An immeasurably tall order: The absurdity of belief

I’ve never believed in divine beings. I’ve been an atheist since the day I was born. Acceptance of supernatural beings or events has never developed in my head. I was negligibly instructed in religious thought as a child, but mostly I was left to my own devices. The few times people tried to sell me stories about Christ or Noah or Adam and Eve, I immediately rejected them in the same way I rejected the notion that Fraggle Rock accurately reflected reality. There was no basis in reality with which to form belief. That is, I thought to myself, well those are interesting stories.

To me they were all stories. When I was a child I honestly believed that no one believed in bible stories. I honestly believed everyone knew these stories were just as fictitious as Rainbow Bright zipping around a fantasy universe on Starlight. I thought people repeated bible stories for fun. I had absolutely no idea that for the majority of people the opposite was true. At that young age I couldn’t comprehend that people in the world could, on one hand, reject the existence of Skeletor while, on the other hand, accepting the existence of Satan. I remember cognitive dissonance getting the better of me when I found out my best childhood friend honestly believed in these stories. You’re just putting me on, Nick, right?!

It took me a while to fully accept that my family and friends believed that the bible was true.

To be honest, even to this day I have a difficult time accepting that so many people believe in god. The idea — to me — is so irrational that I generally don’t assume a person is religious when I first meet them. This is a very difficult cognitive failure to overcome. Then again, not making assumptions about a person is a good thing. Anyway, the point is that I still find it baffling that people believe bible/torah/quran/etc. stories. Despite my training, this is one thing that I just cannot wrap my mind around.

Many people will point out indoctrination, wishful thinking, and fear as motivators for believing, but I’m not entirely sure. Believing seems antithetical to standard logic. We can be indoctrinated ad nauseum, but aside from some temporary Stockholm Syndrome, I can’t accept that we’d maintain these beliefs without evidence and in spite of evidence to the contrary. Wishful thinking is nice and all, but just because I want to believe my cat will live forever, I accept the fact that he will die (probably before I do). And fear is the least likely motivator (then again, I haven’t read the latest research on the phenomenon of belief; it’s not really on my academic radar). Especially in the West, our existential security is so high that we have little to fear. We no longer need religion to conquer our fears.

Maybe the answer is something hardwired into our genetic makeup that I either didn’t receive or sufficiently overcame. I honestly don’t know. It could be anything at this point. Someday I’ll probably getting around to a literature review.

I hope this post is sufficient to say, “I will never believe in god or any supernatural explanation for natural phenomena.” I wrote this post because I hope people will understand that trying to convince me that Christianity (or any religion) reflects reality is precisely as likely as convincing me that the movie Willow accurately reflects reality. If you want to speak to me about religion, I’m fine with that. But evangelizing me is a very, very, immeasurably tall order. Don’t waste your time trying it.


About Rayan Zehn

I'm a political scientist.
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7 Responses to An immeasurably tall order: The absurdity of belief

  1. chicagoja says:

    Of course, atheism is also a belief although I suspect you don’t find that absurd.

    • Rayan Zehn says:

      It’s the lack of a belief. That would make no sense. Theists don’t believe in theism. They believe in god. I don’t. I don’t have a belief in not believing. That wouldn’t make sense. I don’t have any beliefs anymore. Instead I accept what the evidence suggests and reject what it doesn’t.

      • chicagoja says:

        Isn’t that the very definition of a belief, albeit one that may be arrived at logically.

      • Rayan Zehn says:

        No. Belief is more based on faith than evidence. A belief is difficult to change, whereas acceptance of what the evidence suggests is constantly changing when new data and observations are collected.

      • chicagoja says:

        There are very few things that are known for certain or as Voltaire said, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition,
 but certainty is absurd.” As a result, belief systems are usually based on the available evidence.

      • No, it is the opposite of belief.

        A lack of a belief is not a belief in the same way that a lack of potato is not a potato. 😛 It’s simply the lack of presence of potato.

        The belief simply isn’t there. Like the non-potato.

  2. Pingback: An immeasurably tall order: The absurdity of belief | Christians Anonymous

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