I live just north of Atlanta.
It’s easy for me to believe the city exists. I might be so bold to assert that I know it’s there.
I visit quite often.
Contrast that idea with the fact I’ve never seen evidence of the lost civilization known as Atlantis.
As a result, I’m more skeptical of the idea that Atlantis (the ancient civilization, not the resort) has ever existed..
My article titled Sympathy for the atheist, part 1: religious idiots tried to explain why I believe some choose to become atheists.
When a religious person says or does something really crazy, guilt by association for every person of faith apparently develops in the minds of some atheists.
I certainly understand the revulsion of all to a particularly grotesque idea involving the torture and death of an innocent animal, but not the judgment of a collective based on the actions of one or two individuals.
When one atheist defaces a church with graffiti, I would never assume every atheist is guilty — just the one with paint on his fingers.
People (like Fred Phelps of Harold Camping) who make ridiculous comments while pretending extreme piety – things like “God hates fags” or “Jesus is coming to destroy the Earth at 2:00 pm next Saturday” do not speak for everyone.
They certainly do not speak for me.
These people are religious know-it-alls, rather than seekers who realize that they know virtually nothing.
In part 1 of this series, I reported how a Jewish rabbinical court sentenced a dog to be stoned to death because they believed the spirit of a lawyer had been reincarnated in the animal.
As a volunteer with a local Humane Society, I felt compelled to call attention and vehemently object to this lunacy.
I love animals, and it occurred to me that words and deeds like this must be repulsive to most people of normal intelligence or better. The majority of atheists with whom I am friends fall into this category, so I assumed we would mostly agree on this particular issue.
Apparently, I was wrong. Because I believe in a creator God, a few atheists made it quite clear they will not agree with me about anything. It’s a curious problem. Atheists are not stupid by any stretch of the imagination.
But I know I’m not wrong about everything. Probably about a lot of things, but not everything. And I’m quite sure that I’m not nearly as stupid as most atheists would have me believe….
The atheist’s greatest character flaw might be a deficiency in their ability to suspend disbelief.
This flaw born of arrogance is endemic to all humans, which makes the title of this article slightly misleading.
Relgious believers suffer from the same problem; it’s not exclusively limited to atheists. Everyone suffers this limitation, this writer included. We simply tend to dismiss what we refuse to believe. No matter what evidence is presented, we ignore it.
I had this very interesting revelation, a true “Eureka!” moment, after watching an episode of Unexplained Mysteries about extreme ghost encounters.
I’ve made no secret of the fact I believe in ghosts. I believe they are the very real manifestation of a spiritual remnant of a human being trapped in this material dimension. The only reason I believe is personal experience.
My belief in ghosts increased gradually over a long period of time. Critical analysis of a number of diverse examples indicated these were supernatural experiences. I wasn’t the only investigator. Professionals also failed to determine the cause.
The conclusion this residence was haunted was reached after every other plausible alternative had been thoroughly investigated. To fool me repeatedly and consistently over a period of years would have required expertise with a variety of Hollywood quality stunts and the expense a Hollywood-sized budget, with no obvious return on investment.
What would anyone get out of going to such extraordinary lengths to fool me? So I believe.
But I don’t get terribly upset with people who do not believe in ghosts. Their experiences were almost certainly not the same as mine. (cont’d below advertisement)
There is a phrase used in cinema to describe the popularity of movies like Avatar, Terminator, Star Wars and Star Trek.
The phenomenon of Phenomenon is explicable through the “willing suspension of disbelief.”
We know that it was only a movie — John Travolta didn’t really appear to get struck by a bolt of lightning.
We know that massive jolts of electricity could not turn him a genius or give him extraordinary powers of telekinesis overnight – nor could a brain tumor, for that matter.
Outside the theater, we know that light sabers and Jedi knights do not exist. They were created by the imagination of George Lucas. We place ourselves in self-exile from the world for the sake of entertainment. That’s perfectly okay.
For those two hours in the dark confines of the theater, we willingly accept that the characters on the screen are involved in a real story. In the real world, it’s hard to believe a green Muppet could be a believable character in this poignant scene illustrating the suspension of disbelief and why it is important we be able to do so.
That is why we fail — to believe in a Creator.
The bright light in the real world snap us back into our normal senses. Only the pleasant memories of the entertainment experience remain with us going forward, but we know longer believe in good Jedi knights or evil Darth Vader.
We choose what we are willing to believe from our entertainment, even for a short time.
We need an escape from the madness of the real world, where a woman could be stoned for adultery or a dog sentenced to lapidation because a curse was believed to come true. Humans treat each other horribly, on a daily basis.
In the real world, a story on the evening news about a Death Star approaching Earth would rightfully be greeted with extreme skepticism. Advanced alien technologies are so far removed from the realm of our experience (for most of us, at least) that we automatically dismiss such tales as pure fantasy.
Is it really intelligent to refuse to believe something without bothering to learn about the best information available?
After the episode of Unexplained Mysteries about ghosts that intrigued me so, I found myself searching for the remote control to change channels. The next two episodes promised in the marathon back-to-back concerned UFOs and the lost continent of Atlantis.
Immediately the thought crossed my mind, that’s ridiculous.
While still searching for the remote, a second thought occurred: why did I simply assume the possibility ridiculous?
Ghosts were once an equally ludicrous suggestion — until multiple personal experiences that I could not rationally explain left me with no alternative but to accept the possibility they could be real.
Gradually, acceptance evolved into near certitude through knowledge and experience.
Stories of the mythical chupacabra no longer seem absurd now that a dashboard camera on a police cruiser recorded images of a creature unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.
I cannot reflexively scoff at the chupacabra when my own eyes have seen video of an unknown animal I cannot identify.
Does this mean that I believe in UFOs, the chupacabra or the lost continent of Atlantis?
Not exactly. What it means is that I cannot allow myself to preemptively exclude the possibility of something without examining the evidence that purportedly supports the claim.
To be sure, it takes an unusual effort to consider what seems inconceivable.
Yet to casually disregard a potential source of information because the topic seems impossible strikes this writer as a hubristic display of confidence in one’s own reservoir of knowledge. How can anyone be so sure about what they know?
I have decided that I’m not curious enough about these reported phenomena.
I left the channel unchanged.