Monday, September 26, 2011

Are you against happiness?

Seriously?  I mean...  the "angry at god" thing wasn't enough?  I get questions that suggest I want people to be miserable?  I wonder if people just lash out because I'm proverbially pulling the beard off of the guy in the Santa suit or they simply don't get the point of being a rationalist.  It's not about happy vs. sad; It's not about hope vs. despair; It's not about moral vs. immoral; It's most certainly not about religion A vs. religion B; It's about fact vs. fantasy.  That's it.  There is nothing more to it than that.  I don't speak ill of religions because they do not occasionally teach otherwise valuable lessons;  I speak ill of them because they are fundamentally untrue, and believing that they are true is a bad thing that leads to other bad things.

I don't care how much your religious beliefs comfort you.  I don't care how big a difference Jesus or Sai Baba or Zarathustra or whoever has made in your life.  I don't care how happy you are to belong to some community of deluded psychopaths.  I don't care what sort of hope it brings you to believe in some divine form of justice.  And I certainly don't care about the sincerity with which you hold those beliefs.  None of these are important when establishing that any of these things are in any way true.

I refer to a quote by Penn Jilette on the matter --
"Believing something sincerely, without finding out if it is true, is actually a little worse than lying. It shits on the very idea of truth. To lie, you have to understand how to find out the truth, and then choose to fake it. To be sincere, you don't have to know anything. You just say whatever makes you feel good, and spin in smug circles in your tiny, fucked up little head... happy as long as you're true to yourself. In other words, sincerity is bullshit."
Well, I use that quote specifically to point out the irrelevance of any depth of belief.  I am a rationalist for a simple reason -- It is inherently better to be consistent with reality than not.
The quote I used is actually the closer to an episode of Penn & Teller's Showtime program titled, "Bullshit".  That episode happened to be one covering the topic of people who believe that dolphins have some various forms of superpowers.  Something which I never really realized was mainstream enough for them to actually consider it worthy of an episode of their program.  I would, for the sake of correctness, make a small modification in that liars need not necessarily know "how to find out" the truth, but that barring that, it is enough simply to know what is true.

Given a quote like that, though, one question comes up to me afterwards is -- "What's wrong with being happy?"  Again, I have to explain that if it all began and ended right there on that one and only facet, there wouldn't be a problem.  However, we all know that is impossible.  There's really no way to believe something without actually having that belief manifest in some way with regards to your actions.  Now, I admit that there are certain people (e.g. Secular Jews) who don't actually believe any of the things their "Holy Books" say, but maintain their religious activities for the express purpose of retaining a strong sense of cultural identity.  It is analogous to knowing that the Santa in the mall is just a guy in a suit, but still having fun with it.  I have comparatively little to no problem with this.  I almost fit this mold myself, at least with regards to knowledge of my Hindu background, even if I'm not big on the ritual folderol.  It is exceedingly annoying that I have to explain yet again and again that it simply does not matter if you find comfort in believing that a magical fairy in the sky will send you to an abode floating in the fluffy clouds after you die...  it only matters whether or not it is true, and there is simply no way to show that it ever could be.

There is no such issue with thing which really do exist...  things which can actually be tested...  things which can actually be proven or disproven explicitly.  Religious beliefs do not fall in any of those groups.  The problem is not that YECs think that the Earth is 6000 years old -- it's that they argue that it's actually true, and petition for it to be taught in schools, and vote people into government office who necessarily agree with that.  If you're another Kent Hovind, but at the same time a total recluse who interacts with no one, you may be an insufferable idiot, but at least a harmless one.  The moment you try to tell me or anyone else that your beliefs are actually true or even take action based on that belief, you will be shot down, as you very well deserve.  I do not concern myself with going to heaven, because there is simply no reason whatsoever to believe it even exists.  I similarly do not fear going down to hell because you can't fear something which can't even be shown to exist.  I can certainly say that the imagery of hell is fear-inspiring (which is pretty much the idea), but so is the imagery of zombie apocalypses -- doesn't mean that either one is any less imaginary, or actually worth any sort of emotional burden.  Furthermore, if I spent all my time worrying about my supposed afterlife, what the hell am I doing about the one and only life that I can actually be shown to have?

If I said it once, I've said it a thousand times : The problem is not happiness or sadness; The problem is the false pretenses on which those feelings are founded.  I would much rather be happy over something which is true than over something which is not.  I would even prefer to despair over things which are actually true than be happy over something which is not at all true.  The difference is that one is demonstrably real and based on things which are real, and the other is not.  That's all there is to it.

If you even attempt to tell me that there is something else to it...  that I want people to be miserable...  you will be shot down just as you deserve to be for claiming that God actually exists.