My contributions to a LinkedIn thread entitled: Does Adherence to Rationality Lead to Atheism?
The intractability of the viewpoints shared on this thread is remarkable. Though our “truth” is well reasoned in our minds, it is senseless to others who disagree. Why do we feel so open minded when our blindness to the reasoning of others reveals otherwise?
What we perceive as reality is not reality in any absolute sense. It is the culmination of all the values our brain places on everything of which we are aware. Imagine we are looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. Our reality would be different from others in a way that is beyond the ability of reason to comprehend. Seeing things differently is not due to the failure of reason. It is because our respective brains are placing different values on things—in effect, the “pictures” of reality they are presenting are different.
Why do brains create “reality” in the first place? For a species to flourish, its members’ brains must react to specific situations in certain ways. The values that inspire the needed behavior are expressed through feelings such as hunger, anger, love, empathy, acceptance, and rejection.
How does the brain know what behavior best serves the species? Our emotional nature evolved by virtue of the survival of the emotionally fittest—that is, the genes of those who were inspired to behave in ways that optimized the species’ survivability were the ones most likely passed to future generations. A lion’s reality is different than a giraffe’s, not because they live in different worlds, but because their respective brains place different values on their surroundings to inspire the behavior needed for their species to survive. I would guess, for instance, that tall trees are of little significance in a lion’s reality, while they are the main feature in a giraffe’s.
The role reason plays in serving life is: Choose behavior that maximizes pleasure and minimizes pain. In other words, eat when hungry, seek shelter when cold, express anger when angry, love when feeling like it, and reject when so inspired. The conscious mind is unaware that it is serving life when figuring out how to satisfy feelings. Nonetheless, that’s exactly what’s happening—at least in my “reality.”
The above applies also to spiritually free humans—that is, people who are not subject to legal systems. When spiritually free, humans satisfy their feelings by doing, rather than by believing in, something. What do they do? As members of extended families, they survive by looking out for and attending to one another’s needs, for which their spirits reward them with unconditional love.
But we moderns depend on money and law to survive, and thus have no access to interdependent relationships. Except for a mother’s love for her child—which lasts for life—or romantic love—which last long enough to ensure conception, we exist without unconditional love. How do we endure the pain of an existence that is largely without love? We need a good story, a belief so well constructed that, without our awareness, it rescues us from meaninglessness—a special set of rose-colored glasses, so to speak. Being imaginative and creative, our brains are adept at producing such glasses.
For instance, my life is rescued from meaninglessness by the belief that the human spirit would save mankind if we were free to be true to our feelings. Others are rescued by their beliefs, such as that Jesus, the U.S. constitution, education, or technology will save mankind. There is no evidence that these beliefs, including mine, are true. Only the future contains the evidence, which makes it presently unavailable. Nonetheless, we hold tight to our beliefs, much as we would cling to a life preserver if stranded in the middle of an ocean. It’s not that the “preserver” will actually save us. Deprived of the unconditional love through which life’s meaning is implicit, we cling to whatever meaning is at hand, which explains the intractability of our beliefs.
That we exist largely to serve our imaginations, instead of life, does not bode well for either the happiness of our kind, or for its life.
George Kalergis: Chet, what makes you think my views are intractable?
Good question, George. Intractable is possibly too strong a word, as even my beliefs are modified at times due to things I learn. However, I don’t think my brain is capable of absorbing information that would result in my becoming a Tea Party member, Christian, Communist or Muslim, for example—not that any of these beliefs are wrong. In that sense, my beliefs are intractable, which is largely how I see the beliefs of others on this thread and elsewhere.
George Kalergis: I think intractable is when you are not even open to new ideas. I think Christians fall into that category as they cannot disbelieve Jesus existed and died for them. People with absolute truths are generally intractable in that regard.
We don’t know what we don’t know, and I try to remember that.
George, I appreciate and agree with your comment, particularly: “We don’t know what we don’t know.”
What we don’t know is virtually infinite relative to what we know. The neat thing about life is that we don’t have to know everything. To experience unconditional love, life’s greatest reward, all we have to know is how to be true to life, which our feelings communicate to us every moment of our existence. We don’t have to know how the universe began, or even that the earth is round. Our lives are deprived of love, not because of lack of knowledge, but because, as institutional dependents, we are not free to be true to our feelings of the moment.
Why do we remain institutional dependents, despite the impositions they place on our freedom to be true to life, as well as their mounting failures. In my mind, it is largely due to the intractability of our beliefs. There is nothing modern humans believe in more than institutions, particularly that of marriage, the granddaddy of them all. All institutions, be they of religion, government, education, or family, exist to control the future to prescribed ends. Consequently, they force us to largely ignore our feelings of the moment. We must thus avoid doing the very things through which we would normally experience unconditional love by being true to life. And what do our institutions offer in return? The hope of realizing a prescribed future.
But our belief in institutions is based far more on our dependencies than on our dreams. Having been raised as institutional dependents, we have no clue about how to survive without them. To our mind-body, survival is a big deal, indeed, the biggest. So, no matter how sound the ideas in my book Eden—Regaining Our Spiritual Freedom, may appear, when people get a sniff that their acceptance might result in their relinquishing their institutional dependence, it’s difficult for anyone to maintain interest. This is not by free choice, but the result of how the mind-body functions.
The mind serves the species by inspiring the behavior required for the species to flourish. But it also must serve the body. It does so by, when the body is aroused, doing—or for institutional dependents, believing in—whatever is necessary to return the body to its un-aroused state. There is nothing that arouses the body more than the threat of being deprived of its only known means of survival, thus the intractability of our belief in institutions.
The authors of Genesis spoke to the issue of, once having left Eden, the difficulty of returning:
He (God) drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:25
By our subjugation to institutions, we believe life is about the future—is not their promise of a better tomorrow how religious, political, and scientific leaders gain our devotion? But to our bodies, life is forever about now. And there is nothing that makes surviving now more difficult than the idea that, for the sake of our species’ survival and everyone’s happiness, we must surrender our devotion to institutions, our only known means of survival. Quite understandably, our mind-body’s persistent and overwhelming reaction is, to h$#l with our species and happiness. I need to get through now.
Beliefs are not absolutely intractable. Views about women’s rights, African Americans, and gays have changed dramatically in recent years. The mind-body, however, does not learn from words; it learns from experience, like when admired entertainers come out of the closet, or when a woman on a city bus will not relinquish her seat. Likewise, belief in spiritual freedom will not arise from these thoughts. It will require the complete and utter collapse of institutions, but only if people comprehend how we trapped ourselves into institutional dependence in the first place. So readers who feel these thoughts might someday be of value, spread them around little. When they are needed, that is, in the wake of institutional collapse, there may be no means to communicate them.