People who lean on you for validation are so insecure that they
beg for your reinforcing belief.
“I know beyond a shadow of a doubt” hides “I am trying to
convince myself (and I’m not succeeding without your help).”
Anger is a defense mechanism even when there is no attack. Being
upset that I do not believe always reveals the upset person’s
weakness, doubt, and uncertainty. The person fears the weakness,
not my unbelief.
Appropriately withholding belief is an
act of generosity:
Galileo contributed to science by refusing to believe the
geocentric model of his time.
The German long-jumper who competed against Jesse Owens refused
to believe Adolf Hitler’s race doctrine. According to story, the
German contestant deliberately dropped his towel at the take-off
line so that Owens’s footprint would prove that he had not
stepped over the line and could not be disqualified. Rejecting a
bad racist belief and helping the superior performer was an
example of courage for all humanity.
Years ago, my friend completed an opinion
survey by rating some common sales slogans. The interviewing
company questioned him afterward for marking every statement
“completely false.” He was a professor; “partially true” was not
his familiar ground. I was surprised that he had responded at all
to the survey, because those slogans create moods and are not
intended to be measured as truth. Many feelings are preferences,
neither true nor false.
Certain institutions are symbolic or
metaphorical. Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Jack Frost
are all concepts that invoke thoughts or feelings different from
the literal meanings of the words. These entities are not
physical persons, but as representations they convey specific
meanings. There are many expressions that I can respect while not
believing them literally. I respect the people to whom they have
meaning, although I do not support the literal statements. The
Bible provides many similar examples.
Saul was jealous of David because the women said that Saul had
killed his thousands and David had killed his ten thousands. Even
after dropping the numbers to believable levels, I find it
incredible to respect anyone based on how many people he has
slaughtered. I’m not that kind of believer.
Ancient Israel imposed capital punishment for adultery and
murder—that is, except against King David. I’m neither a capital
punishment believer nor a divine rights believer.
My childhood impression was that Noah’s flood was a global
physical reality, even though my parents did not believe in Santa
Claus. Eventually I thought more about the physics of dealing
with so much water. I’m no longer that kind of believer.
The Old Testament Psalms carry great literary value. However, it
is painful to read David exclaim “hedge up the path of mine
enemies.” I don’t have enemies, yet I find it unthinkable to wish
evil upon any who attempt to be my enemies. I’m not that kind of
The Bible throughout denigrates the human condition. This
confidence destroyer is a typical marketing ploy to create an
artificial pain point that makes God’s mercy necessary and
valuable. This is not uplifting. I’m not that kind of
Despite my deep reverence for people’s
beliefs, dogmatic religiosity calls me an unbeliever. My mixture
of values and reality honors humanity without the structured
dogma of organized religion. This does not equate God and Santa
Claus. I study the classifications separately: traditional
religion, myth, and human future godhood (article 52), applying appropriate tools in each area.
Is imagination true? Another
classification is fantasy, much of which is not true yet.
From Buck Rogers to the jet engine to the lunar landing module,
there is a progression of ideas that the faint-hearted were
unable to believe. These are thoughts with intrinsic value that
are not descriptions of existing things. I am that kind of
This article pleads for calm, rational
thought and action. The opening describes frustration and deadly
hatred. While all too familiar with anger and unkindness, I have
never suffered deadly hatred like that against science or race.
Those who have felt like killing me have always expressed that
thought with forbearance, never with intent. I am blessed with
friends who can talk through their feelings. That’s probably why
I have no enemies.
Here is an important call to action.
Readers value free expression. We are tolerant and peaceful.
We must also be mindful of those who do not believe
us! Even in the political space of polite discussion,
I cannot fight for peace. I must practice it along
with my fellow believers. In doing so, I must relate graciously
to those I see as unbelievers.
After all, we have seen the safety in
unbelief; it keeps us out of the extremes. We remain believers in
invention and unbelievers in dogma.