Friday, May 18, 2012

A slave to doubt

Yesterday I was haunting the clearance section of Half Price Books, as is my custom. While trying to mind my own business and discover a non-fiction treasure sandwiched somewhere within all the dross, I was treated to an escalating debate between two men.

I should point out that although both men were speaking, only the tall, nervous fellow felt it necessary to throw everything but the kitchen sink at the other. The other man merely swatted away the tired old objections with calm and even responses, as he continued, completely unfazed, to peruse various books.

They were 'discussing' religion, or more exactly, the calmer man was fielding the nervous tall man's endless barrage of textbook atheist squawks.

I listened for as long as I could stomach the tall man's petty desire to debunk the existence of God, via the unreliable traditions of religion. At one point, the tall man decided to assert misinformation, e.g. the Bible being written in the Middle Ages. Perhaps he had the Hebrew text confused with the Koran?

"Excuse me," I said, "What about the Dead Sea Scrolls?" I was referring of course to the Biblical texts that were scientifically dated before the existence of Christ, who certainly wasn't walking the roads of Galilee in the Middle Ages.

My observation was of course a mistake, as the tall man immediately pulled out his best possible weapon against the Dead Sea Scrolls, which was that the entire Hebrew scriptures weren't represented in them, and other documents were found that weren't included in the Jewish Canon. Just exactly how this logically leads to the conclusion that the official Hebrew Scriptures are spurious machinations from the Middle Ages, I'm at a loss to appreciate.

At this point, the nervous man's harangue became more shrill, and despite the fact that I hadn't had a chance to fully examine the clearance section, I succinctly announced that I had had enough, and left the area. And lucky me, the nervous man decided to follow me part of the way, eager to make his point to one more ignorant believer. I easily eluded his desperate train wreck, paid for my copy of Shadow Warrior (a game collector's prize indeed), and left the store with very little on my mind but heading to McDonald's.

Those who fancy themselves the sober agents of intelligence often misinterpret a belief in God. Where the nervous man makes his mistake is in why he feels the need to shed light on the 'blind and ignorant.'

The most significant difference between the two men wasn't their respective demeanors or their different points of view; those two items are just a result of being two different human beings. Subjectivity isn't just a cage; it's simultaneously a gift.

The important difference between the two was that the calm man understood that his own belief was grounded on his natural inclination to observe the obvious; that's why his answers to the nervous man were not laced with an urgency to change the nervous man's mind.

The nervous man's point of view was based entirely on doubting the beliefs of others, and he clearly had a strong desire to convince the calm man that believing in God is the product of ignorance.

Truly, the person the nervous man was trying to convince the most was himself.