Saturday, February 12, 2011

Coping with the wrongness of others

Raising kids, sometimes I get asked tough questions. No, I'm not talking about sex questions. Sex questions I at least know the answers to. The questions I have to be careful with are things like:

Four is better
Are there really aliens?

Are there really ghosts?

Did God make libraries?

To many, many people, the answer to these kinds of questions are as straightforward as to the sex questions, maybe moreso. We humans tend to be very certain about our beliefs, and very willing to shove these certainties down the throats of others, especially our children. My answers always involve the phrases, "Some people believe," and, "Other people believe." Sometimes it's more specific. "Lot's of people believe," and, "A few people believe."

My trio of mini-humans have been to church maybe twice. I'm not a Christian at all (I'm also not one of those people that say, "I'm not religious, but I believe in God." I really don't) and the significant other is some form of dormant Catholic. We don't go to church, but when they visit their gramma during the summer, she brings them along, and the eight-year-old has really taken a liking to Christianity. I was dragged to church about once a week growing up, and the obligation drove me away from the practice of religion. I sometimes wonder if the opposite is happening with my little one.

I don't believe in God, but I don't see why she shouldn't. If she asks me why I don't, I'll tell her, but I won't push her. And it's not only because of the (increasingly clear) fact that, when you push children, they tend to push back.

Beliefs really gets to some people. In fact, the idea that others could believe the wrong thing, something that is not true, is a thorn in the side of many. People preach to strangers, call others woo-woos, and all-around lose sleep because untruth is so offensive to them. This is because some of us put a lot of value on the truth.

Of course, giving value to truth sounds like a good thing. It sounds like something the good guy lawyer would talk about in the climax of a legal drama. What's wrong with the truth, after all? Well, it depends on the truth.

Knowing the truth about your poisoned food, an incoming hurricane, or the risks of Russian Roulette, all have immediate practical value.

Knowing the truth about high fructose corn syrup (just corn, my ass), and smoking, and living in the midst of high levels of radiation, have long-term practical value.

Knowing the truth about the age of the universe, though, and natural selection, and how light takes so-and-so years to reach earth from any given star, have, for most of us, zero practical value. These distant and long-term ideas are simply matters of interest. They're things that work our brains, and our worldviews, and excite some of us, but none of them will change the fact that there's grilled-cheese for lunch, with tomato soup.

Image by robinsan (flickr link)
And ideas such as that there is a God watching over you during all of your struggles, and that your loved ones are now living a better life because they're dead, and that your good thoughts are bringing good things into your life, do have value. They change how we cope with circumstances, how cruel our world seems to be, whether to move forward boldly, or with fear. They have emotional value, and being that our emotions drive virtually everything we do, they have practical value. For all of the bad things that have stemmed from religion, most of what we're surrounded by would not be there if it weren't from the inspiration people got from their beliefs.

So, as they said in The 40 Year Old Virgin, don't put the truth on a pedestal. I think that's what they said. For those of you who, like myself, have a passion for the truth, then search for it, study it, roll around in it like a dog in compost, if it do ya fine. And if someone else's belief is different than yours, stop for a minute and consider that their truth probably suits them better, and that they don't need your beliefs any more than they need your shoes.

But if you notice that your friend's food is poisoned, go ahead and preach the truth to him or her, with the assumption that this knowledge will help them out. And if the food isn't poisoned, tell them anyway, and you just may get four corndogs instead of just two.

And four corndogs is better.

Thanks for reading.

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