Why Belief is a Problem


It is precisely through belief that we come to the idea that we can determine things to a fuller extent than we actually can. Whether this determination regards the nature of reality-as-a-whole, the nature of god, or a determination of who someone is based on race, gender, class, or any other partial determination, it remains either an overdetermination or a misdetermination and in misrepresenting the matter traps it as something it isn’t. The proper use of belief is in learning. Prior to knowing something one has to suspend disbelief for long enough to determine if the teacher is merely spouting opinions he/she has heard, or actually knows the matter at hand sufficiently well that after a sufficient period of study, you also understand and therefore know the matter. Once you know something, belief is irrelevant. Where belief goes the most wrong is where belief turns into faith as ideology, as belief-systems. The difference is that, while I may believe that Australia exists without having been there, I have plenty of evidence that it does and none that I can think of that it doesn’t, but more importantly its existence or nonexistence doesn’t structure my world view. I don’t need it to exist for my understanding of reality to remain pretty much the same.

When your understanding of reality, though, becomes dependent on specific beliefs or belief-systems, those beliefs become faith, become non-optional in terms of maintaining a grip on the way you experience the world. Systematizing presumptuous and unfounded beliefs leads to ideology as a belief-system. It is through this framework of ideology, itself rarely questioned, that the I-Subject interprets what the Self represents to it, and thereby how it comes to a rapid judgment. The ladder between part and whole in any subjective hermeneutic is precisely the ideology at work.

Many atheists are as guilty of this as theists, precisely because neither know the things they believe in. If you claim to believe in science, but can’t explicate quantum mechanics, don’t understand the results of the human genome project, and can’t explain different Hilbert spaces, you’re no better off than a theist who believes in various religious metaphors without recognizing their metaphorical nature, or claims to have indubitable knowledge of God and God’s wishes when we have no evidence of specific wishes of a divine origin. The problem is not whether this or that belief is true, but our dependence on beliefs that we cannot judge as true or false. We make a pretense of having determined things we cannot determine to any real degree, and we act on an understanding we only pretend to have.

Scientists who make confident claims as to the safety of GMO crops, for instance, since that safety has not been established in any meaningful way, are equivalent to fundamentalists who make confident claims that God abhors homosexuality. In neither case has anything been established other than a conclusion that is already determined prior to any evidence, a prejudice that leads to an inevitable judgment. In neither case, can the claims ever be confirmed or denied, since in the first case no norm can be established as an absolute comparison, and in the second there is no way for any potential infinite being to simply ‘say’ anything whatsoever.

Both are claiming ‘special knowledge’ that they do not have, which has been the mark of every false prophet and false priest humanity has ever known. That the most influential false prophets and priests today are researchers and CEO’s makes no difference. They operate out of a belief in a knowledge they do not in fact possess, and do so without thinking, questioning, or examining the beliefs that over-determine and misdetermine not only their judgments, but the perceptions and interpretations of reality on which those judgments are based. When one’s entire experience of reality is a priori tainted by ideology, neither observations, nor hypotheses, nor theories, nor the interpretation of tests of those theories have any validity.

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