TRUTH, BELIEF & THE FLOATING CHRYSANTHEMUM

normal_WWII_Pacific

To start with I would like to thank my friend who asked me to write this article, my cyborg overlord from the future, and any deities who may have been watching when they should have been getting on with more important things such as star nurseries or ribonucleic acid.

What is truth? An undeniable axiom upon which all other thoughts, actions and principles can be built.

It’s a question most can answer quickly because everyone seems to share the concept of a fundamental truth. What reality ‘is’, so to speak.

What is the truth? That is a far more complex question. In many cases certainty is not apparent and we substitute belief for observation. Here arises a problem; we all have a personal agenda or motive for choosing what we believe is the truth and we stick to it, sometimes past the point of sanity.

So entrenched is this idea of personal certainty that it can have devastatingly negative effects on seemingly good, intelligent people. Police find themselves called out to investigate why perfectly friendly neighbours, who have got along wonderfully for years, suddenly dismembered each other with hedge trimmers. They find the cause of the horticultural holocaust to be centred on the legal and moral ownership of an inch wide strip of shrub grass. Such is the power of righteous belief.

Let us look at what might be the most hotly debated truth, the story of “The Beginning of Everything”. Every society since the Confederacy of Equally Amorphous Archaea has forged their own version of that story.

There are a myriad of variations, for this short article let’s focus on generic groups of “believers”, the theist, the deist, the pantheist and the atheist.

Theism credits a supernatural intelligence who creates the universe and then hangs around to influence his or her (I’m unsure of the protocol with divine pronouns) initial creation by performing miracles/answering prayers/ forgiving or punishing sins. This type of believer is instantly recognisable when they knock on your front door, they wear pants so well creased you can tell their denomination.

Deism also supports a supernatural intelligence, who sets up the natural laws of the universe and then disappears off to do whatever deities do when they have at least 14 billion years off. Repeats of Top Gear on Dave? The Lord of the Rings trilogy with all the outtakes perhaps?

Pantheism doesn’t promote a supernatural intelligence or God but uses the idea as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, the Universe or the lawful workings of reality. The poetry is enticing, but confuses those who are only articulate in the same sense as a lorry.

Atheism postulates fundamental laws that can be observed and learnt but are inherent to the nature of reality rather than the design of a supreme architect. This believer likely works in finance, displaying a healthy lack of fear for divine retribution in charging a variable interest rate. They foolishly presume the universe is ready to deal in terms they can understand.

Here we can see four versions of the ‘truth’ all cooked together in the microwave of our society. While deism is only theism-decaf, pantheism is atheism in exotic lingerie. This leaves theists and atheists staring at each other across a wide chasm of mismatched beliefs.

Who are the primary champions for these remaining factions? Commonly they are religion and science. Religion claims authority on knowledge of the supernatural, demanding acceptance of belief in the intangible, a psychic duck for example. Science meanwhile cries uncertainty in the vacuum of evidence, and no one wants to buy into doubt.

Yet here religion has gained an undue monopoly as the most important source of divine enlightenment. Whereas religion preaches God as the truth, science seeks to find the truth about God.

Indeed ‘I don’t know’ is the most honest answer when it comes to the divine, and there is no shame in ignorance. What is important to distinguish is that religion requires belief whereas science relies on knowledge. Belief has no bearing on what is true, you can fall into a hole you believe not to be there. However, it is incredibly powerful when it dictates human action and emotion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If suburban garden homicide with a power tool doesn’t convince you of the dangers of belief, consider the Floating Chrysanthemum:-

The literal translation of the name Kikisui in Japanese. Floating Chrysanthemums were large kamikaze suicide raids carried out by the Imperial Japanese aircraft against Allied ships off Okinawa during World War Two. The purpose was to have so many aircraft attack at once the Allies defences would be overwhelmed by sheer numbers. It was extremely successful.

Can you think of another emotion that can conjure this level of commitment? Here we see belief empowering mass suicide attacks on an incredibly complex level, and in this case it can be said the believers were inspired more by nationalism and personal ideals of honour rather than theism.

Equally imagine what horrors can be achieved by those who believe their actions are ratified by a supreme supernatural intelligence of ultimate authority. Then again, with constant worldwide news coverage we have become familiar with divinely inspired atrocities.

Belief is faulty. It offers no more insight than wish or whim and worse, it is often used as a shield to grant sanctity to the most diabolical of deeds.

The only sovereign you can allow to govern you is that of reason, and reason is the foundation upon which science is built.

Science comes from the Latin “scientia”, meaning knowledge. Reason and logic are your tools for knowledge, which supplants belief in reliability.

Using our earlier example, regardless of theist or atheist tendencies, science is perfectly adapted to pursue knowledge of God by studying the environment around us. Indeed, if the reality we experience is an example of divine will, then the best way to understand God is to understand his or her (I’m still unsure) work.

Don’t believe. Know.

If you don’t know. Learn.

 “I don’t try to imagine a personal God; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world, insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it.” – ALBERT EINSTEIN