullshit either… There are skeptics who are also religious – people who think critically about every subject except their religions. There are plenty of otherwise intelligent people who hold unfalsifiable beliefs.

And yet many atheists, like myself, come from religious backgrounds. Somehow some of us see through the illusion of knowledge and reject the belief. It took me years to become comfortable with my disbelief, and years more before I became confident enough to speak about or write about it. But I do wonder why I rejected it, while someone like my brother did not. It’s not about intelligence.

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About Jerome

I am a senior C# developer in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am also a recovering addict, who spent nearly eight years using methamphetamine. I write on my recovery blog about my lessons learned and sometimes give advice to others who have made similar mistakes, often from my viewpoint as an atheist, and I also write some C# programming articles on my programming blog.
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