11 Faith is Better than Truth

 

COMFORTING LIE #11

Faith is better than truth.

To analyze this statement and its consequences we must examine both concepts, faith and truth.

The proponents of this lie are legion, particularly among those with a religious axe to grind.  Whether the subject is faith in Christ, faith in Allah, faith in government, faith in democracy, faith in communism, faith in prayer, faith in the Bible, or faith in the market, the central message is clear: above all “have faith in faith”.  So what is faith and why should we distrust it?

Faith , we are told, is belief without resort to evidence or proof.  At one time it was an article of Christian that the sun revolved around the earth.  Skeptics were labeled as heretic and punished severely for their doubts.  Some were even burned to death for their heresy.  Others were put to death for less notable doubts. In the Soviet Union millions died for questioning the infallibility of the Communist Party.  In Europe millions died for questioning the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Today in Muslim and Communist dominated countries, in African countries run by ruthless dictators, and in South American countries run by military juntas death penalties still occur frequently.  Such murders are not always perpetrated by the state.  Often independent groups enact them, or street mobs do, or even the victims’ family members throw the fatal stones or wield the killing knives; but the state approves or condones the murders and declines to intervene.

In more “civilized” cultures today, punishments for lack of faith tend to be less severe; though they still occur.  Those who question the validity of unethical laws may be harassed by government authorities and subjected to invasive scrutiny.  The pogroms of the McCarthy era are a relatively recent example in which legions of U.S. citizens lost their jobs and were publicly humiliated for lack of faith in the Democratic Fallacy, as demonstrated by involvement in support of the Robin Hood  Fallacy.  The current “War on terrorism” seems headed in a similar direction.  More mundanely, medical practitioners in the United States often lose their licenses for practices unapproved by the American Medical Association, even when those practices are effective.  We recall that Louis Pasteur was almost drummed out of medicine for suggesting that microscopic bacteria were the cause of many illnesses.  He was considered a heretic, unfaithful to the orthodox medical dogma of his time.

In short, faith is dangerous.  It results in rigid political ideologies and religious dogmas, which are almost universally false.  This fosters and supports the manipulation of the public through lies and misdirection.  It demands that we accept what we are told without doubt, without question, even in the face of contradictory evidence.  This, in turn, creates fertile ground for political and religious persecution, for genocide and inquisitions, and for pogroms, crusades, and jihads.  Today we are as susceptible as ever in history to the emergence of leaders like Genghis Kahn, Caesar, Hitler, Stalin, Peron, Amin, Pot, and others of their ilk.  The minions of today’s BORG  are more subtle than these historical villains, but no less dangerous.

If we are to escape the MATRIX and combat the BORG , we must value the truth  above faith and know how to tell one from the other.

While we are on this subject, lets consider the general method for telling true information from false information.  The method is simple.  When we believe in the truth of false information, it lowers our intelligence, which, as you probably recall is our ability to predict and control events in our environment.  For instance, if we believe the world is flat, we find we are unable to navigate between points on the earth’s surface.  By contrast, if we believe the earth is essentially spherical, we soon learn to navigate our ships and planes quite accurately.  Belief in the truth of true information increases our intelligence.

As of today, science is a finely-honed tool for discriminating (objectively) true information from false information.  That is its only purpose, and it is very good at accomplishing this task.  This is the primary criterion for distinguishing a scientific discipline from other ways of organizing our thought processes.

When we value faith more than truth, we are at risk for subscribing to the truth of fantasies, superstitions, rigid dogmas, and false ideologies.  The dissemination of such falsehoods, in the interest of the perpetuation of political power and influence, is a great and persistent evil.

It should be noted at this point that most governments benefit from the influence of organized religion.  When people believe in false ideologies they are distracted from objective truth.  This reduction of the public’s collective intelligence makes people easier to deceive and manipulate.  The Soviet regime attempted to eliminate this problem by espousing atheism and outlawing religion.  In this case the “cure” turned out to be worse than the “disease”, as Communism became the state religion and many religious groups, especially Jews, were brutally persecuted.

09 The Golden Rule Fallacy

 

COMFORTING LIES #9 and #10

The Golden Rule is the highest behavioral standard.

Religion is the ultimate source of ethical guidance.

To the religious these lies are particularly seductive, because most religions claim their creeds and doctrines to be absolute truths handed down to humanity directly from God.  The promised reward of a heavenly afterlife is especially tempting to those whose worldly lives leave much to be desired.  It is also true that many valuable ethical insights have been derived from religious teachings.  The Golden Rule itself is a good example of this fact.  So, why not make religion our ultimate source of ethical guidance?  Why not consider the Golden Rule to be the highest behavioral standard?

To answer these questions properly we need to look back at the earliest origins of religious thinking.  To the best of our knowledge, based on the archeological evidence, such thinking began with the search for objective truth about how the world works, the behavior and causes of natural phenomena, the origins of life, and the ways and means that must be observed in order to make daily life a more predictable and manageable experience.

Today we find that science is a far better guide to objective truth than religion; but in those days there was no science.  So the earliest religious pronouncements were speculative statements about the personal experiences of those who spoke.  They were basically saying, “This is my experience and this is what I think it means.”  Some of these speculations, right or wrong objectively, seemed more credible than others; so organizations formed around those whose insights were the most popular.  These organizations were formed hierarchically, so it was natural that they became bureaucratized as their influence grew.

“Bureaucracy”, you must understand, is not a synonym for “organization”.  Bureaucracy is the systematic elimination, destruction, or avoidance of corrective feedback.  As such it is highly damaging to the search for objective truth.  But early religious leaders were heedless of this fact.  So the statement, “This is my experience” became, “This should be your experience” – and “This is what I believe” became “This is what you should believe”.

As religious organizations grew more and more powerful, often dominating whole cultures, they often became more and more bureaucratic; so it was only a small step for “This is what you should believe” to become “This is what you must believe – or else!”  This insistence on infallibility, which violates the sixth Ethical Principle, was the basis for many forms of religious persecution, including that of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms of Europe, and Hitler’s Holocaust in Germany.  The phenomenon persists today in the Islamic Jihad and in various other instances of genocide around the world – as we have seen recently in Africa and Asia.

The Golden Rule is particularly relevant to this discussion.  Christians say, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”  Jews say, “Do not do unto others as you would not have them do unto you.”  Both of these statements can be summarized by the single admonition, “Do unto others only as you would have them do unto you.”

If everyone valued the same treatment by others the Golden Rule would be pretty good.  However the question arises, “How do you want to be treated when you encounter a sado-masochist”?  The phenomenon of sadomasochism is a fairly common neurosis, well known to psychologists and other mental health practitioners worldwide.  My 20 years as a clinical Psychotherapist indicates 1 person in 5 are indeed sado-masochists.  This condition causes those so-afflicted to value the infliction of physical and/or emotional pain – either as the perpetrator or as the recipient thereof.  Since there are many gradations of this problem and the causes are unconscious, many sadomasochists don’t even realize that they have a problem.

It is also observation, as a clinical psychotherapist, that the greater the compulsion to sado-masochism, the higher the level of power one attains.  This allows the sado-masochist to cause greater pain and suffering on a higher degree to a larger number of people.

So two sadomasochists might be quite happy observing the Golden Rule by inflicting pain on one another; but the rest of us wouldn’t want to be treated so.  Thus the universal application of the Golden Rule by everyone wouldn’t be an altogether good thing.  We must therefore conclude that religious teachings in general, and the Golden Rule in particular, leave much to be desired as sources of ethical guidance and behavioral standards.

Return to Comforting Lies