Monday, January 11, 2016

The Trouble With Trifles

Like followers of any belief, followers of materialistic naturalism like myself—who may individually prefer a gamut of different labels—often assume that their views deserve to be irresistible to the discerning, the knowledgeable, the modern, the compassionate, and the curious. Nevertheless, this markedly isn't the a long shot. So I've been covering some philosophical/psychological coping ploys which underpin dedication to faith-beliefs. I followed a set for a long time and continue to spend time around others who do.

This entry is about the the ploy of dismissively classifying all the least tenable parts of the faith-beliefs as trifles. Through this quick compromise, a follower can feel reassured in choosing to ignore the status of those parts. Plus it eases their thinking. If those parts just don't matter, then they don't even need to try to subscribe to those parts "by faith" or to reconcile those parts to conflicting information from a multitude of other sources. Provided a part can be minimized as "small stuff" and set aside, a ludicrous level of probable inaccuracy isn't a fatal blow. Meanwhile, by default the remaining parts represent treasures of precious, immutable claims about the follower's realities. The ploy's total effect resembles chess players sacrificing pawns to block threats to the valuable queen and king.

Eventually, I ceased to be satisfied by this. Trifles caused five troubles. First, undercutting the credibility of so many parts, no matter how minor, inevitably degrades the credibility of the whole too. When a source is inaccurate about a string of details, the recipient has compelling reasons to be leery toward whatever the source communicates. Although it's very possible for a source to mix falsities or exaggerations with truths, such a source doesn't command complete trust. Violations of trust sap faith.

Second, faith-beliefs' associated traditions, rituals, creative works, and mandates gravitate to the treasures classification. By nature everybody changes actions less readily than thoughts. Pretexts for maintaining old, comforting habits are gladly welcomed. Yet downgrading those actions' supportive beliefs to trifles tarnishes these actions' basis and symbolism, which after all are intended to parallel definite (albeit otherworldly) realities. Followers vary greatly according to how much they're bothered by this. Personally, the more that I abandoned facets as fallacious trifles, the more foolish and pointless the actions felt to me. Singing about the role of divine intervention in a plentiful harvest sticks out as superfluous in an advanced age of agricultural science.

Third, due to discarding the vexing trifles, the treasures offer a medley of increasingly disconnected pieces. The formerly integrated set of faith-beliefs dissolves into a patchy assortment. And the boundaries between the isolated treasures and the beliefs that don't require faith seem more like troublesome cracks. If the belief in the spectral human soul is one of the treasures, but almost all body phenomena operate without regard to spectral stuff, then the precise relationship between each soul and its human poses a puzzle.

Fourth, the subsequent pile of trifles keeps growing. Accurate ideas are co-dependent dominoes. Replacing a trifle with a single corroborated statement spurs the replacement of other trifles with the statements that are interwoven to the first. Additionally, the growing pile contrasts with the strange self-contained aloofness of the faith-beliefs which are left. The follower is driven to legitimize—to themselves if not to their peers—the metaphorical "moat" that encircles treasures though never trifles. Like in the third trouble, if A/B/C/D were all closely linked faith-beliefs, and A/B/C ended up one by one as mere trifles surrendered in the face of external contradictions, then treasured D's lone immunity to those same contradictions calls for an explanation.

Fifth, an unwanted side-effect ensues: the treasures dilute and leave lighter impressions. The proverbial introductory phrase "one thing I know for sure" doesn't inspire enthusiasm in potential converts. Treasures that furnish so little meaningfulness, and so few distinctions in practice, act like thin layers to add on to a number of views, as opposed to firm, all-encompassing standpoints. A second consequence is the blurring of divisions within the brackets of faith-beliefs. (Followers might judge that to be an asset or a penalty depending on their mentality.) The shorter the list of essential beliefs dwindles, the less necessary the conventional partitions are. And along with that development is, once again, diminished authoritativeness of the forebears who first instituted the partitions.

To reiterate, these five troubles are clues, not irrefutable proofs, of the inadequacy of reclassifying disrupted faith-beliefs as trifles. Finally quitting the ploy is voluntary. It's voluntary to admit that the ploy is a ploy. These choices can't be forced on them by anyone else. Sure, everyone says that they want to follow the trail toward the most authentic ideas. But they neglect to mention that they'll leave the trail at the moment it stops heading in the direction of their preconceptions—pardon, their "inner compass".

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