3/26/2012 | Share this article:By John Shores ~
The recent article in Scientific American titled How We Opt Out of Overoptimism: Our Habit of Ignoring What Is Real Is a Double-Edged Sword concisely canvasses a problem that I think we can all agree pervades the "Christian" religion. Consider these two key elements of the article:
1) The Basis of Overoptimism (or delusion): The writer points out that
"the few entrepreneurs who succeed spectacularly have biographies... whereas the many who fail do not."
Each of us, in our formative years, have heard it said that we can do anything; even become President of the United States. The idea has appeal because Presidents all have biographies that we know and study. But it completely ignores the fact that this country has been home to hundreds of millions of people, among whom 44 have made this distinction. (Yes. Your first grade teacher lied to you.)
Let us consider a common goal among Christians: "We are to be like Christ." Aside from having no idea what that actually means, I would submit that the goal itself is evidence of Overoptimism (or delusion). It is not outside the confines of reason to speculate that not even Jesus of Nazareth was "like Christ" in the way that Christians advertise. To emulate this idyllic image is, IMHO, an exercise in futility not only because it's based on a lie but more so because whenever someone tries to be like someone other than who they are, trouble is bound to follow.
2) A Symptom of Overoptimism (or delusion): The writer uses Steve Jobs as an example of one who typifies this condition. The writer sources Jobs' biography which states,
“at the root of the reality distortion was Jobs’s belief that the rules didn’t apply to him." He then makes a studious observation; "There was one reality Jobs’s distortion field optimism could not completely bend to his will: cancer."
I think that a lot of us Exchristians can relate to this. The reason we struggled with our faith was, invariably, due to the fact that the faith stands in direct conflict with reality. Whether one is speaking of cancer, evolution, gravity, the big bang, or disease control, such discussions cannot be held within the confines of faith.
The main reason for this is that the "faith" provides answers without investigation. Hence the problem with the child is not epilepsy, it is an evil spirit. When someone sneezes one must "bless" the sneezer who is afflicted with a devil. The flat Earth is at the center of the universe which God created in seven days. And misbehaving children are filled with Hell which must be beaten out of them.
All of that is fine and well for those who are not interested in reality. But for those who value it, such thinking and behavior based on the Overoptimism that "God said so" is simply baffling.
As an Exchristian, I have become a huge fan of reality. It has drastically changed my perceptions about myself and all of us. It has introduced a level of humility that I would never have achieved in a thousand years of trying to be like Christ. If you want a taste of what I'm talking about, consider the following dialogue from the movie "Grand Canyon":
Simon: Man, get yourself to the Grand Canyon.
Mack: Beautiful, huh?
Simon: It's pretty, all right. But that's not the thing of it. You can sit right on the edge of it. I did that. I did everything. I went down in it, I stayed overnight there. But the thing that got me was sitting on the edge of that big old thing.
Those rocks. Man, those cliffs and rocks, they're so old. It took so long for that thing to get to look like that. And it ain't done, either. It happens right while you're sitting there watchin' it. It's happenin' right now while we're sitting here in this ugly town. When you sit on the edge of that thing, you just realize what a joke we people are. What big heads we got, thinkin' that what we do is gonna matter all that much. Thinkin' our time here means diddly to those rocks.
It's a split second we've been here, the whole lot of us. And one of us? That's a piece of time too small to get a name. Those rocks were laughing at me, I could tell. Me and my worries. It was real humorous to that Grand Canyon.
If this Grand-Canyon-reality is not big enough and you think you need something bigger and more complicated, check out the universe. Once you're done exploring that and have a grasp on it, then, perhaps, it will be time to start thinking of anything beyond it. But I'd bet that you'd find other universes long before you ever found a god.
Why anyone would want to bypass reality and go straight to deity is unfathomable to me. This life and this place are beautiful enough.