Atheism is very in vogue right now. This is kind of wild to me. Being somewhat of a chronic doubter myself sometimes, I can understand agnosticism, but to me, straight up atheism seems like a pretty depressing faith choice. Call me old fashioned.
It’s cool to be the tortured artist who doesn’t believe in anything but her work. But the problem is, you really can’t escape faith. You have to believe in something. To say that you believe in nothing is a self-contradicting statement.
Kind of like this statement: “This sentence is false.”
Ready for a riveting and frustrating example? A word of caution here to the easily annoyed reader, it may behoove you to skip the next frustrating paragraph altogether.
The sentence, “this sentence is false” is neither true nor false since it doesn’t claim anything other than its own falseness, and this makes the sentence devoid of any actual meaning. This means that saying “this sentence is false” is “false” because the statement “this sentence is false” is actually not true or false. So the sentence “this sentence is false” is a false sentence. However, this then makes the statement true because the statement “this sentence is false” actually is false. But then if the statement is true, then it is not false after all, and the statement “this sentence is false” is actually true…which means that it is false… and around and around we go.
The point? There are some ideas that simply contradict themselves. There seems to be an idea that many people have that separates people into people with faith and people without faith. Believers and skeptics. The problem with this is that to not believe in one thing is still a form of belief. I don’t believe in Santa Clause. That means that I BELIEVE that Santa Clause does not exist. I have faith in the laws of science that limit fat men’s ability to fly to every house on earth in one night and slide down their chimneys.
Negative belief is belief as well. So you can’t escape believing in something. You can’t escape faith. You have it whether you like it or not.
The problem with that is that with belief comes a certain amount of closed-mindedness. This bothers me because I try to be an open-minded person. But there is nobody in this world that can continually be open-minded about every single thing that happens throughout the day.
For instance, if I were truly open-minded about everything, the next time I get a hankering for something tasty, and I need to drive to the store to get some tastiness, I would have to take seriously the possibility that someone has placed a car bomb in my car. If I were truly being open-minded about it, I would have to consider it as a real possibility that I might blow up if I start my car. The problem is that if I actually try to weigh that in as a serious possibility every time I sit in the driver’s seat, I will end up wasting a lot of time and energy worrying and searching my car for car bombs. So most of the time, I choose to ignore that possibility. I don’t really think about it. It doesn’t seem reasonable to me, so I close my mind to the possibility of it, and just walk to my car and start it up without a second thought.
If someone I’m with says something like “hey, do you think we should check your car for car bombs before we go?” I would probably say something like “no, that’s okay.”
So I’m blind to the possibility of car bombs. I’m also blind to the possibility that my dog might be an alien. There is a possibility that my dog Oliver Charles Bronson Gungor is in fact a highly intelligent and gifted actor from another planet. There is a possibility that he understands everything that I say and do in a deeper way than I do myself. It is a real possibility because I can’t prove that he is not. But I don’t spend much time keeping an open mind about that possibility.
Well I must admit, I used to have this dog named Gus who was exceptionally smart, and this thought that perhaps animals are smarter than they let on and that we are a part of some elaborate scheme has crossed my mind before. I remember one quiet fall day in Michigan a few years ago where Gus and I were alone together in our house. I was casually playing around with Gus in the kitchen when suddenly I remembered the diabolical animal conspiracy that had dawned in my consciousness before.
It certainly was such a silly thought, but what do I really understand about the universe? What do I really know about reality outside of my few years of life experience, and how much of that can even be trusted? It certainly seemed improbable that my Gus Gus Gungor was a part of some sinister universal plot to spy on human beings, but I had never investigated that possibility. How would I ever actually know with absolute certainty? After all, I had never even asked Gus about it and given him the chance to come clean. What if he really was part of a scheme, but he had grown so fond of me that he was ready to open up? Perhaps he had just been waiting to reveal himself to me, but didn’t know how to broach the awkward subject.
We were all alone, and I never planned on writing a book to tell the world about that moment, so I thought “what the heck?”
“Gus, do you understand me?”, I inquired.
I look down into his little brown cocked face but don’t see any signs of recognition as I pose the question to him. He simply stares at me with those beady black eyes. I adjust and try a more wily approach.
“Gus, I know that you can understand me.”
He continued to look at me, but there was still no recognizable response. So I continue to goad him with my wiles.
“Come on, you can give up the act now. You can talk to me. I’ll keep it a secret.”
I wish I could tell you that at some point, I finally got the better of Gus and that he broke down confessed everything.
“Michael! How did you figure it out?”
But there was no such breakdown. There was no climactic scene where he lets me in on a sinister alien experiment. No, our match of wits ended with no such extravagant results. He simply got bored with me and let his attention wander away. The truly open minded person might suggest that perhaps I just hadn’t goaded long or hard enough.
I am not that open minded however. I don’t tend to spend a lot of time conversing with my dog like that. I don’t spend hours of my day plotting on how to trick Oliver into giving away his identity as a member of a super-intelligent alien species that is keeping tabs on Lisa and I. The reason that I don’t is because I don’t really believe that it is true.
Outside of my conversation with Gus a few years ago, I’m a pretty closed-minded individual about the possibility of super-intelligent alien canines. So I close my mind to the idea, and don’t always kick Oliver out of the room when my wife and I have married time.
So I’m closed minded about Car Bombs and Alien Dogs. What I am risking in my closed-mindedness is that I could possibly be blown up by car bomb someday, or find out that there are pornos of my wife and I circulating on alien planets. But I’m willing to take that risk, and in return I get to live in my cozy little house in Denver rather than in an institution.
Oh, how we’ve wandered. But back to the point we go. Why bother with faith? Why bother with doctrine and religion? Because we all have it. It’s impossible to escape. Either Jesus rose from the dead or he didn’t. What you believe about that issue changes everything. Not just about doctrine but about life. If Jesus rose from the dead, than perhaps there is more going on in this world than what I see, more than what science can slice up, melt down, and put in a beaker. That’s a story worth believing for me.