In a very real sense, common sense and nonbelief in fantastical imaginings can be curses more than gifts in a society — as currently is the case far too often in America — where rational thought instinctively genuflects to populist chest-beating.
In such a grievance-driven, anti-intellectual environment, the only truth and reality is what the leader of the anti-establishment personality cult says it is. Science? Facts? Reason. Material reality? Deadly pandemics. Democratic norms. Rule of law (for plebes and presidents alike). All “Deep State” sleight of hand, of course.
I was reminded of this when I bumped into a photo illustration on the Bold Atheism website, which offers a rich vein of nontheist aphorisms, like this one below, attributed to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw:
“Common sense is not a gift, it’s a punishment. Because you have to deal with everyone who doesn’t have it.”
Healthy skeptics and religious nonbelievers readily discover this truth whenever they encounter fellow citizens (or anyone for that matter) who trust fight-or-flight, four-alarm emotional fires originating in their reptilian brain stems over well-considered factual assessments in their pre-frontal cortexes. Same thing when they encounter argumentative true believers, for whom “truth” is emotionally, not empirically, confirmed.
Which is to say there’s no talking to reptiles. No convincing them. They think what they think, irregardless (BTW, that last word’s a joke).
The key difference between theists and atheists is that the former can never be wrong and the latter always can be (and know it). Believers are permanently correct (in their own minds) because their God-centered dogma is accepted not only as sacrosanct, but absolute and infallible, although that assumption is untestable with evidence (because it doesn’t exist in the testable universe, it’s only speculative). On the other hand, atheists’ hypotheses can always prove incorrect or in need of adjustment, because scientific knowledge, which is their north star, is by its nature always open to new, even revolutionary, information. But it must be provable and testable.
The pithy quote above wasn’t the only one I ran across yesterday on Bold Atheism. This other one is also wise and relevant to this argument:
“The fact that new planets still form today means that the tale of God resting after the creation story that took six days is a lie.”
Common sense and skepticism should be ginned-up by the creation story in any event, considering what modern humans now know about cosmology, physics, evolution and the “laws of nature” in general.
Considering that the universe is, like, 17 billion years old, and our own world emerged from the chaos of the Big Bang roughly 13 billion years or so after that, it beggars common sense to accept that the universe and our world were all created in “6 days,” with God resting on the seventh. And that everything still exists now in the exact form it was created then, according to scripture.
But that’s the beauty of supernatural religion. You can make up your own facts and interpretations, with no grounding in reality. In this case, you can fudge and finesse biblical text to conclude that “6 days” is just symbolic language for, perhaps, “6 billion years” or whatever period would then make the Bible accurate.
With that kind of dodgy thinking, we likely wouldn’t have the wheel and coronary bypass operations today, much less interstellar space ships. Or curative antibiotics.
Remember that conservative religious thinking — mostly Christian and Islamic — is what stifled human progress and the reduction of needless human suffering for long centuries. Science, boosted by the Enlightenment, achieved the opposite and continue to make broad gains.
The current U.S. administration of Donald Trump has worked hard to confuse and divide the populace by denigrating empirical facts, science in general, and the meaning of truth, while pandering to the faithful’s need for a God and savior. The purpose is to reduce the electorate’s ability to understand the moment, and entice them to look exclusively to the president for answers — and to think a vote for him is the only sane choice.
Of course, every common-sensical, rational American, with good reason, realizes the the opposite is true. There is no God, and Trump is a fraud.
Trump doesn’t care what his opponents think. He only wants as many of the other, more gullible, Americans to vote for him as he can trick into filling in the oval next to his name on the ballot. And, trust me, he knows who those voters are and thinks they’re “disgusting … losers” (his words). They are simply a means to his re-election. A tool.
Yet, while tens of millions of MAGA sycophants genuflect to their dear leader, dangerously unable to comprehend the darkness now enveloping the land, skeptics, however denigrated by the faithful, at least have the benefit of doubt. Still, we doubters have to deal with the factless faithful.
Happily, all the actual evidence seems to be on our side, though.