things I don’t know

I really don’t care to watch a football game when I already know who won. How many times have you been somewhere with your TV set to record a game, and someone ruins it for you by mentioning the final score…ugh! So, what is that about? I guess we like the drama, the mystery, the suspense… Or before you can stop them, someone blurts out: “can you believe she got killed?!”…movie ruined.

That may be true of movies and football games, but not so much in life. We want to know how the story ends; even as it is unfolding. We want certainty. We want to know we are right. Years ago, when I was an uncertain, insecure young person, I was introduced to evangelical Christianity. As I look back on that time from the perspective of many years and many experiences, I can see why it became immediately attractive to me. It offered something that was missing in my life at the time. It offered answers.

I had questions. The Bible had answers. Cool. Where do I sign? It also offered a social network that was absent from my life. It offered community. Fellowship. Belonging.  A tight-knit community built upon the foundation of absolute truth and topped off with an everlasting reward…that’s an intoxicating combination. A group of people who all think alike and talk alike and live alike…what could be better? Just figure out what is required for membership in this elite club, learn the language, and get onboard. Once you learn how things operate, you don’t even have to think for yourself. Just do what everyone else is doing. Do as you’re told…by the Bible, the pastor…both…either. It’s easy. I’m not saying that people in these communities are disingenuous, they’re not. It’s a genuine life commitment for most of them.

I have lived my whole adult life within that kind of community.

Certainty sells. We long to know that we are right. Certainty also divides. If I am right, and you disagree…then…well, um…you are wrong. Too bad. Being certain of what you believe; how you think, it’s great. You don’t have to wonder. It’s settled; all questions answered. And that is truly a great feeling. Problems arise, however, when someone comes along who thinks differently. And maybe he has as many valid reasons for his viewpoint as you do. But you’re already invested in your mindset. You’ve committed. You’re all in. Maybe your whole life is invested in your certainty.

So what do you do, then, with this alternate view? This differing opinion. You reject it. You offer your substantive reasons why it must be wrong. The two views cannot both be right. One must be wrong. And if you are both convinced of your respective positions, you will of course inevitably be divided. And you may even become enemies. And one may even try to kill the other one. Your holy book may tell you that you will be rewarded with 17 virgins in paradise; or 21; or however many virgins one needs…and that may be all the motivation you need to fly an airplane into a building…

Certainty sells. Certainty divides. Certainty kills.

That may seem like a harsh observation. It is. It’s difficult to consider. But those guys were as certain as anyone on the planet that their particular view on life and god and religion…was the correct one. All the other ideas, viewpoints, dogmas, etc…are wrong. I’m right. You’re wrong. Divisive language. None of us want our position challenged. We want to know we are right. We have to.

Or do we? Is it really that hard to say, “I don’t know”? I may think I am right about my view, but I could be wrong. I may be mistaken. Many years ago…people- the religious leaders of the day…said, with certainty: The earth is flat; and the sun revolves around the earth; and physical and mental illnesses are caused by demons. Not too many years ago the Bible was used to justify burning “witches” and human slavery and the repression of women (uh, that’s still happening in some church circles). We’ve learned that’s not right.

There have been many people throughout history who were very very certain about many things, only to have science or societal mores or simple common sense…offer a more compelling idea. Certainty can be challenged. I think it must be. And oftentimes it’s more noble- and maybe even wiser, to change your mind, or to say you might be wrong, than to cling stubbornly to your position. Even if you have invested a great deal. Even if you have invested your life.

The truth is, the more fragile a position, the less it can be challenged. And the more I defend my position, the less confident I am in it.

If I am comfortable with who I am, what I believe, how I live, what I think…why can’t I allow you the same freedom? Why do I need for you to agree with me?

Why do we have to be certain? Why do we have to be right? Why can’t we tolerate another opinion, another way of life, another religion, another lifestyle, another belief? What are we doing to one another?

I don’t know…


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4 Responses to things I don’t know

  1. Pingback: things I don’t know | nevercertain

  2. In reading this you seem to only be cognizant of the bad things that religion has brought. Religion also helped free slaves and inspire people like Reverend Martin Luther King. It also lead people like Mother Theresa to lead exemplary Charitable lives. It’s also not the case that governments that attempted to get rid of religion were all that great.

    I agree with your general premise here. But I think we have to look at both the good and the bad of religion. It seems you are only considering the bad.

    • davewarnock says:

      thank you for reading my blog, and responding. These are old blogs- I have suspended writing for a while, for personal reasons. I appreciate your comment. Those things you mention, the good works done by people of religious persuasion, I contend that the same things can be done- and much better, without the accompanying dogma. Dogma only divides. Good works are common to all people of all cultures; and are equally present in religious and non-religious people alike. So, in my view, it’s not the religion that has accomplished good things, but the people that actually did the good works. And, more in line with the subject of this post, I was speaking specifically of the notion that one “brand” is right at the expense of all the others. That dogmatic certainty is what I have a problem with.

      • As far as the morals I agree its logically possible they might have done those good works without believing. But if you asked them they would likely say they would not have done that.

        We were discussing this on Godless in Dixie’s blog. Along with another David W. Unfortunately Godless in Dixie seems to not want to publish my comments to you or Davide W, as they have been sitting there since Saturday morning “waiting for moderator” while he has approved other posts in the meantime.

        Perhaps he is certain I am wrong so why publish my comments : )

        I do believe generally that either A or Not A is true in reality. God exists or he doesn’t. He was incarnate in Jesus or he wasn’t. etc.

        But thanks for posting on your blog I do enjoy discussing these issues with you.

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