Thursday, May 4, 2017

Other Truths and Where To Find Them

The Great A'Tuin by Stephen Player. Sir Terry Pratchett Discworld

The doubt-tormented priest in Terry Prachett's Carpe Jugulum painfully juggles faith and facts.  His struggle reminds me of many of the news headlines I've been reading lately about alternative facts, alternate facts, and how we're living in "post truth".

Taking into account that no one knows the complete truth, nor ever will, I still found the priest of "OM" (one of the most powerful religions in Prachett's books) to be a familiar and sympathetic character.  We were all raised with certain ideas or tenets and, like good loyal children, struggled to protect them or to be faithful to the spirit of them.

 Faith for the faithful is, according to some research, a source of shame and also of redemption, hope and security-in equal measure.  There's a lot to defend there.  As someone who's tried to console "bad" Catholics I can tell you nothing makes them leap into the Christian Soldier stance faster.  Faith is (seen from the perspective of one raised atheist), like a third parent.  And no matter what our parents do to us, we'll defend them to some extent.  It's primal.

I want to quote a passage from Carpe Jugulum about the schism of faith:

"...he was, he knew, in two minds about everything...even when he was small there'd been a part of him that thought temple was a silly boring place...(yet) it had grown up with him...(and the part of him) that read avidly always remembered the passages which cast doubt upon the truth of the book of Om and said, 'If this isn't true, what can you believe?' and he'd reply, 'Other kinds than the kind that is actually true, you mean?'"

Doubt tortures faith with information, or, the other kinds of truth.

We have small brains and big hearts.  We're not thinking machines; we're feeling machines that think.  And when our beliefs are challenged we stop thinking and fight, while yelling at each other about the truth.

And the winner is not the person with a truer truth.  The winner is simply the one with the most power in the fight.

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