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The Need to Know

By Carl S ~

There's an old country and western song that's sung by a man to the one he loves, and in it he’s wondering about how faithful his beloved is or was. In it is the phrase, "How many, I wonder how many. But I really don't want to know." We all have feelings about some things, but they don't always relate to love. Oftentimes, they deal with losing our illusions.

Little things I've repeated that stop believers in their tracks. Things they really don't want to know:

1. Meister Eckhart, a German Catholic mystic who lived from 1260-1327. "God is good, is not good. God is love, is not love. God is just, is not just, etc. He goes on to say those descriptions are comparative ones based on human experiences, ergo, applying them to God limits our explanations of the attributes of God; which are beyond comprehension. Oh. Uh-huh. (Read apologist definitions of what "God" means, and you'll also find their convoluted "explanations.")

2. To the Muslims, Paradise is an oasis in the desert, with flowing water and never-ending sexual/sensual pleasures. On the other hand, the Viking afterlife Valhalla is a huge building with a roaring bonfire and banquets. And the Christian Heaven is described as a place that "eye has not seen, ear has not heard, nor has it entered into the minds" of humans to conceive the rewards God has prepared for them. (Notice how closely this resembles Eckhart's descriptions of divine "attributes.") The "eye has not seen..." passage, often quoted from an epistle, contradicts a book in the same Christian Bible, the Apocalypse, a.k.a., Revelations, which describes this heaven in fine detail. (Notice how geography seems to have a great deal to do with describing an ideal after-life?)

3. On the other hand, consider an epigraph found on ancient tombstones: "I was not. Then I was. I cared. Now I am not. I do not care." People who want to believe that on some future day they'll live forever aren’t prepared for this.

4. The story is told of a family gathered around the deathbed of a dying father. As they were praying for him, a daughter was tending to his needs. She nursed him back to health.

5. A few years ago, I read a commentary about how 9 million children died each year in Africa while being prayed for. The person I told this to blithely said, "All of the children prayed for didn't." A colossal failure rate had been ignored by this person. My friend figured out just how deep the pile of bodies would be if they covered a football field.

6. In a discussion about reality, the subject of the Big Bang came up. The gentleman I was talking to said, "And what came before the Big Bang? God, of course." To which I replied, "Or gods, or no god at all.”

7. I suffered for most of a year from Lyme disease. For 8 months, I was weak as a kitten, taking prescription steroid pills several times a day. I was lucky; some symptoms are crippling, others end in death. One day, after my wife's church service, her pastor and his wife asked me how I was doing. I told them, and added, "I was bitten by an intelligently designed deer tick." They both said, "Ohhh!" Some years after that, I sent the pastor a copy of Wizened Sage's essay on The Mosquito. What do you want to bet me the clergyman isn't still teaching Intelligent Design? (Note: Save the Children Foundation, the April 2016, report: "Meanwhile, every 60 seconds, a child in Africa dies from malaria")

My wife had her dental checkup. While her teeth were being cleaned, her dentist sat down next to me to say he had recently seen a documentary about the deadliest creatures on earth. “And what do you think was number one?" he said. Of course, it was "the mosquito." (I could have told him I knew that. I didn’t add, "You couldn't design a more efficient killer, could you?"

You just can't get some people to get the picture. It's as if whatever is said in a church setting seals minds from evidence to the contrary. Blue collar philosopher Eric Hoffer says in his book, "The True Believer:" "It is astounding how much unbelief is necessary to make belief possible." Ignoring so much overwhelming, "inconvenient" evidence is very trying, isn't it? We all share the frustrations of trying to get someone to understand some simple and obvious things. We can sympathize with Judge Judy as she repeats, several times, in every way she can, the point she is making, and all to no avail. Why is this so?

One answer might be found in a book I started reading again: "Messiah" by Gore Vidal (1954). On page 54 of the paperback edition, in paragraphs too long to quote here, are these words: "Truth for us, whether inspired by messianic frenzy or merely illuminated by reason, is, after all, inconstant and subject to change with the hour. You believe whatever it is this man says. Splendid. But will the belief be true to you at another hour of your life? I wonder. For even if you wish to remain consistent and choose to ignore inconvenient evidence in the style of the truly devoted, the truly pious, will not your prophet himself have changed with time's passage?"

Frustration: Dealing With those who “choose to ignore inconvenient evidence in the style of the truly devoted, the truly pious." They really don't want to know.