…but do you really know that?

Believing is not knowing. To me, this seems like possibly the most simple, self-explanatory, obvious statement in the world. However, through my tiny insignificant 23 years of observation I’ve realized this is a statement with which people have an incredibly difficult time coming to terms. Most notably this problem arises in the arenas of morality and religion. Those are kind of big deals. Slightly influential in our own and society’s well-being.  These are probably so significant because the very idea of “knowing” either the right or perfect religion or the right or wrong way of living is so absolutely absurdly ridiculous, yet people claim to know these things all the time and then go on to apply this “knowledge” to the rest of society. Let’s start with religion, shall we?

“God isn’t real. Religion is the root of all evil. I know this”

“Christians are ignorant, follow the bible blindly, and can’t make their own decisions in life. I know this.”

“Christianity is the right and perfect religion. All other religions are wrong. Gays are going to hell. I know this.”

First of all, go read the bible. Secondly:

1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe,
especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies,
usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a
moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2. a specific fundamental set of
beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.

3. Belief in, worship of, or obedience to a supernatural
power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny 2.
any formal or institutionalized expression of such belief: the Christian
3. the attitude and feeling of one who believes in a transcendent
controlling power or powers

(dictionary.com, from various sources)

Maybe you didn’t catch that, but belief was used a whole bunch in those definitions. Even in your creed, you say “I believe in God the Father Almighty…” “believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…” and ” I believe in the Holy Spirit…” God does not require you to know anything, probably because any deity capable of creating existence would be well aware of our tiny little brains and what they are and are not capable of. Our whole faith (oh, see there?) depends on belief, because there is no knowing. It’d be pretty simple if we just all knew, right?

Similarly, all you atheists (you knew you were next) please note that just like people who do follow the Christian or Islamic or Hindu set of beliefs , you yourself follow a set of beliefs as you cannot prove that there is no god just as we cannot prove there is. Difference is, our religion is inherently at most a conviction and in no way presents itself as fact (people present it however they want, but that’s the person and not the religion claiming such things). But when you adopt that “this is what I know and I’m going to force it onto everybody” attitude, I’m afraid you’ve become just as zealous as those you hate, those evil imposing Christians and Muslims that destroy everything great and beautiful. Like I said before, if there was actually knowledge that a god doesn’t exist, I’m going to guess people would quit waking up early on Sundays.

Now most of the time I spend debating or straight up arguing with a person, whether it is about religion or ideology, my point is never “I’m right,” but rather “you don’t actually know that.” This definitely angers people more than me having my own unfounded knowledge, probably because they know deep down inside that they really only believe what they’re claiming as fact. There are, I’m sure, some pretty good arguments against my statement “The only thing I know is that we all know very, very little,” but we’ll save that one for next time.

Love you, bye!



10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Andrea
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 13:47:13

    FYI this post has 666 words. Perfect.


  2. Kayla Davis
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 16:50:20

    I really enjoyed reading this Andy Beth. I agree with what you say, but here is a thought (in no way discrediting anything you wrote…only something more to ponder). Sometimes I think to myself that there is no such thing as “fact”. Seems like a ridiculous comment, especially with me coming from a science background, but it strangely makes sense. For example, you could say “the sky is blue”, which to most would consider this a fact, but it is all relative. The sky could be blue, azul (for the Spanish speakers, and many other things in many other languages), purple, green, pink, or any other word you can think. It is only blue because we designated it as blue. We all know what the sky looks like, so as long as you are consistently calling the sky “____” (a specific word) then its not necessarily wrong I suppose. It reminds me of The Allegory of the Cave. You don’t really know something unless you see it with your own eyes or experience it. The mere shadow of something will not suffice as knowledge of what it actually is, which is probably why so many people struggle with the concept of religion. Unless you lived during the days of the Old Testament, you can’t directly witness acts of God and truly “know” that is where the miracle originated. My view point is that there is not fact, but there is truth. There is a famous quote on the science building at Marshall University that says “Science is truth, and truth is beauty”. If I state that the sky is blue, it is not a fact (because it can be called anything, that is just the name that the speaking species came up with), but it is a true statement. I guess my point is that “fact” is relative and very subjective. Why do you think that people argue over what the color of a shirt is ……..”it is blue” “no, it is purple” “no, its periwinkle”. None of them are wrong necessarily (unless one of them is colorblind) because they are looking same shirt. It just depends on how that color was defined to them initially. One of the definitions of fact is “the truth about events as opposed to interpretation”. What I am getting at is that what we call “fact” is, most of the time, subject to interpretation. I suppose that is why people can construe belief with fact (or what I would like to call truth) and then start waving it in other people faces like a patriot waving his American flag as if everything it stands for is worth upholding before non-believers (or non-Americans in the case of the patriot). I suppose beliefs as well as fact in my opinion are just a difficult things to discuss and validate because most people call what they strongly believe A FACT. It is because they are difficult to come to terms with for everyone that walks this Earth that they are so interesting to talk and write about. And why I really appreciate what you wrote and why I chose to leave such a lengthy reply. Different perspectives spark interest, thinking, and can only leave you with a better sense of understanding if nothing else.


    • Andrea
      Jul 28, 2011 @ 16:53:22

      my goodness you’re awesome 🙂


    • Sam
      Aug 26, 2011 @ 14:58:43

      Yet we can rigorously define the color of light filtered through the sky as being certain wavelengths (probably somewhere around 475nm). And what defines a nm you might well ask, a billionth of a meter, a meter being how far light travels in 1/299,792,458 of a second which is defined as the duration of 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the caesium 133 atom. These words aren’t facts, but definitions that can be based on observations, but the more people who do the math and build the devices to make the observations, and the more times the results are consistent the more likely people are to accept them as facts. But if someone doesn’t believe these observations, there is nothing but time and money standing between them and proving it to themselves. So we come to the definition of fact “a truth verifiable from experience or observation” and have to ask, whose experience or observation do we trust? Do we build our facts on layers of logic that can be tested, or do we build them on things that can’t? I call my beliefs facts if they can and have been tested, and beliefs if they can’t or haven’t been. I put more stock in the color of the sky than in the presence or absence of God. One can be measured, the other proves elusive.


      • rockomnibus
        Sep 28, 2011 @ 04:19:00

        Sam, you said you put more stock in the color of the sky than in the presence or absence of God, and that the color of the sky can be measured. Measuring something doesn’t define it or reveal the intrinsic properties of it, though. The actual state of things is that we can’t tell if the hue and tint that you see is the same hue and tint that anyone else sees.

        Steven Pinker concludes that there’s currently no way to verify that the way one person observes something such as color is identical to anyone else, even among people with no detectable color blindness. We can all pretty much agree on what certain basic shades of colors are to be identified as, but this doesn’t speak to the actual nature of the color or to the way it’s observed.

        This leads to other areas of perception as well. We assume that other people experience the world around them the same way that we do, but there’s no substantiation for this.

      • Andrea
        Sep 28, 2011 @ 04:33:11

        I totally feel you. My brothers are both color blind, so all through my childhood when we’d talk about a color we were talking about two totally different things but we had no way of knowing.

        I can say that fire engine is red, and you can completely agree, but there is absolutely no way of ever knowing whether or not we’re seeing the same thing.

        Thanks for pointing that out 🙂 what a fantastic perspective!

      • rockomnibus
        Sep 30, 2011 @ 05:14:30

        People just naturally assume that their own perception is the same as most other people’s. If we’re looking at the same thing and describe it in a traditionally accepted way that pretty much meshes with the other person, we tend to assign to that that our experience is pretty much identical in certain respects. But there’s really nothing that says it needs to be that way, or that there couldn’t be a variety of related but disparate experiences. You could have twenty people with normal vision, and each one of them could be experiencing a different type of red. And we wouldn’t be able to identify which one of them was the most correct, or even establish what a correct view was. Fascinating stuff.

        I find in so many things I come to learn that I was earlier fooled by assumptions, and those who are not careful make them all over the place. It’s true that we’re forced to make many assumptions due to lack of knowledge in certain types of areas, but we can still recognize a great deal of them and reduce them.

        There’s also the difference in the realm of practical assumptions and that of realistic assumptions. To live our lives in an at least somewhat practical manner, we have to assume some basic concepts in order to carry on about our day. In practical manners, we assume that time exists, that dimensions exist, that space exists, that elements will behave in certain ways. But from a realistic standpoint, we don’t have to give in to all of those assumptions a priori. We can and should question them and look for other explanations. When I’m debating someone online, one of the first things I like to do is to identify the assumptions the other person has made in constructing their argument, and then break those down.

        Just because something appears to be a certain way doesn’t mean it necessarily is. I try to take almost nothing for granted. Even the idea of quantities could be illusory. Our notion of turning thing(s) into quantities could just be arbitrary in an attempt to make more sense out of our existence. But everything could just be a singularity. The whole idea of an object is based merely on interpretation. Where does an object end and a new one begin? I think of Steven Wright’s claim that even though he was wearing two different colored socks, to him they were the same because he goes by thickness. What we “go by” could be many things, and we might just be choosing the ones that are the most convenient.

        One theme I return to over and over in my writings is that we know a lot less than we think we do as a civilization, and the key to greater learning is to identify and acknowledge the many areas that we’re lacking in knowledge, and ultimately that we can’t really prove anything. I believe Godel and Heisenberg both made monumental contributions to learning by demonstrating this.

        Things are not necessarily as they seem……

    • rockomnibus
      Sep 28, 2011 @ 04:20:00

      I’ll have what Kayla is having…


  3. Andrés Ruiz
    Jul 28, 2011 @ 21:37:30

    “Difference is, our religion is inherently at most a conviction and in no way presents itself as fact ”

    I’m afraid that’s not true. Christianity makes certain claims about the way the universe is and presents them as *the way things actually are*. Some *Christians* are comfortable saying “I have a strong conviction that Christianity is true, yet I don’t *know* it to be true”, but the religion *itself* is much more than a mere conviction, it is a comprehensive doctrine about the nature of the universe and of ourselves.

    But that’s just nitpicking. I’m in whole agreement with you here. Though you might be unfair to atheists here, atheists don’t claim to know God doesn’t exist, they merely don’t believe in such a being because of a lack of persuasive evidence. You’ll very rarely ever come across an atheist who claims to know the Truth (with a capital T). On the other hand you’ll find plenty of Christian folk who have no problem claiming they *know* they’re right.

    But besides that, yeah, a lot of folk don’t know the difference between knowledge and mere conviction.

    So kudos. This is “not too stupid.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: