God, Zombies and the Dictatorship of Reason
Every time I find myself in between atheists and believers is Groundhog Day. I know exactly what will happen and which argument will follow: “it was backed up by historians, they actually found the caves in question.”
“Oh yeah, did they also back up how many people were murdered by missionaries?”
“Jesus opposed killing and preached love instead.”
“Where’s the proof that Jesus could walk over water or awaken the dead?”
There is so much about both sides of the argument that pisses me off: how both sides will never ever budge, how it turns perfectly nice people into rude people but most of all how nothing interesting ever gets said when people have this fight. Because it’s identical. Every effing time.
So let’s change things up and talk about zombies for a moment instead.
“Zombies attacked a nearby farmhouse. We can’t just leave them there to die. They need just about everything. You just collected a bottle of water and a box of batteries, great. Oh shit, right on your tail, don’t look back, RUUUUUN!”
This is what you will hear if you download the fitness app called Zombies, run. Now of the hundred thousands of users I am sure only a handful believe that they are actually chased by zombies. Yet the runners listen to it because it makes their run more fun and it motivates them to exert themselves more then they normally would. For the duration of the run they willingly submit to an illusion. And they do it for an extremely rational reason: although the zombies are fictional the fitness gains to the regular user are real. Of course there are runners who run without the zombie app. Of course there are runners who think it’s silly to pretend to be chased by zombies. But there’s also a whole lot who sit at home and would be better off, running away from zombies then never moving at all.
It’s the same with spirituality and religion. Yes you can be a good person without religion or spirituality. You can live according to your chosen philosophy and constantly strive for improving yourself without a God breathing down your neck, threatening to judge you. And yet how many people really do this? How many agnostics and atheists think about these issues and practice regularly to make consistent progress (I am not blaming anyone, I am an agnostic myself)?
The supremacy of rationality and a focus on return on investment at all times means that we say no to a whole lot of thoughts and experiences. Critical inquiry, at the heart of people’s criticism of religion and spirituality, is rarely turned upon rationality: is it really so horrible to believe humans are inherently good, even if science brings up mixed results about this issue?
Let’s abandon the need for proof long enough to consider what would happen if we all acted as if people were inherently good: we would trust more, we would ask for more clarification instead of assuming the worst and we would attribute bad behavior to a bad day instead of bad character. Those are a whole lot of benefits we are saying no to simply because of a lack of proof.
If you believe that even the bad things have a reason your view is not supported by science. Some people might haughtily scoff at you. Yet you get instant consolation and can move on more easily when something has gone wrong. The hope and the resilience you feel are real, even if scientists disagree. Who cares? They are not there to help you through the hard parts. If believing something like this helps you, why would you stubbornly insist on being rational and right all the time? Isn’t it more rational and ultimately helpful to know when to hold on to rationality and when to let it go for something else that will actually make you a kinder, more loving and compassionate person?