Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Believing is to Hearing what Lying is to Speaking

If God really is dead, then nothing is permitted since there’s nobody around to do any permitting. And that’s not just a logical deduction. Historical experience suggests the same thing. It isn’t the skeptics and liberals who demonstrate bloody resolve or commit the great historical crimes but those who operate in the service of History, Race, Allah, Yahweh, or some other absolute authority. There aren’t that many Raskolnikovs but there are lots and lots of Rasputins. Indeed, the most cogent objection to rationalism has always been that it makes people timid.

Most believers are neither ax murderers nor crazed monks, of course; but they do demonstrate a notable proclivity for lesser offenses. In particular, they lie efficiently and often because they lie with a good conscience. Those of us who do not possess the teacher’s edition of the book of life, the one with the answers in the back, tend to be careful about what we say because nothing supports our word except our own uncertain lights and whatever integrity we can muster. Meanwhile, the faithful have a highly convenient “for the sake of which” that covers all infractions and a host of motivational speakers to bolster their self esteem. So they talk to each other and themselves as one talks to children, promoting all sorts of things they know to be false because they assume that it’s for a higher good if not a higher truth. And even when they don’t open their mouths, they dissemble with their ears by listening approvingly to falsehoods.

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