Yesterday was a very long day for me, but a good day. Worked all day, ran home, grabbed the ole’ upright bass, and took off to a friend of mine’s place to jam for the first time with him and a couple of other people. For the most part, it was a really fun day. But at one point while we were having a break, the topic of my atheism came up. The one person in the room I didn’t particularly know that well gets that wry grin of the smarmy believer, and immediately engages.
I don’t honestly care what people believe. Well, that’s not entirely true. I wish that people believed things that made sense, but if they choose not to, that’s totally their opinion. But this was annoying. He started by saying he “used” to be an atheist, but he decided to accept God as love because it was the positive thing to do. No, that’s what he said. He said as an optimist, he felt that it was the right thing to do, and that by believing not in a particular creator, but in something, he was clearly more optimistic than me.
I bit my tongue on that one. I’ve always been a fan of how Leonard Cohen put things. “I don’t consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain. And I feel soaked to the skin.” I’m definitely a realist. But the implication that somehow someone could be a better optimist by blindly accepting that a bundle of ethereal love created everything? Yeah, that’s realism.
He continued, telling me that *gasp* we only use ten percent of our brains! What if the other 90% was God? I was losing interest quickly. We don’t only use ten percent of our brains. That’s a total crock. Anyone who truly believes that needs to volunteer to sit through a brain surgery where they remove 90% of the brain. Hell, I’d even drop that down to 50%, and allow them the luxury of an MRI where we carefully map out the position of the brain cells of the first 10% of the brain that is used during that MRI to ensure that we don’t touch any of it. Or maybe, before we start cutting into your brain, you should consider reading this article from Scientific American entitled Do We Really Use Only 10 Percent Of Our Brains? Or, if you don’t like big words, read the Snopes entry.
But the real question isn’t how much of the brain we use, it’s why on earth anyone would immediately make the leap that any unused brain cells are actually God. That makes no sense. I could just as easily say that the planet uses only 47 percent of it’s available meat pies, and the other 53 percent might be God. It’s a ludicrous statement, and proof that the person you are talking to has sat around stoned with his friends on more than a few nights and is pretty sure he’s deep and mysterious. Oh, and I guess the increased population of the earth means that God continues to grow! But what if we had a massive plague and lost 80% of the population? Would God suddenly shrink? Would his powers wane? Would Satan, who is not tied physically to the gray matter of anyone, suddenly be more powerful? OMG!
Oh, and speaking of which, according to this guy “the greatest mystery God ever did was to keep the mystery of the question.” Now, that didn’t make any sense, but what he meant was that God did us a solid by not proving he exists, but by always leaving the question open. Of course, the question is always open so long as there are feeble minds in the world who could imagine that God is a collective of unused mind/brain. These are the people who think Deepak Chopra has a lot to offer, and though they’ll never read his books, they’ll quote him fondly.
I’m a polite person, and eventually I stopped engaging in the conversation. This was more than a lost cause, it was frighteningly embarassing listening to him talk. He kept on about love and positivity and optimism with the clear underlying theme taht he was better at all those things than me because he had an imaginary friend. He talked for another ten minutes at least after I stopped speaking, and eventually he petered out and we went back to jamming. I was still annoyed for a good couple of hours, though. I hate it when people have no basis for their opinions but think you should agree with them implicitly. I hate when people with no understanding of logic and reason tell me they have a logical and reasonable world view. I hate when people run away with their idiot hippie mind-droppings and assume it makes them interesting and smart. But I think what really annoys me is that this man’s vote counts the same as mine. It’s an imperfect system.
Oh, and to point you in the direction of something interesting that isn’t just my foam-at-the-mouth rant about last night, Steven Novella has another great article up at Neurologica entitled Spirituality In The Brain. I find his writing always very engaging and well thought out (unlike my hate-filled diatribes on the irritating people I am forced to listen to), and this one is on the experiences of people who have had brain tumors removed, and what impact that has had on religious belief. It’s a tricky issue, but a good read.