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Number 566, April 18, 2010

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"Regardless of the Truth"
by Rob Sandwell

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Several of my articles, which were originally posted here, have been re-posted around the internet. I'm deeply touched to see that people have found some value in them and have chosen to share them with others. Thank you.

But I have noticed that I have gotten some common responses to them. Some positive. Some negative. And interestingly, it seems that some people have gotten the impression from my writing that I am an atheist.

I find that interesting because I don't think I've said anything about my own beliefs beyond the fact that I am completely opposed to corruption and irrationality and the acceptance of any ideas and beliefs without strict examination.

And from that, many people, and I'm assuming many religious people, get that I'm an atheist. Freud much?

Regardless, on one website where my articles were posted, someone responded in part with the following,

"An Atheist should seek out liberty minded Christians to sway Christians. Cuz the facts is: Most Christians don't give a damn about an atheists' point of view. Regardless of the truth."

Isn't that amazing and terrifying?

Now, I'm not saying this point of view is correct or incorrect, and I'm not trying to call out this person in particular, which is why I'm not posting a reference link here. It's out there, you can find it if you care. And I don't want this person to think I'm bringing it up here to avoid having a discussion with him or her specifically. It is simply that I thought that this was such an insightful statement that it deserved a deeper examination all its own.

Christians don't give a damn about an atheists' point of view. Regardless of the truth. I'm sorry. Most Christians. Which I assume we can extrapolate out to most religionists. Now, why would anyone not be interested in the truth? And why, at least in this person's opinion, would religionists specifically not care about the truth?

Well, let's take a look at that. First, let me reiterate that I'm not saying this person is right. But if this belief exists, even if only in this one person's mind, then I feel it deserves examination.

It seems to me that the truth should be our overriding objective. More than comfort, more than efficacy, more than facility, truth should be what we are striving towards. Of course, not everyone shares that position. Many people are far more concerned with their immediate creature comforts than they are with what is true. And so we see that some people might object to truth because it runs contrary to their personal comfort.

There have also been studies which show that humans can become chemically addicted to the beliefs that they hold. When someone expresses agreement with a strongly held belief, the person who holds the belief experiences positive emotions which are caused by the release of certain chemicals within the brain. When someone expresses disagreement with that belief, other chemicals are released within the brain which cause a negative sensation. This is a very natural and biological self defense mechanism which is intended to help the human animal associate positively with those ideas and people who are most advantageous towards its survival.

But when people hold irrational ideas which are not derived from first principles and in many cases are not derived from anything at all other than indoctrination, and are also surrounded by other people who were similarly indoctrinated and hold the same irrational beliefs, this mechanism can cause an extreme attachment to positions which run counter to human survival. And because of the chemical reactions within the brain of the human animal, which the thinking human has absolutely no control over, breaking the addiction to false beliefs can be more than challenging. It can cause real physiological and psychological trauma. And so people have a tendency not only to avoid contrary positions, but to ignore their existence completely.

So now we have two reasons why people would ignore or discount truth. But why religionists? Well, if our earlier premises are correct, it might be because truth runs contrary to both their immediate social comfort and the chemical addiction they have developed to ideas which are contrary to truth itself. Can we say that religionists are alone in this? Of course not.

What we can say is that anyone who holds an irrational position will exhibit irrational behavior when confronted with truth, and that the longer that position is held, and the more it is reinforced by those around them, the more difficult it will be for a person to confront truth as what it is.

So, if religionists are somehow uniquely or specifically opposed to truth, then we would have to question what makes them that way, and by the very fact that we are defining this group of people as "religionists" we would have to say that the defining factor common to their make up would be their religious beliefs.

Which begs the question, is religion itself, or are religionists in general, immoral, irrational, or unusually opposed to truth?

Well, I'm going to disappoint some of you here, because I'm not going to say yea or nay. What I will say is that religionists must do the same thing which I encourage all other people to do, which is to question their premises.

For instance, if you are a racial supremacist, of any stripe, then you must question what exactly it is which makes your race superior to all other races. Once you have determined what that is, you must question what it is that makes that specific characteristic apply to your race, and only to your race.

So for instance, if you think that Asians are better because they are good at math, then you would have to show that no other race is good at math, or would have the capacity to be good at math given identical circumstances where race is the only differentiating factor. If you can not, then your premise is false and you must either abandon the original idea, ie. Asians are better at math, or you must find a new supporting premise.

By the same token, if you are a Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist, then you must ask what objective proof there is outside your own belief system and traditions to support your belief. I'm not saying there isn't any, and I'm not saying you're wrong. I'm saying that if you are going to hold up something as absolutely true, you should have evidence to support that position.

And you can't use proof which exists only within that tradition, any more than I could say that unicorns are real because I said unicorns are real and that makes them real. Now, if you are a person who takes the position that there is no proof to support your belief, but that you have faith in the absence of proof, then you must explain why faith in your belief is a virtue, but faith in other opposing beliefs is not.

For instance, if you believe in Christianity in the absence of proof because you have faith, then why doesn't my faith in unicorns in the absence of proof have exactly the same truth value? If it does, then fine. We can all believe in things which do not have objective proof for their existence and no one belief is any better or worse than another. At that point then you would have to accept that your faith in Christianity is absolutely no better or worse than someone else's faith in Devil worship or my faith in unicorns. Which is fine, but ultimately completely meaningless because we can't attribute any moral or truth value to any of those statements under that paradigm.

Please understand, I am not attacking religionists here. If the person had put in his response that most Philadelphia Eagles fans have no interest in truth or falsehood, I would have written exactly the same article, simply replacing the word "religionists" with the words "eagles fans."

My point is not that religionists are irrational. My point is that people who oppose truth simply based upon the source which is presenting it are irrational.

And irrationality must be opposed.

Because it is unfounded belief in irrationality which enslaves us to the myth of statism. And if people want to stick their fingers in the ears and block out the truth because they don't like questions which challenge their comfort or addictions, or because they don't like the color of your skin, or the car you drive, or what you do for a living, then they will never be able to shed the yoke of the state.

If indeed this poster is correct, and most religionists have no desire to hear truth if it comes out of the mouth of an atheist, then religionists have drastically damaged their capacity for finding truth in the world, and are complicit with our oppressors. If instead, religionists are willing to listen and objectively compare the truth value of disparate statements, regardless of where they come from, then they will eventually find the truth as long as they are dogged in their pursuit, and they are on the side of freedom.

So, as you read these articles, I encourage you to consider your relationship to truth and ask yourself this simple question.

Am I complicit with the rule of evil, or am I opposed to it?

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