The more I think about belief, the weirder it gets

A friend’s post on an atheist group reminded me of something…

He suggested that deep down, religious people know their god probably isn’t real, and realize that their belief is a crutch they need for whatever reason; for example fear of death or the ready-made “god did it” answer for everything they don’t understand.

But he’s wrong.

I used to be tempted to think the same way, until my brother suggested one day that I am still a Roman Catholic who just doesn’t know it. He suggested that deep down I “know” god exists and am angry, or something, but deep down I really believe despite everything I say to the contrary. (A variation of that “atheists hate god” trope thrown in there somewhere too.)

Do you see what happened here? In both cases, we can project our own belief, or lack of it, on others. If you find yourself in a position where you can no longer imagine believing the contrary view, and lose understanding of that view, you project your own view on everybody else. It’s narrow-minded and arrogant. Basically you’re saying “I’m right and everybody else knows it deep down. Deep down they all believe exactly what I believe but won’t admit it.”

For me it’s different. After I lost my faith, most of which disappeared in a moment at sixteen years old, I switched instantly from not being able to imagine myself not believing to not being able to imagine myself believing. That is, I witched instantly from one extreme to the other, and I don’t fully understand how it happened. But it did. In one second, I was certain I knew that god exists, and the next, that certainty was gone forever, and I understood it was never coming back.

I can never believe again because I understand that all gods are made up. The religious texts that are so convincing to believers are all pure gibberish to me. And the years don’t make them any more believable either. As years go by, the things I used to believe have become comical. The arguments used in religious apologetics are farcical. The crazy things that people believe in are mind blowingly fucking ridiculous. I can’t help but laugh at them and have no respect for any religious beliefs, although I respect the right to believe in them. But simultaneously, while I cannot imagine myself ever believing such nonsense again, I remember what it is to believe. I understand theists in a way that they will never be able to understand atheists. To understand, you have to lose your faith, but then you won’t be a theist any longer.

But belief is a strange beast indeed. There’s another belief that has evolved for me… Well, it’s gone full circle back to where I started. And that is my impression of drug addiction treatment, of rehabs and 12 step programs…

I started out assuming that 12 step programs were wishy washy, cult like sit-around-and-feel-good bullshit. Then, after messing up my life with crystal meth, I went into rehab with an open mind. I was suckered into thinking that we “in recovery” somehow have special knowledge about drugs and addiction, that general knowledge of addiction and choices, where “choices” is the word most laughed and scoffed at by 12 step believers and their group therapists… You get into recovery culture, and think that you have special knowledge, that the 12 steps are the only way to recover, that none of us can use any drug, even weed, without our very world coming apart at the seams. But in reality, I was right in the first place. Recovery culture is a bunch of nonsense. Thinking that you have special knowledge is dangerous, almost as bad as believing in conspiracy theories – and that’s what you have to buy into to be a part of 12 step culture. That’s why I have no part of such things any longer – I am convinced it harms more people trying to get clean than the number of people it actually helps. But try telling that to those who believe in such programs, and it is as pointless a task as trying to tell a believer that their god is most probably just a figment of their imagination, and that they will cease to exist after they die.

This post is getting too long, and I will save my thoughts on belief often being based on the reification fallacy for next time… a post most likely titled “The map isn’t the territory” or “The model isn’t the reality”. Too bad… that’s where I meant it to go but this intro got too long.

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