Convert me.

These videos are great, very succinct. These are the kind of reasonable examples of proof that the faithful can never seem to offer to someone who doubts the reality of their claims. These videos also get their points across in a fairly devastating way without being the least bit condescending or confrontational.

There are several responses to these clips on YouTube. One I saw yesterday (and couldn’t find when I went back today, so I didn’t link to it) was someone offering as “proof” of their belief, the story of how their faith helped them through a rough breakup. The story was sad: how the girl had destroyed the guy’s world, how his discovery of religion propped him up, and how it must be true because of that. It reminded me of a friend of mine who has become aggressively religious over the years, seemingly for similar reasons.

I get it: I’ve been through a couple hard breakups in my life, and there were movies and albums and books that helped me get through the pain & disorientation. Those things will always have a significance to me because of it. But here’s the difference: I don’t make the leap that those things have a special meaning beyond the important role they played in my life. There is no “cosmic” meaning to them, in other words. These were the things available to me at the time, and if it hadn’t been them, it would have been something else. Being removed from the emotional turmoil, it’s possible to seperate the artistic value of them from their emotional relevance to me (i.e. I can accept that, for instance, the first few Kevin Smith movies hold a lot of emotional significance to me, while at the same time accepting that most of his movies really aren’t all that good).

It’s kind of hard for me to see how people make that greater leap, especially in things that involve not only maintaining a constant positive appraisal of the quality of the thing that helped them through rough times, but in the reality of it against evidence to the contrary. It’d be like thinking that to appreciate Star Wars, you had to believe that it is a portrayal of real events. Or better yet, having to believe in the reality of Santa Claus to get any enjoyment out of Christmas. I think for people in these situations, it mostly revolves around a sense of loyalty. Swearing off the thing that helped you is seen as a betrayal to the effect that it had on your life. It’d be like stabbing a friend in the back.

The sad part is that, in effect, it’s a way of never moving on. People cling to a lot of ultimately foolish things for these reasons. Watching that video response, I ended up feeling really sad for the guy that made it, when I’m sure it was his intent to present an uplifting portrayal of his faith. People so often confuse the emotional attachment to friends and family and good times in their life to some belief or item that has no real bearing on the situation. Be it a lucky shirt, a teddy bear, or the Bible, a false meaning and significance is attached to the idea or item. And once the heart starts talking, it’s nearly impossible for the head to get a word in edgewise.

I think that’s why the skeptical message is so hard to swallow for so many people. It’s not the belief in the supernatural/metaphysical that people really care about; it’s the emotional baggage that is attached to it. Understanding that all of the things that one really cares about – loved ones and cherished memories and sense of community – will still be there even if the thing they’ve pinned those things on is gone is the message that reasonable people need to get across clearly. Those are the things that actually matter in this life, and no decent person would ever want to take them away from someone. I just wish that people held less certainty about the things that they believe, especially when those beliefs have (as most religions do) very stupid and hateful ideas entangled with them.

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