Angles Of Perception

iceWhy is the following anti-marijuana slogan doomed to fail?

Smoking marijuana will soon have you giggling hysterically about nothing with your pothead friends.

The obvious answer is that, for some perhaps inexperienced lives, no greater mode of existence can be envisioned beyond guffawing inexplicably in a smoky room with guffawing friends. For those of us who have experienced so many other wonderful modes of life that far outperform delusional giggling, this seems an obvious no-brainer; it is a waste of life. However, for those with a much smaller notion of the world due to a lack of education or experience, the warmth of a community of delusional gigglers is deeply appealing. This world soon becomes normal to them, and their reach of other modes of existence fades away the more they drag and giggle.
(Don’t bother trying to convey to me the virtues of pot smoking. I have far too many skitzotypical friends who were quite normal prior to taking up “recreational” usage.)

Now consider a second slogan.

Belief in God will soon have you making confident assertions apart from any evidence.

For those of us committed to science and reason, this is repulsive. However, to those with limited education and interaction with a larger world this concept seems quite pleasant. It is a concept in which there is not the angst of not knowing and having to admit to ignorance. It is a concept in which the immediacy of feelings reigns over the often strenuous exercise of reason. It is a concept in which you can warmly imagine that you have knowledge that was given to you directly by a divine being. These people wear the badge “faith” as proudly as a junkie wears the badge “hallucinogenics”.

So how might we adjust our message to the theists? Perhaps we should be focusing on the worlds they are missing out on. I know that, when I was in christianity, “faith” seemed at the pinnacle of existence, while limiting belief to evidence was disparaged by my community as insufficient to provide a meaningful life. I was taught that the only other world was a “godless” life that was full of pain and misery. When I finally emerged from this narrow mindset, I was amazed at just how wrong I had been, and how meaningful and fulfilling a “godless” life actually was.

This word “godless” is another interesting concept. From a christian perspective it is laden with dark connotations and associations with concocted theistic terms such as “evil”, “iniquity” and “demonic”. Now here I am in my godless life seeing far more beauty than could ever be seen through the distorting tint of “godly” goggles. “Faith” is the inverse. At one time I thought there was nothing more virtuous. Now I see faith as what it really is; a euphemism for rushing past the evidence, through the chute of some religion, into the knives of feel-good dogma. This is the slaughterhouse of the gullible, operated by butcherous shepherds without scruples.

A more neutral concept is that of the “magic” of Christmas as promoted by dozens of Hollywood movies. Here’s the slogan.

Suspension of disbelief will make Christmas so much more wonderful.

As adults, we delight in letting our imaginations entertain notions of Santa and Rudolph and Frosty and so on. And this is largely harmless. We may accuse those who don’t appropriate this mental game as being Scrooges. But throughout the Christmas movie, most adults know precisely what is real and what is imaginary. We usually have no trouble reverting back to non-magical creatures in a non-magical world full of non-magical but real pleasures at the end of the movie.

Pot smokers often cannot extract themselves from their world of senseless giggling since they have often never explored an existence beyond their drug abuse. The magic of their drugs seems unsurpassed by other modes of existence simply because those modes of existence have never been experienced. They cannot accurately assess their marginal lives from within the context of the lifestyle. Those who have left substance abuse usually have done so only after stumbling upon a superior satisfaction in an area of reality that they never expected to yield satisfaction.

This is also true of those who have left “god abuse”. Having been strongly warned by other “god abusers” that a “godless” life will yield nothing but sorrow, they perhaps made a commitment to searching for a faithless reality, and have found one of a myriad of satisfying and godless modes of existence. It is only after having successfully pulled themselves out of the muck of faith that they can look back and shake their heads at their narrow and marginally satisfying past lives.

So instead of arguing to those in a warm delusion of theism that placing faith in a god will yield delusions, perhaps it is better to simply show them the many modes of godless existence that do not result in sorrow as their bible and shepherds arrogantly and mendaciously affirm. This is actually a biblical notion. “By their fruits ye shall know them”. It is now just a matter of showing them that partaking of the tree of knowledge does not (despite the claims of the “faithful” shepherds who belittle reason and evidence) come with a curse.


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4 thoughts on “Angles Of Perception

  1. Andrew says:

    Hi Phil,

    This is the first post I’ve read where you use the drug analogy to faith. It’s a very interesting and somewhat fitting comparison. (I’ve skimmed the other two and they make very apt comparisons.)

    For the majority of people, neither god abuse or alcohol abuse is really a problem. I feel that the majority of Christians live their lives pretty similarly to how they would if they didn’t believe in God. Very few actually ascribe to “Take up your cross and follow after me” and “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” and “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” Most enjoy their life in this world very much, and become belligerent when you make them uncomfortable. (Hence all the hypocrisy, but that’s beside the point.)

    For these people, I would say that religion actually probably improves their lives. They have social ties and community events, they maybe volunteer every once in a while, and they have the hope of a grand afterlife and the illusion of a omniscient caretaker. True, you don’t need religion to have some of these benefits, but just as you don’t need alcohol to have a good time, it can still be used in a good fashion, in spite of the occasional hangover.

    But then there are addicts, those whose lives are completely consumed by this drug. Most of the resulting suffering is endured by the users themselves, but sometimes they hurt others, like the alcoholic who harms his family in a drunken rage. Likewise, the lives of religion addicts are completely immersed, resulting in psychological damage. And the extremists are the ones who hurt others by forcing their ideology on others and on public policy.

    Alcohol is prescribed to be used responsibly and in moderation. People know that drugs should only be used to enhance their experience of life, not to subvert it. But religion is not advertised as such. In fact, those who aren’t hardcore are labelled “lukewarm” and “mere Sunday churchgoers.” And just as alcoholics have to eventually live lives of abstinence*, former god abusers, of which I am one, must reject religion entirely; for us, there is no such thing as moderately believing in God.

    I have to say, though, that I’m going through a quarter-life crisis and have yet to see the beauty of a reality without God, the “superior satisfaction” and “meaningful and fulfilling
    godless life” of which you speak. I think I’ll eventually get there, but for now, I miss the social connections, the (semi)sense of direction, and ignorant hope. For better or worse, I’m much more cynical and pessimistic. I know this is terrible, but part of me wishes for the blue pill that Morpheus offered Neo. I guess religion _is_ like a drug.

    Andrew

    *Conventional wisdom says an alcoholic must abstain, but there is some evidence that alcoholics can learn to use alcohol moderately. People who support this view use “harm reduction” and oppose the twelve-step method.

    • Great insights, Andrew.

      And I understand that living a “godless” life can be a bit more difficult when surrounded by christians. I’m rather fortunate now that I live in a very secular Tokyo where I have much less of that. In fact, I go out of my way to engage theists I meet. I also understand the things you miss. I have many good friends in christianity that I can no longer interact with comfortably. They are good people, but I can’t return to their way of thinking just for the sake of fellowship. I am involved with a considerable number of web communities that keep me feeling socially fulfilled. I’m sometimes grumpy myself, but I can always find a book or podcast that delights me. And since you’ve some really good thoughts, how about starting your own blog?

  2. Andrew says:

    The thought of blogging did cross my mind, but I think I already do too much “ivory tower” thinking. What I need to do is to go out and actually do things. A blog would probably encourage me to stay at home and read and write. Thanks for the suggestion, though.

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