12/06/2011 | Share this article:By Carl S ~
You may be extricating yourself from a belief system, dumping beliefs, i.e., superstitions, slowly or in spurts, whatever. Hopefully, you're becoming freer. While investigating the beliefs you formerly took for granted, you learned of secrets buried, camouflaged, and of hypocrisies that are now so obvious that you wondered how you ever missed them. You found out that those lies perpetuated for centuries are still being peddled.
confirmation bias" is something you must also have encountered in your search for truth. That’s when you only notice what seems to support your beliefs and ignore what appears to dis-confirm it. It's a quirk everyone has; even scientists have to be very careful that their research and methods are not influenced by it. In our searches for facts/fairness/justice, we must stay aware of it, lest they are devalued or lost. Yet, religions are saturated with confirmation-bias; In fact, it is food and drink to the faithful.
It is practical and most necessary to be aware of confirmation bias, but it should never be something deserving of respect or reverence, as it often is in religion. Where this prevails, a reality check is impossible. You, in that belief system, shared an environment akin to a horse on a carousel, thinking that you were winning the race, when you were just going round and round.
I used to think that a normal human, by nature, desired to be free; that confronted with a choice, he would grab hold of freedom every time. I also thought that, presented with overwhelming evidence, a person would accept that evidence. But, often, the confirmation bias of belief systems overcomes it. I thought that slaves would be hungry for freedom, would wholeheartedly take advantage of any opportunity to be free. I became disillusioned.
And yet, people do get out, get free, and stay free. It's not easy for people to get free, to realize that their freedom "in Christ," or Allah, etc., is actually serfdom or slavery. The epidemic of religion has become part of the world, influencing even its justice systems, wherein the prime response to human mistakes and choices, even victimless crimes, is punishment. After all, this is the approach of the "all-wise mind" of the Deity!
What is it about this freedom that makes it so formidably scary? Is it really the fear of giving up the security of captivity? I remember a TV program featuring a tiger raised in captivity, perhaps as a circus member. After many years, the tiger was moved to a sanctuary with much of the natural environment tigers grow up with in the wild. The cage was left wide open, but, for some time, the tiger did not want to get out to the "jungle." When it finally did leave the cage, it very carefully investigated this "strange" place, smelling the plants, dipping its paw in the water. It made me want to cry for him, and damn his former deprivation.
Many years ago, at a neighborhood movie theater, I saw THX 1138, with Robert Duvall. At the end of the film, he escapes to a wild, uncertain outside world. Never before had I heard such audience cheering during a movie. We all understood. (Perhaps it was a bit like one's first unmarried sexual intercourse, where everything you were taught was so "wrong" was too good to be anything but good?)
The great thing about freedom, and what threatens all religions, is that it can be such an insatiable thing in allowing you to be yourself and to keep on gaining even more freedom. Make no mistake, religions want to rule you, with kindness, threats, authority they don't have (by the consent of the governed?), by telling you to not even question them!
This is freedom: there are no gods. Thousands of years of history have not produced any evidence that there ever have been, and in fact, have shown just the opposite, though millions of lives have been taken in their names. (This includes the God of Abrahamic faiths.) The ancient, empty temples of bygone religions, destroyed and now lying in ruins, were occupied for years by believers in them, just as fervent, devoted, cock-sure of their beliefs, as any believers in our times, and all just as wrong. Some even died for - or had their children sacrificed to - those gods. The gods of ancient Egypt were around longer than the monotheistic god worshipped today. They were all fictions; no more real than the god you are told is real. There simply are no gods or demons, no supernatural, no spirits, affecting or ruling the material universe or the minds of those in it.
Those "spiritual" feelings are natural to human beings (and may also be experienced by other animals), just as much as hate, love, joy, fear, and every other emotion. Without those "supernatural entities," we are free to explore what is real, for natural explanations. There's a whole universe available to find solutions in. One is also free to be responsible for one's own decisions, thoughts, and actions, uninfluenced by what are imagined to be the desires of gods and demons struggling for control of one's "soul." One is free to make choices and take the consequences, to make mistakes, take the blame . . . but also to take the credit for all the good you choose to do.
You will notice that being religion free enables you to give credit for all the good others do, and to be less judgmental of them, as you are more realistic about yourself. As has been observed, there is bad in the best of us, and good in the worst of us. So relax and be content to be a fallible, loving human. There is no god making a judgment on your every thought and motive. Belief in gods leads humans to make extremely bad judgments on other human beings, and gives power to those who want to control us. Never give a man a stick to beat you with, said the wise man.
With no god to care about us, we live within an indifferent and chaotic Nature. We must create our own order and care for, nurture and protect each other, including our children's minds. As protectors, we must safeguard not only their bodies from harm, but their psyches, and keep them safe from the insidious poisons of religions which would cage the freedoms they were born with.
How simple things were when you were a believer, with moral decisions made for you by the cult, an indifference to real truth, and a carefully prescribed attitude to life and the sufferings of others. Things are complicated now. You're responsible, and have become sensitive to the things you were numb about before, like hypocrisy, lies, cheating others, focusing on their morality as so inferior to yours.
You might even find yourself pointing out that the pope, like the emperor, is friggin' buck-naked. Free people say things like that. Personally speaking, I think we're just too damned polite; when the water gets boiling hot, we should yell, "Ouch!", and make everyone notice, even if they don't like it. You do have a right to be yourself.
But, maybe you don't want to be anathema, ostracized from your community. Maybe you want to be quiet and let them get away with denying your right to speak out. Maybe you don't want to be dismissed as a kook, or worse yet, an immoral critic? The choice is yours. You can speak out, if only by example, or you can just get back in the cage. You can always go back to your religion. Or can you?