On a certain philosophy forum there was a recent discussion entitled, "Understanding the religious mindset." Like most so-called philosophical discussions, this one consisted of endless absurd explanations and questions resolving nothing, but the idea deserves serious consideration. As presented on that forum, the subject is too narrow. Religions are just a subset of the endless variety of bad beliefs called ideologies that dominate all cultures and societies and are the source of almost every social political evil.|
Every barbarous and vicious thing human beings do to themselves and to each other, every form of oppression, terrorism, and cruelty, is justified on the basis of some prevailing political, social, cultural, or religious ideology. The problem with ideologies is that they are all in defiance of reality. They are all beliefs in things that have no other foundation than a desire for them to be true. They are all rationally baseless superstitions born of a hatred of reality.
The Reality Men Hate
In Deceitful Trinity—Religion, Philosophy, and Pseudo-science I quoted an even earlier article, "Truth & Superstition," as, "A Secret Loathing." There I described the four aspects of reality that are hated: 1. ruthless, 2. demanding, 3. unforgiving, and 3. seeming cruelty.
I described them as follows:
While it is true that reality is ruthless, demanding, and unforgiving, cruelty cannot really be attributed to reality, even though all the things listed as cruel are true in nature. They would be cruel if a human being chose them but nature makes no choices. This characterization of reality is only a partial view, the view of one whose knowledge is limited to the immediate and subjective.
- Reality is ruthless. Defy reality, and it will destroy you. Refuse to work, and you will starve. Refuse to learn, and the mistakes you make in your ignorance will kill you.
- Reality is demanding. You must conform to the nature of reality all the time, because the moment you let up, it will strike you down. Stop paying attention, just for a few moments, while driving on the highway at 70 miles per hour. Don't bother paying your bills for a month. Forget your insulin injections for a day. Just forget where little Sarah is for a while at the Mall.
- Reality is unforgiving. You've made a mistake, but the law forgives you, your parents and friends forgive you, you even manage to forgive yourself, but reality never forgives. It may be a forgivable mistake, but the dead animal cannot be made alive again, the pregnant girl cannot be made "unpregnant", you cannot cancel what you have done, ever! Have you been unfaithful once? Then you will always have been unfaithful once. Did you steal something once? Then you can never claim always to have been honest. You do something stupid and loose an arm, a leg, or put out your own or someone else's eye. You may never do another thing so foolish, and you may be forgiven by others, but you will never have the arm, leg, or eye restored. Reality never forgives.
- Reality seems cruel. Disease, death, disaster strike without regard to anyone's position or opinions. The world is full of destruction and misery, though most of it is created by other men. But all of nature seems cruel and the entire chain of life is one of death, killing, and being killed.
It is this view, however, though seldom made explicit, that is the motivation for most of humanity's hatred of reality, because mankind only views reality as ruthless, demanding, cruel, and unforgiving.
What mankind wishes for is a reality that is pliable, easy-going, kind, and forgiving. At bottom, mankind hates reality, hates the necessity of having to work hard all the time, hates the necessity of having to learn so much, hates never being able to act on whim, or passion, or impulse without consequences, hates knowing one cannot do wrong and get away with it, hates knowing one cannot get something for nothing.
What mankind wants is exemption from consequences and a shortcut to success, wealth, happiness, or whatever else their current whims and fancies convince them they want. Most of all, they want safety, security, and to never have to worry about the future.
Reason, however, does not show them how to have or achieve what they want the way they want it. Reason only enables them to understand the truth that describes reality as it is. They don't want truth, either. The truth just condemns them for their hatred of reality. They hate the truth, too.
Here, finally, is the secret, that unrevealed factor, the mystery of why almost all men prefer their superstitions and ignorance to the truth.
At the heart of all superstitious beliefs, sometimes explicit, but always implicit, is the promise that there is something more than reality, something above reality, something which cancels the requirements of a ruthless demanding reality, a secret that enables those who know it to rise above mere reality, to defy it and get away with it. Superstition, which is never called superstition, is a magic wand that makes exist what in reality cannot exist, a metaphysical wild card that makes one automatically a winner, the universal "get-out-of-jail-free" card that allows one to escape the consequences of their choices and actions, a flying carpet that defies all of reality to give its owner a free ride to success and happiness.
Since reason is limited to discovering the truth of reality as it actually is, there must be some other means to that, "knowledge," of that which transcends reality. Like the mystical knowledge itself, the source of all ideological beliefs is something, "above," reason, a knowledge that does not require either evidence or intellectual effort, but, one "just has," by some mysterious means, such as inspiration, intuition, or revelation. The superstitious readily admit their beliefs are not based on "mere" reason. They have knowledge which transcends reason and objectivity.
Hatred Of The Truth
Every ideology is some form imagined ideal world one would like it to be and an attempt to force reality to conform to one's desired view of that world. But reality is ruthlessly intransigent and cannot be made into anything it is not. Since truth is that which describes any aspect of reality as it actually is, every ideology is in defiance of the truth.
The majority of mankind despise the truth. They will readily embrace what passes for truth as taught by the academics and their ideological authorities, who use the methods of reason, not to discover the truth, but to evade and obfuscate it. They hate the truth because it describes reality as it actually is.
Reality is immutable, absolute, and ruthless. Immutable means the nature of reality cannot be changed or ever be other than what it is. Absolute means reality is complete and unconditional; it is all there is and is not contingent on anything. Ruthless means reality determines what is true and not true, and no human feelings, desires, choices, acts, beliefs, wishes, or ideologies can change it.
No one wants to learn about that kind of reality, but it is the only reality there is. No one wants to know the truth, because the reality it describes is not nice:
- The real world is a very difficult place to live.
- Reality is very dangerous.
- There are no guarantees.
- There are no shortcuts to life, success or happiness.
- You must earn everything by your own effort.
- Anything less than your best is failure.
- You cannot do wrong and get away with it.
- There is no forgiveness.
- There is no mercy.
- Neither your feelings nor your desires matter.
- Reality is all there is, the way it is.
- The truth is whatever correctly describes any aspect of reality.
Does that make reality sound harsh? Well, it is. The proper name for that harshness is justice. They hate justice too, which is why ideologies try to substitute real justice with the lie called,
Reality, The Source Of All Good
Reality is neither cruel or kind, reality is just what is. It is neither malevolent nor benevolent, but it is the means to all that is worth living for and the source of all that is possible. That possibility includes the fact every individual is provided with all they need to live successfully and happily and to be all they can be as a human being. It means, one's every shortcoming and failure is the result of their own choices and actions. It means, if one is not happy, it is their own fault. Reality provides every individual the means to all good things, but one cannot achieve either success or happiness if they defy reality, or refuse to even learn what it is.
Reality is a Wonderful World of infinite potential and possibility to those who know and love the truth that describes reality as it actually is. For anyone willing to discover what reality is, what its nature is, including what one's own nature as a human being is, and conforms all one's thinking and choices to that reality, there is nothing one cannot achieve or accomplish.
Within the limits of reality, anything is possible. Of course there is the physically impossible, and no one can do what is beyond their own physical and mental capability, but within the limits of one's own abilities and aspirations, there is no limit to what they can choose to be and achieve.
The vast majority of human beings will never discover what reality is because as soon as they discover that reality cannot be forced into their fantasy world of wishes and ease, they give it up. The moment they realize to understand reality one must work, not just a little, but excruciatingly hard, to learn all they possibly can to gain that knowledge, and to use that knowledge they must think as ruthlessly as they possibly can about everything, that they cannot just coast and let their whims and feelings be their guide, but must apply all their knowledge and thinking to do the productive work necessary to survive and prosper, they give up. I's just too hard, so they look for short-cuts.
The Short-cut Of Ideology
Every ideology is in defiance of reality. Whether social, political, cultural, or religious, every ideology is some rationalized scheme to enable individuals to evade the necessity of conforming to the requirements of reality, promising, in this life (if social, political, or cultural) or another life (if religious) what reality denies.
Ideological defiance of reality is not innocent ignorance. It is not merely a mistaken belief about reality. It is an intentional evasion of the most obvious of truths: in the same way no one else can eat for them, breath for them, digest their food for them, or perform any other of the biological requirements of their nature for them, no one can learn for them, think for them, or make their choices for them, but that is exactly what they expect from the ideologies they embrace.
Accepting an ideology is an intentional evasion of the necessity to learn, think, and choose for oneself. Learning, thinking, and making choices are all difficult, frequently unpleasant, and sometimes painful. It is so much easier to simply accept some ideology that provides pre-packaged ideas one need not understand but simply accepts as substitutes for real knowledge. It is much simpler to embrace pleasant and plausible rationalizations than have to think about everything. It is much more convenient to adopt prescribed practices than having to choose one's behavior.
Why go to all trouble of studying and researching and discovering the truth when there are authorities ready to supply all one needs to know? Why think for oneself when all one has to do is accept what one's teachers, experts, and authorities teach them. Why try to discover what is really the truth when all one has to do is agree with what everyone else in their country, or community, or family believes. Why try to discover how to live when all one has to do is, "what everyone else does," or, "what we have always done," or, "what one's culture or society," believes is right.
So most of humanity willingly shuts it's eyes to the requirements of reality and embraces the lies of some ideology that promises all the things they desire—a life that is safe and easy, with everything they want provided without having to earn or produce it, where they can get away with anything without consequence, and where they can feel important and virtuous because they belong to the right group or embrace the right orthodoxy.
If you want to know why you live in a world filled with human atrocities, suffering, and unhappiness, it is because the majority of human beings live in rebellion against the reality that makes all good possible, refusing to learn what that reality is, preferring to live a life dominated by what is not true. That is the cause of all human failure and misery.
H.L. Mencken said, "The costliest of all follies is to believe passionately in the palbably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind."
The first time I read that, I was struck by the obvious truth of the statement and, simultaneously, bewildered by the question, "but why?" It was obvious to me that almost every human being embraces beliefs that are impossible and absurd, but I could not imagine why. It was not until I began to examine what those beliefs all promised that I finally discovered the reason for the almost universal credulity and stupidity of humanity. It is chosen, and every ideology is the proof, it is because mankind hates reality.