Monday, January 2, 2017

The perfect story in your head

Happy New Year, everyone, and my apologies for the state of this blog. I've been slacking off for some time, but the election really ended things. And it's not going to get any better, I'm sure. (Right from the start, I pledged that I wouldn't let this become a chore, and I'm holding to that.)

But today, I thought I'd post a comment I made somewhere else. It's already written, after all. :)

There's a woman who writes a monthly column in my local newspaper pushing Christianity (Everyday Faith). Michelle DeRusha seems like a very nice woman, just entirely faith-based.

She's the woman who claims to have been an atheist before God came to her in church one Sunday. Yes, as an 'atheist,' she never missed church - the church she'd been raised in since infancy, of course. And as an 'atheist,' she had to take her kid to Sunday School every week, right? (I'll note that being a "former atheist" is very popular among Christians these days.)

Anyway, there's lots of Christian propaganda in my local newspaper, and never any opposing views. So I supply one. Heh, heh. I don't subscribe to the paper, online or otherwise, so I don't normally comment there. But I usually post a comment every month to DeRusha's column.

In her latest post, "God is the author of the story," she explains how she built up a "perfect story" in her head and was disappointed when reality didn't match God's plan.
You see, I had written a perfect story in my head -- a fairy tale, complete with a knight(ess) in shining armor and the quintessential happy ending. I had it all worked out: the poignant meeting at the airport, the excitement of the kids when they saw their bedrooms, their new backpacks, the cute stuffed animals propped just so on brand-new sheets, the friendship we would forge -- dinners together, laughter, conversation, pass the lamb stew!

The problem was, I had forgotten one critical detail: God, not me, is the author of this story. And long before I knew a single detail about the Yazidi people, long before “sponsorship” and “refugee” and “resettlement” were part of my daily vocabulary, he had already begun to write it. He had plans for each one of us in this story. My disappointment arose from the fact that my plans didn’t match his. The truth is, they rarely do.

This is so typical of DeRusha. She's a very nice woman who goes the extra mile to do good things, but wraps up everything in a God wrapper. Even when she recognizes that she built a fantasy story in her head, a "fairy tale" that was disproved by reality, she refuses to learn the real lesson from that and remains entirely faith-based.

Anyway, I thought I'd post my (long) comment to that column here. Why not? As I say, it's already written. And I'm certainly not swamping you with posts these days, huh?
"God, not me, is the author of this story."

Actually, you're more the author of this story than 'God' is. There's no evidence that a god even exists outside of your imagination, let alone your particular God, let alone that you have any idea of what a god might be doing.

Do you see what you did? You imagined a fantasy in your head. That fantasy didn't match reality, so you were disappointed.

You've imagined a fantasy about 'God,' too. But reality doesn't enter into it. Thus, you have no check on your imagination. You can - and do - just imagine whatever you want to imagine.

You think you'll
meet 'God' after you die, but that's a fantasy that can never be disproved while you're alive. When you're disappointed, you imagine that it was all 'God's' plan, and that can never be disproved, either. Thus, when it comes to 'God,' your fantasy is never challenged by reality.

You know exactly what 'God' wants, unless something bad or unexplainable happens, in which case, 'God' has a reason that we mere mortals can't understand. Thus, when it comes to the fantasy you've imagined in your head, it can never be disproved. Even when it's wrong.

This is why science advances, but religion never does. A scientist may imagine a beautiful hypothesis, a lovely idea - brilliant, inspiring, perfect in every way. But if it doesn't match up to reality, it has to be discarded.

Science stays grounded in reality, rather than in the imagination of some pleasant fantasy, because it's evidence-based. The most beautiful idea in the world can't be accepted without evidence. And although any individual - scientist or otherwise - might be reluctant to find evidence that disproves his own beloved ideas, science relies on other scientists for that. No one, after all, is reluctant to disprove someone else's beloved idea.

Religion doesn't have that. In religion, your fantasies are immune to reality. If you disagree with your church, you can just find a different church or start your own. That's why science comes to a worldwide consensus about what's true and what isn't, while religious believers can't agree about anything.

I find your columns very interesting, because you often get halfway to the truth, but then refuse to take that extra step. This column is a perfect example of that. You recognize that you built up a fantasy in your head, a story that ended up not matching reality. Unfortunately for you, for this story, reality showed you that your fantasy was wrong. So you were unhappy.

But that fantasy about 'God,' that story which you've also imagined in your head, can't ever be disproven by reality, even in theory. Even if you were wrong, you'd never know it. And that's the case with every faith-based believer of every competing religion, too. You all just believe what you want to believe, such that even those of you who supposedly follow the same holy instruction manual can't agree about much of anything.

Thus, all of you can keep your pretty fantasies. Every religion in the world, every interpretation of every holy book, every 'personal relationship' with a god, every story about who your god is, what he wants, what he does,... it's all immune to reality, as long as it doesn't claim something which can be tested by science. (Even then, how many faith-based people reject evolution, or global warming, or the actual age of the Earth? They're not willing to give up their fantasies even when they have been shown to be wrong.)

Unlike you, I care about the truth of my beliefs. I want to believe as many true things as possible and as few false things as possible. So I'm evidence-based, not faith-based. I want to have good reasons backing up my beliefs, and if I'm wrong, I want to know that, so I can change my beliefs. That's why real-world evidence is so critical. Science has shown us that. Science has progressed so rapidly and so greatly for just that reason.

Yes, in your story, this was all God's story. Unfortunately, your story is fiction. At least, there's zero reason to believe that it's anything else.


Mary said...

Youve said exactly how I feel! But we are in the minority and I'd love to see a science article or book that can explain why this is so, when it should be the opposite. Surely it has to be more than upbringing and indoctrination when young. Is there something different in these people's brains? Some area of the brain that is perhaps configured differently. Maybe the area that provides critical thinking is smaller. I'd love a scientific explanation.

Bill Garthright said...

Me, too, Mary. I was raised Christian - nominally Christian, at least. Everyone I knew was Christian, throughout my childhood. Even today, the vast majority of people I know are Christian.

Yet it never seemed convincing to me. Oh, no doubt I believed what I was told at some age. But I don't remember it. Though I clearly remember believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, I don't ever remember believing the God stuff.

Even as a child, it seemed clear to me that those people confidently telling me about life after death didn't know any more about it than I did. At least people had seen Santa Claus (or said they had, at least). And someone brought me presents at Christmas.

Christians never had anything but what their parents had told them when they were young. Even as a child I knew how questionable that was, especially since I knew that other people in the world believed different things for the exact same reason!

Today, I'm just astonished that religion still exists in the world - and especially in America. It's the 21st Century, yet we seem to be desperately trying to return to the Dark Ages.

Thanks for commenting, Mary. I hope you have a good year (as good as possible, at least).