Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This I Believe

by Richard Crews

I don't exactly believe in God; I think I "believe" more in human dumbness.

I should hasten to add that I don't exactly disbelieve in God either. For two reasons. One is that in philosophy as in financial investing it seems like a good idea to hedge your bets. As a childhood friend used to say when he went to the trouble of going to mass every Sunday, "Sure, I might be wrong; but then I might be right."

The second reason is that I find a belief in God very comforting. Inhabiting a world where there is a Big Guy looking after me feels a lot safer than any alternative I can think of.

Perhaps I should explain more what I mean by believing in "human dumbness." For one thing, we know we're not aware of one-one-millionth of what goes on around us. Consider not only all the tiny sounds and vibrations that little creatures like cockroaches count on every minute of every day. And the bird songs and other natural noises that are too high-pitched or change too quickly for us to hear. And that doesn't begin to cover the infinitude of vibrations and variations in the electromagnetic spectrum that are all around us and course through us all the time--not just things like ultra-violet light and cosmic rays, but the precise electromagnetic waves that convey a thousand-thousand radio and TV stations, gps data, and cell telephone calls, not to mention a million garage-door openers, traffic light signals, and credit card readers.

So start with the realization that you are sort of going through life with your eyes tight shut and your hands holding hard over your ears plus your nose stuffed up with a cold and your entire skin-suit numbed from, say, freezing cold weather. In other words, at the very best you are aware of only the tiniest fraction of what is going on around you. Then add to that how clear it is when we bring old memories to mind or suddenly think of new ideas or combinations, that we really aren't thinking about most of what we could be thinking about at any given moment.

The idea that I am pretty much aware of the world around me and keeping an eye on it--that I am thinking about it--is totally an ego-maniacal delusion. A better analogy of my waking, alert mental state is that I am pretty much asleep in a warm, very dark cave all the time.

In other words, if there is any evidence or information for or against the existence of a God, I am surely not capable of becoming aware of it or understanding it. Put another way--almost all the evidence (and thinking) that bears on this question is beyond me. What little I can come up with must be, at best, the tiny layer of frost on the visible part of the ice berg. And what I surely am missing out on might easily counteract my thinking and reverse my opinion seventeen times over.

One more thing--the last straw, as it were. Sometimes I notice that even when I have looked into something carefully and thought about it intensely, I get it wrong. Later on, I find I have to change my mind.

It seems clear that the only thing that keeps me believing (if I do) one way or another about the existence of a God is that "ego-maniacal delusion" I mentioned. That delusion is very dear to me, it is true; but unfortunately it is not worth the few neurons it is written on.