Wednesday, July 18, 2007

By Whose Authority?

Why do you believe what you believe? There can be but one answer: you believe what you do because you choose to believe it. You—not tradition, God, parents, or convention— are responsible for what you believe. So when a person says, “I believe in this or that because the Bible (or the Torah or the Talmud or the Rabbis or the Koran, etc) tells me so” they are lying.

Who decides that the Bible (or some other book) is true, holy, inerrant, etc? Tradition or church may tell you it is, but for every church arguing one position that are others arguing the opposite position. There is no objective way to decide which position is correct. So, when you make the decision to accept one and reject the other the only authority you rely on is yourself.

The same is true when you follow the dictates of the pope or your local rabbi. You invest these people with power and authority. You are the ultimate decider of what is true, but you deny this. Why? Because to admit it is to admit that you are relying on an idiot.

This is certainly true of me. By the authority invested in me by me I decide that God doesn’t have a Chosen People, doesn’t have a Son, doesn’t talk to Moses or Mohammed, and doesn’t send people to hell for not believing in what He doesn’t do in the first place. And I have no objective way of knowing that what I affirm is true. I just affirm it.

The situation would be the same if I affirmed belief in Chosen Peoples, Virgin Births, Sonship, or Koranic revelation. Just as I can’t prove these to be false, I cannot prove them to be true. So believing is just as absurd as not believing. If I believe I do so simply because I choose to do so.

Admitting this is difficult for people. They want to believe that someone or Someone is making the choice for them, so they imagine that someone or Someone has authority over them. But who does the imagining if not they themselves? Whatever you believe, you believe it simply on your own authority. You make the pope the pope; you make a book sacred; you make a rabbi a judge. When people stop investing Jesus with power, Jesus will die just as Mithra, Zeus, and thousands of gods before him died.

Is knowing this helpful? It is to me. Knowing that I decide what is true is humbling. It allows me the luxury of not clinging to any spiritual teaching as absolute or absolutely true. This is truly en–lightening in that it lightens my load.

Religion is such a burden. And when you realize that it is one that you invest with authority, you are free to put it down and pick it up as you wish, and that is truly liberating.

1 comment:

Sveldheim said...

A question: what about those whose view of the universe is based on reason and evidence? On the one hand, I'm firmly in that camp, and think that observation, logic, and experiment does lead to a better understanding of the order of things, a *true* understanding, separate from my subjective belief.

On the other hand, there is ample evidence that our "reason" is not necessarily objective; that what we perceive and the questions we can think to ask are shaped by our neurology and evolutionary history.

So is my rationalistic, science-trusting, mostly agnostic world-view an inwardly generated belief of the sort you're talking about? Curious on your thoughts...