I try not to believe. After all, as Nietzsche pointed out, “Belief means not wanting to know what is true.” Instead of believing, I try to think. But it’s sometimes difficult to separate the two, and it’s often difficult to marshal enough evidence to allow thought to proceed unimpeded by belief. I suppose I’m skeptical, even about my skepticism. Usually, I think that’s a good thing.
I recognize I’m quick to offend, especially when my words are unaccompanied by my smiling face and the attendant body language. Continue watching at your own risk.
I believe we spend too much time in this country debating belief, especially belief in spirits. And I believe we routinely confuse religion with faith or spirituality. I believe we shouldn’t mislead children into believing there is a Santa Claus, an Easter bunny, a tooth fairy, a unicorn on the dark side of the moon, or a god. I think it’s a sad commentary on the state of our cultural affairs that we finally get around to telling the truth about only the former three. Even sadder commentary is provided by the paucity of people who take time to think about what they believe, how they live, and what they live for.
People who know me, even slightly, would describe me as neither spiritual nor religious. I do not believe in spirits, so I can understand the common conclusion about the former. I think organized religions are, to a great extent, absurd, violent, and immoral. When I think about the impacts of organized religion on society, I’m an anti-theist. But most of the time, I’m an indifferent rationalist, open to evidence but realizing faith is based on the absence of evidence. Or, as I used to tell the occasional student on campus who would ask, I believe in one fewer god than you. Unless you’re Hindu, in which case I believe in 33 trillion fewer gods than you.
I believe life is loaded with religiosity. After all, religion is merely a set of beliefs and practices. Consider, for example, the set of beliefs and practices in my own uniquely quirky life: I’m a self-proclaimed rationalist and skeptic with a penchant for social criticism. In the latter role, I comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable with religious fervor. I religiously seek the truth, which is spelled with a lowercase ‘t’ ... two of them, actually. I religiously count steps when I’m walking. I religiously exceed the posted speed limit when I drive. And like Albert Einstein, I am a deeply religious unbeliever. And so on, ad nauseum. I suspect you get the point.
I believe Spinoza nailed the issue about religious spiritualism when he concluded that, if a triangle could think, it would imagine God to be like a triangle. Upon learning this story, most people accuse the triangle of hubris.
Nietzsche was clearly correct about our lack of free will, as supported by overwhelming evidence that has accumulated since his death. On a related note, I believe education, when it works, is an intellectually painful process—and I believe all education is, ultimately, autodidactic.
I agree with Jules Henry, in his classic 1963 book, Culture Against Man: “School is indeed a training for later life not because it teaches the 3 Rs (more or less), but because it instills the essential cultural nightmare fear of failure, envy of success, and absurdity.” Public education in this country has become exactly the essential cultural nightmare it was designed to become by the likes of John Dewey and the United States Congress. It serves corporate Amerikkka by creating belief-filled drones incapable of deep thought. Paradoxically, I believe John Dewey was right when he wrote: “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
In part because of the virtual absence of deep thought by the mass of people in this culture, I believe industrial civilization will suffer a profound and sudden collapse, thereby joining at least two dozen major civilizations that failed before it, albeit at different rates, from different apexes and to different nadirs. Based on the abundant evidence I have presented in this space, I believe the collapse of civilization will be complete within too few years, and will be accompanied by suffering that is unimaginable to most of us. Due to the loss of aerosol masking, the rapidity of environmental change, and the uncontrolled meltdown of nuclear facilities in our wake, I cannot imagine life will remain on Earth more than a few years after our departure.
I believe this is a damned sad state of affairs.
I believe none of us will live through the ongoing, accelerating collapse of industrial civilization. This is one of the cases in which acting “as if” will not cause something positive to happen. Rosa Parks sat on the bus “as if” doing so were right. And, of course, it was. However, she had justice on her side. We don’t even have the Laws of Thermodynamics on our side.
I have no problem finding things to live for, finding meanings in this most insignificant of lives. I’ve pondered the idea of finding meaning in our individual lives before. Nonetheless, it’s worth another brief look.
I live fully because I believe our lives are short. Consider, as one example, the woman to whom I referred during my speaking tour in western Europe in 2015. She was asked to comment on her life at her 117th birthday party. Her response: “It seemed rather short.” As if to put a punctuation mark on her comment, she died shortly thereafter.
There is no evidence to support the notion that something follows our short lives. If our lives are short, and only we can assign meanings to our lives, then I believe living fully and living meaningfully are good ideas. After all, I suspect that when we approach the end of our lives, we will be able to say, “it seemed rather short.” Living fully during our short time here seems like a great idea to me.
"Dr. Guy McPherson is an internationally recognized speaker, award-winning scientist, and the world’s leading authority on abrupt climate change leading to near-term human extinction. He is professor emeritus at the University of Arizona, where he taught and conducted research for twenty years. His published works include 14 books and hundreds of scholarly articles. Dr. McPherson has been featured on TV and radio and in several documentary films. He is a blogger, cultural critic, and co-host of his own radio show “Nature Bats Last.” Dr. McPherson speaks to general audiences across the globe, and to scientists, students, educators, and not-for-profit and business leaders who seek their best available options when confronting Earth’s cataclysmic changes." source