Monday, December 9, 2013

Belief is Overrated

Sometimes the best intro is no intro. With that said, something has been on my mind a lot as of late and I have to talk about it. Belief or faith is severely overrated. According to both belief and faith have similar meanings, "confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof." or in the case of faith, no proof at all. Without hard evidence both belief and faith can be outright rejected. There must be some quantifiable reason or evidence to support your belief. If not then I don't even need a reason to not believe it. As the late Christopher Hitchens so profoundly put it, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." But I feel the implications of "Hitchens' Razor" go far beyond the scope of the religious debate it is centered around.

When I look at the current state of politics in DC, it literally makes me queasy. It is filled with nothing but demagogues, ideologues, and true believers. People so utterly and wholly entrenched in their brand of political dogma, that even whispering or muttering the word compromise can get you fired. People so rooted and fixed to one belief that the idea of working together is anathema to all political parties. But why? To answer that I think I need to step on some toes and give you two numbers. 9 and 25.

The current approval rating of our United States Congress is, getting ready for this, 9%! Let that sink in for a moment. Now I normally don't trust most polls outright but the fact that this number is so low would say to me that it might have some validity to it. Now let's move on to the next number by asking a question. Knowing that the current congress approval rating sits somewhere around 9%, what would you say is the retention rate of sitting Congress members from this last election? You guessed it, 95%! How is this even possible? Which brings me to the stepping on some toes part. A mixture of faith, belief, and gullibility. These political hucksters take advantage of America's credulity and willingness to trust. What has our credulity bought us? Take a look around. And if you are in the 9%, then there is nothing I can say anyway.

The massive problem with this is it fosters a tremendous unwillingness to change and without change you become stagnant and out of touch. Welcome to America. We are slowly falling behind in almost any "measurable".

All of this reminds me of a current documentary called Inequality for All. The movie points out how the income disparity is bad for the economy and America in general. He makes a good case for why but a scant but biased view of how to fix it. I know Michael Shermer's book, The Believing Brain, goes into the science behind why we believe what we do but the more I think about belief itself I find it useless. Sure it's fine to believe that income inequality is bad for the economy and we can admit we have a problem. But because we are so entrenched in our political beliefs we are unwilling to tackle the problem objectively, following the evidence where it leads. Social Security could and most likely will bankrupt us according to current projections but we simply won't fix it because of our unwillingness to look outside the box and be objective about the problem.

I could really go on and on about this but I feel like I've made my point. What is belief if it isn't supported by evidence? Nothing. Useless, nothing.

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