Do You Care Whether the Religious Ideas You Believe in Are True or Not?
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Of course there are some very pragmatic, nuts-and-bolts ways that our beliefs about reality affect reality. Being optimistic can help us see more opportunities; being good to people draws other good people to us; etc. But there's nothing magical about that. It's just human psychology. Based, I'd like to point out, on observable cause and effect. Exactly the kind of reality I think people should care about.
What's more, if we care about reality, we have to apply reasonable standards of probability and plausibility to it. When faced with solid evidence strongly suggesting that our beliefs almost certainly aren't true, we can't tell ourselves, "Well, my belief can't be absolutely disproven with 100 percent certainty -- therefore it's reasonable to keep believing it." We can't tell ourselves that hitting the TV with a rock might turn it on this time, we can't be absolutely sure that it won't, it's hypothetically possible. Not if we want to watch TV.
Now, when pressed with these kinds of questions, many of these "We create our own reality and don't have to care if our beliefs are true" believers will agree. They'll say that, when it comes to petty, mundane, physical matters, of course they understand cause and effect, and want to understand it better so they can create good consequences and avoid bad ones. When they're on the twentieth floor of a building, they don't exit that building by jumping out the window. They don't act on the principle that they can create their own reality and gently float down from the window to the sidewalk. They believe in reality, in physical cause and effect... enough to take the elevator. When it comes to practical matters, of course they care whether the things they believe are true. It's just the grand metaphysical issues, the issues where cause and effect isn't blindingly obvious, the issues of God and the soul and eternal consciousness and whatnot... that's where they feel they can make up any interpretation of reality that makes them happy.
Yeah. See, here's the problem with that.
It's not so easy to believe whatever you find comforting in some cases... and then question, or challenge, or let go of your beliefs in others.
Skepticism is a discipline. It does not come naturally to the human mind. The human mind is wired to believe what it already believes, and what it wants to believe. The habit of questioning whether the things we believe are true -- and letting go of beliefs we're attached to when the evidence contradicts them -- takes practice.
I know that in my own life, when I still had New Age woo beliefs -- and my "we make our own reality" rationalization of them -- I was much more prone to hanging onto other, non-spiritual beliefs I was attached to. And I was much more prone to attaching myself to beliefs in the first place if I found them comforting or easy. My belief that I could make things work with my loser boyfriend; my belief that there was no connection between my weight and my health; my belief that if I ignored my student loans for long enough the university would give up and go away... all these were much easier to fall into, because I was so practiced at convincing myself that it was reasonable to believe pretty much whatever I wanted.
What's more, my spiritual beliefs were very slippery. (A phenomenon I've noticed in many other believers.) When confronted with strong evidence that contradicted my beliefs, I'd pull out the "this may not be literally true but it works for me" line. But when I was alone, or with others who shared my beliefs? I bloody well believed those things. Entirely and literally. And again, that slipperiness -- that willingness to slide back and forth between wishful thinking and critical thought, depending on convenience and who was watching and how attached I was to the ideas -- slopped into the practical areas of my life. Often with truly lousy consequences.