Thursday, February 26, 2009

What's the story with Belief?, part 1

While I am not surprised that humans have the urge to believe in a religion or related system, what does send me up the wall with astonishment is the need humans have to feel threatened by others' beliefs.

Why are so many threatened by what others believe?
Why should you care what I believe?
Why should I care what you or anyone believes?

Why is it so threatening that someone believes something else... that people seek ways to exterminate others and perpetuate the most heinous atrocities simply because someone has a different belief? It is so bizarre.

Try this one on for size... deep down people know that their own belief systems are invented, illogical by definition, and simply absurd. With the support of similar-minded others they can block out their own doubts. But when they encounter others who do not share in the same self-delusion, the entire construct is threatened. Hence the violent reaction towards the other; it's a mechanism to protect ones' own phantasmagorical deception.

And people have been willing to kill for it for thousands of years, and continue to do so. And will continue to do so. Makes you just weep.

I am reminded of that bumper sticker: "Dear God, protect me from your followers."


Stuart said...

Hey, Lemonade, many thanks for your stimulating comments on my blog.

Re your question here re belief, it's a fascinating issue for me, and it's also fascinating that I respond to the question in a different way than you do. I've written about it in a series of postings about "Tribes," beginning here:

Here's the gist. Ages ago, we were lizards (y'know, something less evolved, if not lizards, then ants or sheep or something). With our brains so undeveloped, we had little chance of surviving as individuals, so we gathered in herds to have some chance of living and reproducing.

(Yeah, yeah, I know that nobody is completely independent. But it is true that when our brains were more primitive, it was far more imperative that we stuck with the herd.)

The weird thing is is that it's the same when we look at our individual human lives. We started out with primitive brains that gave us no chance of surviving independently. Our only chance was to stick with the herd (family).

We still have that lizard brain (and that toddler brain). It's part of a more complex neural system now, and their are other processes in those neurons that can now sometimes overrule the lizard. But the lizard has his say.

We cling to herds because that's the strategy that allowed us to survive long ago. The way we strengthen the herd is by thinking alike, so that's why it's so disturbing when others challenge our beliefs.

And indeed following the herd isn't that bad a strategy. Sometimes I'm in a strange place I know nothing about, so I respond by copying what everyone else is doing. It works well when there are few alternatives. As we mature (as individuals and as a species), the herding behavior becomes less vital. But evolution moves very very slowly, so for a long time we'll be dealing with herding behavior... some of which may now be counter-productive.


Post a Comment