I wrote recently about Lupus Liberalism, an affliction where liberals turn their backs on what they’re supposed to be defending (humanism) by attacking other liberals who are attacking intolerant beliefs.
It’s simpler than it sounds.
Anyway, this got me thinking about applying that same concept to other beliefs, including beliefs that I have and that I care a lot about.
Like free will.
I’m a free will skeptic, which means I don’t believe it exists. Or at least, not the kind people think they have. And the natural position for most free will skeptics is to advocate that more people “wake up”, and that life will be better when they do.
I generally believe this to be true, but this Lupus Liberalism has given me a new perspective.
Just as Lupus Liberals take their eyes off the ultimate goal of humanism when they attack liberals who are protecting it, many free will skeptics might be taking their eye off the ball as well (also humanism) when they promote absolute truth with regard to free will.
I went through this with religion and atheism a number of years ago.
Here’s the knight’s move:
- Much of religion is harmful
- Therefore all religion is bad
- Therefore we should ridicule religion whenever we can
- Therefore we should ridicule religious people for being so gullible whenever we can
And that describes most atheist groups. They’re angry. They’re super upset that people can be so tricked by obvious fantasy. And their response is to be a dick. To attack. To try to tear things down.
So here’s the question: who’s that helping?
What’s the goal exactly?
If you ask such a person they’ll tell you they’re secular humanists. Oh, really? So you like making people happy?
So why would you walk up to a confused person and tell them their life is based on lies and that they’re dumb for believing it? Being as smart as you are, does that sound like a good way to improve someone’s life?
Well, they need to hear the truth.
No, not like that they don’t. Grow the fuck up. If you’re a 19-year-old atheist in college doing this, fine, but if you’re in your thirties and fourties running around telling people they believe in fairytales you’re just an asshole.
Anyway, short rant against militant atheism. Truth is they’re just confused as well, and plus they’re not really responsible anyway, are they?
The common thread
So here’s the unifying theme.
Skeptics, liberals, free-thinkers, and many other do-gooder types are stepping off the same cliff: The goal is always humanism, and yet people are so comfortable taking their favorite pet issue and turning it into a weapon.
You’re going to bring the truth of religion being a fantasy to someone? You’re going to crush them? Probably not. You’ll probably just make them hate you, and become more religious. Especially if you’re a dick about it, which you probably will be.
You’re going to tell someone there is no free will? Well they’re currently mourning their daughter being killed by a drunk driver, and they’re spending all their nights campaigning against DUIs. So you’re going to tell them it wasn’t the guy’s fault, and that she was just stardust? Have some fucking respect.
Keep your eye on the ball. Improving. People’s. Lives.
Studies have shown that taking people and convincing them that free will doesn’t exist makes them behave poorly. I have a good explanation for that, which I believe to be 100% true. But it doesn’t change the results of the experiment, does it?
So what’s the answer? Just let people think what they want, and never break the snowglobe?
No. That’s dumb. And it doesn’t work. The entire Middle East is on fire. Why? Because the Sunni hate the Shia. The Syrian war, Iran vs. Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Yemen—all of it. It’s largely sectarian conflict within a religion that has zero basis in reality.
It’s a long-term human sickness that we must rid ourselves of. Islam. Christianity. All of it. People believing really strange things that aren’t real leads to them doing really bad things that are real.
But we have to be smart about it. And we have to keep humanism (even Secular Humanism) as the centerpiece in all our actions.
This is the Lupus Liberalism point: there isn’t some thing called TRUTH that outweighs human experience. You don’t shatter someone’s world and ridicule them, and give them nothing in return, and then say to yourself, “Well, at least they know the truth.”
That’s not humanism.
These things take time. Education. Elimination of poverty. Education. Raising the standard of living. Education.
This is what produces progress.
And it could be that in some cases we need to just tell people they’re nuts. Maybe things get so bad somewhere that we just have to take the guns away and tell them what they’re fighting for isn’t real. Maybe that’s something that will need to happen.
But these things need to be weighed. Considered. Studied. Understood. Planned.
Free will is an illusion, there is no intrinsic meaning in the universe, and the gods worshiped by billions on planet Earth are not real.
This truth is medicine, and this truth is poison.
It is incumbent on those of us who are awake to realize the difference based on the patient. Some societies need more free will skepticism, applied intelligently, so that they can tone down their concepts of retributive punishment and manifest destiny.
Other groups are not ready for any of this truth yet. And still others already know it to the extent that to push it any more would make them unhappy.
If that sounds confusing, it’s because it is. But when it comes time to apply truth, don’t think about your favorite argument, or your favorite counterpoint, or your favorite way to win.
Think about humanism. Think about how to improve the life of the person you’re talking to. To do anything else is to miss the point.