SOME weeks ago I argued on The Conservative Woman that it is a human trait to believe without evidence. With the proper stimuli, people can be made to believe practically anything. I also said that if this were not so, belief in God would not exist.
This comment drew a surprising number of responses from people who felt their faith had been derided and who asserted that I was wrong. They made the usual arguments for the existence of God, with the usual expectation of ‘educating’ the ‘godless’ and of course the usual result: no meaningful change in anybody’s belief system. This is the essence of ‘faith’, the human capacity for asserting a belief based on an internal system of logic which cannot be adjusted or effectively challenged. It is this capacity for a kind of mental inertia that makes the Covid-19 project possible by exploiting the human tendency towards ‘faith’, a belief system which engenders hope in the face of hopelessness.
I decided at the age of ten that there was, quite simply, no evidence for the existence of God. I have never found a good reason to change that belief: I’ve examined it thoroughly and had it challenged albeit indirectly by many voices and sources. I have, over time, struggled with expressions such as ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ and finally have settled for ‘humanist’, the epithet I feel most comfortable with. None of this means I think there is anything wrong with believing in God. Some of my friends are devout Christians, or Buddhists. They are intelligent, often humble people whom I admire beyond measure. Nor would I attempt to convince believers in God that their ‘faith’ is a mistake. Why should I? Of what possible benefit could this be? All I can do is to assert my own understanding of the universe in its own terms, and my own ‘faith’ in the capacity of humanity to grow beyond the kind of thinking and reasoning that ends up with a cycle of self-referential logic. Quite possibly, the end result of such thinking is only endless questioning. Towards the end of his life, Stephen Hawking was questioning the ‘Big Bang’ theory of the universe which he had supported when younger; Hoyle’s ‘Steady State’ theory is being re-examined having previously been consigned to the dustbin of scientific history.
It’s often asserted that belief in God has been at the root of atrocities throughout history, such as religious wars or ‘Islamic terrorism’. I don’t altogether agree with this. I contend that bad people will always find compelling reasons to do and justify doing bad things. It’s also said that ‘secularism’, a society not founded on religious belief, is harmful and pernicious, denying us our basic humanity. Again, I disagree. A belief system founded on essentially decent values cannot be used as a justification for doing bad things. It is true that ‘secularism’ has, for many of us, forced us to see the world through a confusing lens and to build entire political constructs out of our insecurities, grudges, fears and hatreds. But religious belief permitted the same things. Both religion and secularism can be corrupted for bad ends.
There is a need for faith in all of us, a point at which we no longer feel impelled to provide evidence for our fundamental view of the world. The alternative, endless scepticism, is the privilege only of a few with the discipline to embrace this.
My point is that belief in a religious faith, even one that atheists like myself reject, does not make one a fool. But if the same mental processes lead us to believe absolutely in the goodness of those in power as we are continually programmed to embrace life-destroying measures in the names of ‘health’ or ‘the environment’, it is time we grew up.
History teaches us, only too well, that powerful people will do bad things and find good reasons for doing them. To ignore this is to embrace mindless reflexes as a way of life. As the evidence becomes overwhelming that the Covid-19 project is a monstrous disaster for which those responsible are continually finding good reasons to justify, we must understand that to find hope, we must challenge ourselves to ask each other some difficult questions. As I’ve tried to explain, it’s only by asking questions that our understanding grows. I cannot understand what it must be like to be someone who thinks that if we all wear masks, get the jab, keep following the rules, everything is somehow going to be all right. Perhaps this makes them happy. I don’t know. But it’s time we claimed, as part of our growing up, the right to be unhappy.
Faith in government is a fallacy proven again and again throughout history. The truth, whether you want to believe it or not, is that the Covid project is being forced on us by powerful people, for reasons which are becoming increasingly difficult to understand unless we assume that it’s a ‘good’ reason for bad people to do bad things. If your faith lies in government and the powerful, take the time to question it, just as I questioned my atheism over the years. Many people who believe in God do not seem to believe in the ‘virus’. This is a good thing, because it means that there is a difference between faith and the capacity to believe without evidence when your own experience tells you something is wrong. Maybe that’s what we should all be thinking about.