The Man, The Dude, and
by Gary Boatwright, Sun Apr 10, 2005 at 05:40:53 AM EDT
"Look," I said, "four billion people believe in some sort of God and free will. They can't all be wrong."
"Very few people believe in God," he replied.
I didn't see how he could deny the obvious. "Of course they do. Billions of people believe in god."
The old man leaned toward me, resting a blanketed elbow on the arm of his rocker.
"A belief in God would demand one hundred percent obsessive devotion, influencing every waking moment of this brief life on earth. But your four billion so-called believers do not live their lives in that fashion, except for a few. The majority believe in the usefulness of their beliefs-an earthly and practical utility-but they do not believe in the underlying reality."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. "If you asked them, they'd say they believe."
"They say that they believe because pretending to believe is necessary to get the benefits of religion. They tell other people that they believe and they do believer-like things, like praying and reading holy books. But they don't do the things that a true believer would have to do.
If you believe a truck is coming toward you, you will jump out of the way. That is belief in the reality of the truck. If you tell people you fear the truck but do nothing to get out of the way, that is not belief in the truck. Likewise, it is not belief to say God exists and then continue sinning and hoarding your wealth while innocent people die of starvation. When belief does not control your most important decisions, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is not belief in the underlying reality, it is belief in the usefulness of believing."
"Are you saying God doesn't exist?" I asked, trying to get to the point.
"I'm saying that people claim to believe in God, but most don't literally believe. They only act as though they believe because there are earthly benefits in doing so. They create a delusion for themselves because it makes them happy."
"So you think only the atheists believe their own belief?" I asked.
"No. Atheists also prefer delusions," he said.
"So according to you, no one believes anything that they say they believe."
"The best any human can do is to pick a delusion that helps him get through the day. This is why people of different religions can generally live in peace. At some level, we all suspect that other people don't believe their own religion any more than we believe ours."
I couldn't accept that. "Maybe the reason we respect other religions is that they all have a core set of beliefs in common. They only differ in the details."
"Jews and Muslims believe that Christ isn't the Son of God," he countered. "If they are right, then Christians are mistaken about the core of their religion. And if the Jews or the Christians or the Muslims have the right religion, then the Hindus and Buddhists who believe in reincarnation are wrong. Would you call those details?"
"I guess not," I confessed.
"At some level of consciousness, everyone knows that the odds of picking the true religion-if such a thing exists-are nil."
If you think this is interesting, you can buy the book,God's Debris
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