It’s official. The world is suffering from a pandemic.
No, not H1N1. That’s on its way there, but that’s a disease you can medicate, and they’re finding better medications already. The real pandemic that’s destroying society has been around for millenia, if not since the beginning of time… but that doesn’t make it any less destructive.
This disease is known as BTD – binary thought disorder. It’s that disease that everybody who reflexively disagrees with you suffers from… and that you probably do too. The symptoms include a steadfast belief that you are right, and everybody who disagrees with you is wrong, which can result in feelings of pity, irritation, or even hostility towards them.
Of course, BTD isn’t an actual disease. Instead, it’s a way of being for much of the world. A closed-minded inability to accept that people have the same information as you do but disagree with it – all without being misguided, stupid, or outright evil – is something that manifests among people of all political, religious, and racial stripes. The right falls into it – witness the last 8 years or so. The left falls into it – witness the last 8 years or so. Religious people fall into it – look at the Crusades, the Holocaust, and the very concept of jihad, among other things. Atheists fall into it too – just look at the vitriol that’s sometimes been vented at people like Dave Ramsey, who simply express that they have religious views, or the legal battles over so much as mentioning the concept of God at a school.
Why is BTD a problem? Well, I hope that’s obvious. It’s pretty well responsible for a good number of the wars and atrocities throughout history. It’s responsible for any of several thousand other crimes, fights, injuries, and ruined relationships. But it falls apart under logic.
BTD involves a thought process that demonizes the ‘other.’ It assumes that all criteria are equal – for example, the valuation of the afterlife. Let’s take a look at religion, shall we? Here’s the standard argument.
There is no scientific proof that God exists, let alone that the afterlife does.
Following religious doctrine involves making choices in life that restrict our enjoyment of life, in exchange for the promise of a utopic afterlife.
That’s immensely simplifying things, but it’s the basics. Now, if you believe, in defiance of the lack of empirical proof, that the afterlife exists and that your God is real, then you’ll be a religious person. Why wouldn’t you? You’ve got an eternity of paradise promised to you, in exchange for a short-term restriction on your activities. Further, when you work in the concept of Hell, you have a duty to try and convert others – failure to do so is to condemn the souls of non-believers.
Anybody who has the knowledge that following God’s rules and accepting His faith will bring you to paradise, while failure will condemn you to Hell, but who fails to convert, must be either foolish or actively evil, serving the great evil of their faith of choice.
However, if you don’t believe? There is no proof of an afterlife – all we know really exists is the here and now. Therefore, following religious strictures is inherently foolish. You’re exchanging your freedom in life for absolutely nothing. Without scientific proof that God or the afterlife exists, you’re trading in the only life you’re going to have for squat… and even if the afterlife does exist, you’re gambling on whether or not any given book is actually correct about how to get the good seats when you get there. If you’re wrong – and you’ve got no way to know you’re not – then you’ll end up in Hell anyways.
Anybody who tries to promulgate religious belief, given these facts, must be foolish at best, or evil at worst, trying to manipulate the beliefs of people to control them.
But ultimately, it’s a matter of varying values. The person who believes in God and religion and accepts these teachings whole-heartedly places greater value on their potential afterlife – which they do believe exists – than the atheist does – who doesn’t believe it exists.
There’s no actual proof that either person is right or wrong… simply an absence of such proof. Atheists have as much blind faith in their beliefs as the religious fanatic does. And yet, both sides will cite endless amounts of ‘proof’ that they are right, the other is wrong, until such a point in time as they decide that the stubborn refusal of the other to so much as accept that they might be wrong drives them to give up… or to blows.
BTD has also created the vast quantities of hypocrisy we tend to see. Remember a few years ago, when protesting what the government was trying to do was considered the highest form or patriotism? Great, when you were protesting W and the Iraq war. Now, when the other side is protesting Obamacare, it’s unamerican or a sign that you’ve been duped by The Great Evil… exactly the same things that the Right said about the Left during those protests. What’s the difference? Well… now it’s the Right protesting, and the Left being told they’re wrong.
BTD is the greatest threat to modern civilization. And if we can’t get past it, our society is doomed to tear itself apart, just as every civilization that has come before has eventually fallen to pieces. How do we do that? I’m not sure… but I’ve got some ideas. I’ll be getting into those over the next few weeks.