Some thoughts regarding the nature of belief–(not safe for the narcoleptic)

A very good friend has posted a short answer to today’s entry on Christmas Day, 2012. The sonnet in question as well as its rather unusually long introduction can be found here:

I feel they are too long to include in-line here; However they both deal with the nature of the feelings of one who does not believe in God regarding ones friends and loved ones who do.

In these, I express my feelings regarding how one should consider behaving, and my own such choices as well; and, in response to the following comments by a dear friend, add some further thoughts which I deemed to be a bit long winded for a comment box. And for me, if one has seen the length of my comments, that really is saying something!

Reading the entry linked above will put my post in better context.

I do wish you and yours a blessed Christmas. You and the Gentle Lady are very much in my thoughts.


But it’s hard to [pray]. I don’t know if it’s guilt and shame or deadly pride, but the words choke in the throat. It is hard to look into that part of me and see. Maybe I am afraid to.

To which I answer:

And of course, all those sentiments are retuned with as much warmth as we both feel for you. I also think of you often.


Still, though I do not believe, I do wish the best for you and for all your loved ones. And, of course, my sweet wife will pray me, and for you, and everyone else she loves.

Happy Christmas, Gentle Mac.

After which I continue on:

I should also say the friend of which I write above, is quite wonderful in that way–just as I describe. And, you have heard much about him and his monumentally powerful brain from my sweetheart so you may easily guess which friend it is to whom I refer.

It is quite remarkable–and I think, not accidental–just how many great mathematicians are men of faith. Particularly those who have done fundamental work in the field, throughout the centuries, even when one includes the 20th and the 21st. One notable exception is Bertrand Russell. And our resident mathematician refers to Mr. Russell in such a way as to indicate that he considers him something of “the exception that proves the rule,” if you will.

Regarding our resident mathematician, one can clearly see that he holds quite a deep and abiding faith. And–as in the accompanying sonnet to this offering–I do feel a great deal of warmth when, at such times whereupon we together dine, we do indeed “say grace.” I should say that at such times, I remain silent, and allow him to speak the words. That seems more appropriate. In general, I would suggest that anyone who does not believe should take such a course unless there is some good reason to the contrary. It makes one feel as though one is not blaspheming–or simply lying, if you prefer.

However, regarding such silent times as I share with my friends or loved ones at grace, I will say an interesting feeling comes over me. I do feel thankful. And humbled in some way. I think upon all the myriad events that led up to the current, most enjoyable evening; and also, do I think upon all the myriad events that might have kept such an evening from happening.

(Regarding the following paragraphs: No, I am not citing here; this is not a Master’s thesis, nor a work intended for peer review; however such information as I will mention is truly a few clicks away on Google, if one cares to look for it.)

As I’m sure I have written, and you have read, before, I feel most certain that there is, deep within some part of our physical brains, a place reserved for such things–matters of faith. And I often warn my atheist friends (not anti-theists, one, by the way) that, in view of even more recent evidence, one must be vigilant if this part of ones brain–so very obviously designed or evolved (or to eschew both words, functions in such a state which enables it) to allow one to believe in such things as those for which there is no evidence–is not now being used for such things.

Things for which it is clearly optimised to do.

Imagine what we might by simple default–by not being vigilant in our thoughts–believe to be true. Such things are much more harmful than a belief in something which some non-believers feel (although I do not, due entirely to the empirical evidence of the difference between the two) to be congruent to a belief in Santa Claus. These, as you well know, as well as seen, from among your idealogical, philosophical, or epistemological opposites, are quite harmful; not merely to the one so afflicted but also to the world around him. Ask yourself what they believe without question as a result of not being vigilant. The answer, and the myriad ways in which it has been deleterious to your life are, one might say, “named legion, for they are many,” to paraphrase a biblical verse, I have oft heard expounded upon.

Yes indeed. When I take the time to contemplate such things, I most definitely prefer a man of faith to one such as I have described above. I will say that such friends as I have among the non-religious are much more like such a man than like such as I have described above. And, what is more important, the reverse is also true; that man of faith, yes, that very one who believes in a God, and a Saviour, the existence of which cannot be proven, is much more like you and I, for example than like the individual profiled in the paragraph above.

Continued here, wherein I stray even farther afield:


More thoughts regarding the nature of belief: (by now, you are in a deep, deep sleep)

Continued from:

Take, for example, a man who believes in economic theories for which, not only is there no proof, but for which there exists quite a body of evidence indicating the contrary. Such evidence–such centuries of mounting evidence–will not sway this man. However what he believes is clearly “damning,” if you will, not only to himself, but to you, me, the world at large. That is religion. That is using a part of his brain for that for which it was not intended. That… is Stalin. Or Hitler.

Now take a man of faith; a man who believes in God, and who believes in the promise of the Man whose Birth we are today celebrating; a man who believes firmly that that Creator has endowed him, you, me, and even his enemies with a certain set of inalienable rights. This is a man with which, at least regarding such matters as these rights themselves, you and I would wholeheartedly agree. This is a man who could not disbelieve in such a God, no matter the evidence–or in his case, the lack of it–we show him regarding the existence of such a God. Such a man has much more in common with you, than to that aimless soul I profiled above. That is religion used for that for which it is intended. That is faith. This is Reagan or Ghandi, or Bayes, whose fundamental work is the foundation for this century’s, and no doubt next century’s, thinking machines, both grand and humble in function.

Such men are grounded in reality, because their groundless belief, if you will, is employed elsewhere, although it does speak to the preciousness they perceive regarding all individuals. Individuals which, such a man incontrovertibly believes were created “In God’s Image.” That, I would say is “a pretty big deal,” so to speak, if you think of what those words actually mean. This makes such a man not just seem to, but to actually have, more in common with you and I, and individualists, such as Peikoff, Rand, etc., than with such people who believe, also incontrovertibly, that society can and should be engineered.

And make no mistake; one who believes such a thing, believes in a thing that is evil; and is, no matter how unwittingly or by default, an evil man. This is because he denies the individual importance of you to yourself, or me to myself, or even him to himself–not to mention the importance of any we hold as special or dear. It is evil to you and I, and others who believe that individuals are important in and of themselves; because it denies the primacy of individual men. It is evil to the man of faith, particularly the Christian, for the same reasons, and because he incontrovertibly believes every individual is unique and special to God; and therefore, is, perhaps unlike some atheist individualists, even willing to die rather than deny this primacy, and hence deny God. It is evil because it is tautologically inconsistent. It is not consistent with a man claiming “A or NOT A,” with a man claiming that a certain logical premise is true, or it isn’t; but with a man claiming “A AND NOT A,” with a man claiming that a certain logical premise is both true and false as the same time. One could simply dispense with the formal logical expression and call it insane. It is evil to willingly, whether knowingly or not, embrace an idea that is insane. It is insane to embrace an idea that is fundamentally evil. This shows us that the insane idea is itself an evil idea. A formal reduction would show a final result of evil being evil. Hence, evil ideas are evil ideas, and therefore evil as well.

I’ve met a number of men of faith who I truly believe would die, or at the very least, go much further on the rack–under torture–than I could before denying this primacy of the individual. History rather shows us that, throughout the centuries, many have done so. Those of us without so firm a moral compass who nonetheless believe in the primacy of the individual, are quite often lacking in such resolve. I am, in fact, very much aware of this deficit; as I am aware that I need to fill that void of faith with something that will support–that will cause me to insist upon–this primacy. Even under duress. I am sorely lacking in that in which men of faith, particularly men of the Christian faith, are quite wealthy.

This is certainly a topic for another post, to be sure, but this does seem to put into perspective why such evil men as I have heretofore described appear to single out the Christian faith as somehow being the “worst of the worst,” as it were, when clearly, even if one finds oneself critical of all religion, it is far from being. As evidenced by their unwavering zeal against it, it is almost as though these anti-theists, or so-called atheists, believe one particular thing that Christians believe, and with as much certainty as Christians believe it:

That Christianity is, in fact the true faith.

This also suggests that such people are far from atheistic–that, in fact, the term “anti-theist” is much more descriptive of their tenor, and that furthermore, that this term in large part describes the “religiosity” of such people. Otherwise… why single out Christianity–a religion that is perhaps the most benign or at any rate numbers among the most benign?

But enough about them. Let us concentrate instead on matters concerning ourselves and our fellow men of faith–those of us who believe in the primacy of the individual. Such a primacy is protected and preserved by people of faith in such a way, for example, that such secular advocates of the individual will often cite–albeit generically. We will insist that individuals acting as such, in a society which is as free and as unregulated as is humanly possible, one that respects this primacy–which this country once was and sadly is no more–will act much more efficiently to preserve and protect life liberty and property than could any of the aforementioned heedless souls engineer by forceful means. We cite proof, to give a further example, of such economic freedom causing medical services to be affordable, of which there is also plenty. We cite private charities which would, unfettered by forceful intrusion by such social engineers, much more efficiently provide care for the indigent–also a fact which does not require speculation because such was undeniably the case–particularly in this country–before such forceful intrusion began..

But even in the face of such forceful intrusion, we still see evidence of these things. But not in all quarters. Travel, if you will, to any city in this country. There you will find, for example, facilities with names akin to “Our Lady of Providence Hospital,” “Emanuel Hospital,” “Adventist Hospital” “Central Lutheran Hospital.” Conspicuously absent are “Karl Marx, Anti-theist Hospital,” “Central Valley Atheist General Hospital,” or even, “Von Mises Individualist Hospital.” So my question is this: Who has actual resolve to assert the primacy of the individual? The answer is rather a case of “Put up; or, shut up.”

William Shakespeare…

…wrote, I believe all, or most, of his sonnets while unable to perform his plays during an outbreak of the plague.  There was,at this time, a moratorium placed on most public activities; therefore, concerts and plays of all kinds were, for a time, proscribed.  So Shakespeare had little to do but confine himself to his rooms and write.  I do not know why he chose to write sonnets at this time, however his chosen form–much simpler, and some might say elegant or sublime–was of his own devising.

His first sequence is some 127 sonnets long and deals with one subject only.  Although I am far from an expert on these matters, I do rather feel that the young man  to which he is speaking metaphorically in these works is more likely himself than any other, nor do I feel that he was speaking metaphorically to young men in general–although certainly there is a level on which this certainly is the case.

Although I have now written as many sonnets as did Shakespeare at that time, I have certainly not written a sequence much over 10 sonnets in length.  There are too many subjects upon which I ponder, to keep to one subject for such a length of time.  On the other hand, When I write of love–such sonnets could be taken as a sequence, since they explore different aspects of my love for my sweetheart.  Such things as I have felt–and over so many years.  I have not counted how many of these are specifically directed to my beloved; however it is bound to be quite a large share, I should think.  Possibly more than half?  Truly, I am not sure, but perhaps such an accounting would be a worthy pursuit.