A wise man once said:
Impress me not by the depths of your faith, but rather by the breadth of your tolerance.
That, someone, was me. Michael J. Pennington, I’m quoting myself. Like the smug narcissistic weirdo, I am. o.O
Cue Alan Rickman / Marvin the paranoid robot voice: “Of course, I have to quote me. Nobody else is going to do it… It’s not like anyone listens to what I have to say. They probably don’t know I’ve said anything at all. Brain the size of a planet, and still, no one listens…”
Okay, I’m done channeling Douglas Adams. Let’s get to brass tacks, why I’m sharing this idea with you now. I came up with this idea years ago and yet have not found a very good place to slip it into my writing, and I wanted to discuss it. So I’ve introduced the idea in the weirdest way possible. Because of raisins. (No really! Sentient raisins are making me do this.)
BTW: If for some reason Plato or Socrates somehow beat me to the punch on this. (Because they always do! Those philosophical bastards!) Just know I’m just exploring an Idea I’ve been brewing on for a while. (Mine!) I’d be happy to see other philosophical takes on it. (Keep your dirty mitts off it!) Feel free to link other sources (Don’t!) in the comments. (I will cut you… Or maybe just say mean things behind your back. Eyeballs, Peace, Pointy finger.)
Belief. I like to define terms in my writings. Not so much to change the meaning of words but so my readers and I might have a shared lexicon of ideas. It is not so good if I am talking about spoons and the readers think I’m badmouthing forks. So when I talk about ‘belief’ I’m not talking about religion. Rather I’m discussing belief as the acceptance of something to be true beyond all other arguments or facts.
Contrary to belief is ‘deduction,’ the determination of truth through the study and observation of facts and arguments.
Lots of people confuse the two. Thinking that they are deducing the truth when they are in fact simply rationalizing what they want to believe. Truth itself is subjective. Most people think because their truth fits the facts that it is the only possible answer. Facts aren’t subjective that is true, they are just bits of information about the world around us. the meaning we attach to facts is what we call truth.
We are philosophical as a species, without knowing it we seek to find meaning in everything even the most basic facts. These truths we dig for are the basis of our lives. They give us meaning they give us purpose, they give us hope.
Ah, but look at me. I’m rambling again. You know it’s very freeing to be unknown on the internet. Much like a madman in a cave I can scream whatever I want into the blackness and get only silence in return. If anything I fear discovery. People knowing my name and valuing my opinion. What a horrible curse to have to bend to the demands of the social presser. To mind your tongue least you unsettle the delicate workings of the machine we call society and be punished.
Today I must scream into the blackness a most terrible truth.
Belief is easy.
I imagine those who should stumble upon this hidden corner of the internet, and baffle through my ramblings to this point should be of two minds. Some are wondering what took me so long to come to this very obvious conclusion. Others are might find the need to explain to me the error of my thinking in a calm dignified manner.
But I am not saying that belief is the realm of the simple-minded. I am not saying it is a tool of the uneducated or lazy. I’m not saying it’s the manifestation of a dullards intellect. I’m saying it because I think that it is mathematically necessary.
I sense a great disturbance in the force as if two’s of people who at first agreed with me are now typing their own dignified replies.
Here is the thing, life is about survival, survival is all about taking risks. Eventually, as a species, colony, or individual, you’ll run into a situation where the chances of survival are low. For lower functioning creatures I imagine the program to be simple. Seek survival obtain survival repeat. But for higher functioning creatures, ones who might be able to reason out the risks of the situation it’s not so simple. Knowing your odds of survival are low in any situation, might give cause you not to try. This is where belief comes in, belief is the little motivator that could. Knowing the odds but believing that you can beat them makes you try. BTW you don’t really beat odds or defy them, you can only ever survive them.
Now belief doesn’t always result in positive feedback, but the negative feedback often means death and that information is not passed on.
Organisms that take risks are survivors, believers are risk takers, hence the mathematical predisposition towards belief. Theoretically speaking anyway.
This is an appeal to mathematics argument. Similar to an appeal to nature argument. This argument states that regardless of the morality or intelligence certain behaviors are mathematically preferable when it comes to survival, and even the most intelligent of beings with full control of their faculties may not be immune to said behaviors or the thought processes that they will use to justify them.
So what of the other side of the idiom? Tolerance? I believe that it too has its own mathematical argument. I speak of tolerance as the ability to recognize the differences of others and to respect their independence no matter how alien their behaviors. Conversely, intolerance is fear of the different.
From a survival standpoint, similar things are good. They offer little danger except for competition for resources, but more often than not resources are plentiful enough. So that’s only a small problem. Different things are often bad, in addition to competing for resources, they can also pose a more direct threat to survival such as hunting us for food.
But here is where things get complicated. Different can often be good. Sometimes different can provide new resources such as food or protection. The different enrich the world around us, and through their unique perspective, all life grows.
These things are true of intelligent life as well as the ability to compare and contrast is a basic survival function. Since similar things pose less danger and different things pose slightly more there is a mathematical bias towards intolerance.
In short, Tolerance is hard.
Wich one plays out is usually up to avalible resources. Lots of resources skew towards tolerance, and a shortage of resources skews towards intolerance. This is, of course, a multifaceted subject and I’ve probably bored you enough with it. Moreover, it’s mostly a theory by a madman, and I don’t put much stock in the theories of crazy people.
What I am trying to say is that of the two faith and tolerance, I find the latter much more impressive. A river that is deep is thought of to be impressive and compared to a stream it is but is it not a river natural predominance to cut deeply into the earth? As the modules of water scrape away the rock and the dirt at the spots where naturally more of them are concentrated? Maybe not, I’m not an expert in the development of rivers.
I just know that depth is often a judge of how impressive a river is, but so too is breadth. Breadth is a measurement of how wide a river is, and I would think that being wide is a far less common feature in Rivers. Often underestimated. Wich holds more water? The deep river or the wide river? What if they hold the same amount of water?
Maybe the deep river is more powerful, but perhaps the wide river covers more ground and touches more lives.
I’m sure some of the greatest rivers are deep and wide, but the most dangerous rivers are most certainly deep and narrow.
Let’s drop the metaphor for a moment. Faith is not impressive on its own, assholes have faith, madmen have faith, serial killers have faith, genocidal madmen have faith.
Sure they may not be saying god, but they have faith in something, even if they don’t admit it to themselves. Even if you got your truth from hard-fought reason, there was likely a crossover a point where you no longer question your truth and accepted it as fact so you could explore greater mysteries elsewhere. Sure you might reopen that book if new evidence arises, but you are not actively questioning it. It would be maddening reevaluating every truth all the time every day.
I digress, my point is what good is knowing your truth, if you don’t embrace the diversity of other truths? No, not all of them deserve it, but keeping an open mind is mathematically sensible.