CURIOSITY: The desire to enlarge oneself is the desire to embrace
What we need is a Theory of Relativity
• That each person is relative, a product of a certain time and place, influenced by parents and peers, living under the influence of all manner of ideas and practices.
• That the ideas and practices available to any individual also spring from a certain time and place: That you could not be a Jew before Abraham and Moses; that you could not be a Christian before Jesus and Paul; that you could not be a Muslim before Muhammad; that you could not be a Protestant before Martin Luther; that you could not be a Mormon before Joseph Smith heard Heavenly voices explain that all people were believing in “wrong doctrines”; that you could not be an Emersonian, a Darwinist, a Nietzschean or a Freudian before Emerson, Darwin, Nietzsche or Freud rocked the world with their ideas; that you could not be a “clean-eating, Sabbath-keeping Kosher Christian” before Herbert W. Armstrong gave up advertising for theology; that you could not be any of these things until you heard or learned about them, that belief starts with information.
• That “God” must always be in quotes because whomever says the word uses it relative to some set of beliefs and practices embraced by only a fraction of humanity.
• That once human beings accept relative ideas and practices as true and absolute — once they begin to think and act as if such things were actually true — they begin to feel those things as absolutely real and valid and eternal. The conditional, parochial and relative nature of their beliefs fades off into feelings of empowering, inspiring certainty, which become almost impossible to give up. In other words, hopes, dreams and fears build up around ideas and practices to such a towering degree that people would rather die than imagine other explanations or ways of living. This is an almost unavoidable factor of human psychology.
• In short, that people are relative, that ideas and practices are relative, that holy scriptures are relative, that highly elaborated systems of belief are relative, that the many definitions of “God” are relative, that the rules and practices people call “absolute” are relative, and that the only thing constant — for perhaps 99% of the human population — are the feelings of certainty that crowd the landscape once acceptance is bestowed on an idea or practice.
GEOGRAPHY, BELIEF AND RELATIVITY
And speaking of “landscape,” let’s draw a very simple analogy between geography and belief.
You can give a very honest and complete description of how things look from where you stand. But it’s mistaken to conclude that you’re taking in the entire view or that no matter where you go things will continue to look the same, that the landscape doesn't change from place to place.
The landscape does change — drastically. So you must always remember that your view is local and relative to you and where you stand. You can give an honest and complete account of how things look from your little patch of ground, but just remember it’s a partial view you’re partial to.
In short, every view is from somewhere. There is no view from nowhere — or everywhere.
Some statements true believers must deny with conviction
• “In each historical period or social group, man thought that he lived absolute truth because his social life gave expression to his deepest innate hunger.” — Ernest Becker
• “The world of sacred order, by virtue of being an ongoing human production, is ongoingly confronted with the disordering forces of human existence in time.” — Peter Berger
• “The intellect traffics in stable perceptions and static conceptions; and neither of these yield an accurate picture of the world.” — Henri Bergson
• “Like it or not, there is no getting rid of religion as a force in human affairs.” — Lawrence Buell
• “We cleave to, and we are chauvinistic about, our own particular body of supernatural beliefs and stories because its distinctiveness is our identity!” — Don Cupitt
• “Religion is never a finished product, packaged, delivered, and passed intact from generation to generation.” — Diana Eck
• “The craving for a strong faith is no proof of a strong faith, but quite the contrary.” “Each mind has its own method.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
• “An idea becomes an idol when an expression of our will to truth masquerades as an objective truth about the world.” — Nicholas Fearn
• “Knowledge should not assume the quality of dogma, which enslaves us.” — Erich Fromm
• “Faith can be a wonderful thing, but it is not the only wonderful thing.” — Jennifer Hecht
• “When I became convinced that the Universe is natural — that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom.” — Robert Green Ingersoll
• “People lie to us complacently, whether they know the facts or have not bothered to determine them. The power that constrains our freedom is seen to be arbitrary and indifferent.” — Walter Kaufmann
• “Man desires a world where good and evil can be clearly distinguished, for he has an innate and irrepressible desire to judge before he understands. Religions and ideologies are founded on this desire.” — Milan Kundera
• “A man in a state of emotional disturbance, whether as the result of love or enthusiasm for a cause, is like someone who wears blue spectacles and insists, in perfect good faith, that the world is blue.” — Andre Maurois
• “People are constantly trying to use you to help them create the particular illusions by which they live.” — Thomas Merton
• “It should be borne in mind, of course, that there is an inevitable discrepancy between the truth of the matter and what one thinks, even about himself.” — Henry Miller
• “There is a plague on man: the opinion that he knows something.” — Michel de Montaigne
• “The world tells you many lies about who you are, and you simply have to be realistic enough to remind yourself of this.” — Henri Nouwen
• “The frenzy of need baffles the learning experience.” — Adam Phillips
• “Our attempts to see and to find the truth are not final, but open to improvement; our knowledge, our doctrine, is conjectural; it consists of guesses, of hypotheses, rather than of final and certain truths.” — Karl Popper
• “We should accept the position we are fated to occupy in any case, the position of beings who cannot have a view of the world that does not reflect our interests and values.” — Hilary Putnam
• “Every conflict over truth is in the last analysis just the same old struggle over immortality.” — Otto Rank
• “Kierkegaard rightly said that philosophy began to set up itself as a rival to religion when Socrates suggested that our self-knowledge was a knowledge of God.” — Richard Rorty
• “Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.” — Salman Rushdie
• “The value of philosophy is, in fact, to be sought largely in its very uncertainty.” — Bertrand Russell
• “Religion fashions itself with endless variety, down even to the single personality.” — Schleiermacher
• “Freethinkers are those who are willing to use their minds without prejudice and without fearing to understand things that clash with their own customs, privileges, or beliefs.” — Leo Tolstoy
• “We do not learn the practice of making empirical judgments by learning rules: we are taught judgments and their connection with other judgments. A totality of judgments is made plausible to us.” — Ludwig Wittgenstein
• “All is but a woven web of guesses.” — Xenophanes
• QUOTE INDEX •
UNCERTAINTY: Living with no supernatural justifications,