I recently had a (very) late-night discussion with two Evangelical Christian friends regarding my disbelief in their god. Some of the usual topics were brought up regarding faith, morals, and science as it relates to religion. Arguments were flying back and forth with the two of them appealing to their experiences to validate their faith and my incessant (and pesky) appeal to reason, logic, and reality.
As the night went by I was feeling confident in my use of analogies and context to examples my need for sticking to finding out the truth about things. I argued that we hold different levels of trust in a truth statement based on the amount of evidence we find to support the statement and the relationship and between the likelihood of the claim and the amount of evidence needed to support it. As I could tell they were growing frustrated by my equaling their believing in an ghostly friend to my having a pair of hippos in my left pocket or the existence of fairies and leprechauns on my front lawn, I sensed a (non-surprising) shift in their tactics. They went from trying to “reason” the existence of god to claiming that what was real to them just wasn’t real to me.
I pressed again and asked if the elephant in the cupboard was real or not and again they insisted that, if it’s real to me, then it’s real to me.
At this point, and realizing it was almost 4am and I had to work in a few hours, I made a desperate attempt to clarify the difference between perception (belief) and things that actually exist (I know… tautology… it was 4am!!!), but every attempt was shut down with contemptuous similar remarks in the confidence that they had finally put the last nail on the coffin.
“We get experts on everything… There’s all kinds of myths and pseudoscience all over the place… I might be quite wrong. Maybe they do know all these things. But I don’t think I’m wrong. I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to really get to know something. How careful you have to be about checking your experiments. How easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something… I can’t believe that they know when they haven’t done the work necessary, they haven’t done the checks necessessary, they haven’t done the care necessary.” – Richard Feynam
They did indeed as I was dead inside. Discussions like this take a lot out of oneself. They leave you with a dizzying incomprehension of the wide spectrum of reasoning the human mind is capable of displaying. They make you regret you ever posted that link on Facebook about the origins of Easter or Christmas. They make you a minority. The wrong one.
They all went to bed and after sitting at that dinner table in regret of the hours wasted in such a foolish endeavor, I got up, took the hippos out of my pocket, the elephant out of the cupboard, and brought the fairies and leprechauns inside for the night. I think I’ll make them clean up the pile of shit in the kitchen in the morning.
“Once you start doubting, which… to me is a very fundamental part of my soul, is to doubt, and to ask. And when you doubt and ask, it gets a little harder to believe. I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not-knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers which might be wrong… I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel freightened by not knowing things. By being lost in a mysterious universe without having any purpose, which is the way it really is, as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t freighten me.” – Richard Feynman