Imposing your will upon others

Doubt is to certainty as neurosis is to psychosis. The neurotic is in doubt and has fears about persons and things; the psychotic has convictions and makes claims about them. In short, the neurotic has problems, the psychotic has solutions.

Thomas Szasz


A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead

To see the world clearly as it is, gives rise to a sense of certainty – but true certainty must be affirmed with facts, arrived at from facts and be free from skeptical reserve or personal preference tainting the observed state.

Certainty can be wrongful achieved by seeing only one’s preferred interpretation coupled with strong cognitive dissonance to ignore or dismiss all evidence to the contrary and rightfully achieved by seeing the world as it is when it does not conform to your preferences or expectations. Certainty, when it begins with the conclusion and then seeks facts to support the conclusion, is not certainty, but confirmation bias parading as certainty.

Religion is the most dangerous  example of certainty absent evidence; because it is the sense of certainty that gives not only permission, but the duty to those enthralled to act as if the certainty is irresistible and undeniable truth. It requires them to spread their confirmation bias through the word or the sword, if they are true believers – moderate believers tend towards contentment to keep it to themselves and to live and let live – however, these moderate believers give a social validation to the fundamentalists.

The courage of one’s convictions is a measure of certainty and I am appalled when people are admired for their convictions when these convictions were proven wrong or were dubious claims to begin with. It is not admirable to as if something is certainly true, when it is patently not.

It is curious that the same Americans who stand patriotic, my country right or wrong, are only willing to do so when their “country” is in line with what they think is right, even if it’s proved wrong later such as Bush II and the mythical weapons of mass destruction – because these right wringers are the same people that form the birther/tea bagger movement, who cannot accept that their country voted in a black president – a man the world had endorsed as being the right man for the job – who are basically claiming to stand with their country when they are actually standing against it by undermining their President and their government in partisan games with the global economy at stake while they threaten to take their ball and bat and go home.

Who claim that judges are activates when judges rule within the law and legal precedent because they seek to assert their usually religious beliefs as being above secular law and more often than not, they haven’t bothered to actually understand the secular law of the land, because cognitive dissonance cannot be maintained when faced with contradictory facts and confirmation bias is the process by which we avoid inconvenient facts and truths to maintain our certainty of bias and perception.

Which is why, when a person expresses their certainty with extreme action, such as in Norway this year or 9/11 in 2001 – because Margaret Meed is right, a small group or individual can change the world, and often, small groups and individuals are disaffected and disengaged and seek to impose their certainly about how the world should be through violence – the mainstream then is appalled and cannot reconcile that they share characteristics of the violent terrorists and seek to disown them as not true whatever the common ground is – but the reality is that the people who are so certain of their rightness, of their truth, are the truest of believers and their violent actions serves as evidence of their certainty and belief – total commitment of themselves and lives to advance their beliefs.

How is this meaningfully different than President GW Bush sending American troops to Afghanistan and Iran?

The only substantial difference is that the terrorists tend to doing their own work in support of their ideals while politicians send other people to carry out the business of enforcing their ideals and decisions in support of said ideals. But it’s not a meaningful difference.

To the certain person, everyone who opposes their certainty is expendable for the cause – that we give a mandate to some people of certainty to occupy a position of power  is not meaningfully different than a person who acts without a popular mandate as a lone gunman. Both certain people are costing other people their lives in pursuit of what they are certain about – the consent or lack of consent of those who’s lives are lost, is only problematic for those of us who doubt that anything is worth costing a live or lives for. The loss of life is not a concern for those who are certain of the cause.

We do not always have to await the judgment of history to see disaster in the making, if we look at facts and remove, reduce or account for personal preference and confirmation bias. If we take effort to see the facts on the ground, the situation as it is, understand the historical and current event context – the past explains the present and informs the future.

It seems to me that if a cause is truly just, then it is achievable through peaceful means and within the systems available in society – this is why gays and atheists do not engage in violence to attain legal rights and recognition.

It is only when the cause is not just but is held by fanatical certainty, that the adherents make no headway through legal and peaceful means, which do not and cannot dissuade them of their certainty, that they resort to violence to either force others to accept their convictions or to terrorize people into not opposing them.

Because of this, resistance is never futile – even if all is lost – because dying defending against injustice is a more meaningful death than dying to impose injustice – either are martyrs to their cause, but at least being against injustice is a cause truly worth dying for, and the world needs to unite against injustice and against the violence that would assert injustice to become a world without hate and bigotry – a world truly worth living in.

Certainty in the Uncertain

History is nothing if not documented change – change in cultures, societies, nations – each one having their own take on morals and ethics, religion.

So it is extremely curious to me that current day believers are convinced that there is one true religion that provides a morally absolute framework and that they happened to be born at a time in the world when that one true religion was in fashion and they happened to be born in a region where it was practiced and to parents who were teaching or amenable to it.

It’s like the ultimate version of my deity can beat up your deity.

I don’t see how you can be so certain of a thing like a religious belief and take from it an absolute unchanging morality – when there’s been 10’s of thousands of religions in human history.

How can a believer be certain to have the right and true religion from all the religions that we know about through history, when there’s the same amount of evidence for all of them being real. Which is none at all.
It boggles how a believer can cling with certainty to a belief system that has no basis in logic or evidence to support the claims? What makes them reject all other currently practiced religions in favour of any one?

Usually people remain in the religion that their parents exposed them to. Or at least, its a religion that is dominant in the area were they reside. Safety and more importantly, validation in numbers.

But why accept a currently practiced religion over older ones that are now out of fashion – if there really was a god or deities – wouldn’t they have wanted worship and tribute from the start of there being people?

Isn’t it better to pick none than pick a potentially wrong one?

If there’s an afterlife and some judgement  isn’t it better to say, hey, I couldn’t have known who, so I opted to be a good person, use the brains that I had and live my life.

Instead of well, I though the other guy was the true god, so I worshiped him – and now, you’re kinda…standing there in front of a totally other god – other variation on the one you picked and well…you’re screwed.

Because the one thing that all the deities seem to have in common is jealousy and vindictive pettiness to the point of genocide more often than not.

Which, when you think about it, should indicate that these would not be anything that had anything valid to say about morals or deserving of worship.


footnote to add a link to Tim Cooley’s Atheist blog post

The words Christians Use That Sicken Me

And I include this here because these words and phrases stem from baseless certainty.


this is what I find so funny about believers and their need for certainty

They need to believe that morals are absolute (yet often hold contradictory ideas like abortion bad, euthanasia bad, but death penalty good and sending soldiers to war is good) rather than situational.

They also don’t allow for rule conflict – so lying is bad, even when the lie can spare feelings or save a life.

And isn’t it funny that with the xtians, the 10 commandments are largely about who you can worship and petty emotions like jealousy and envy rather than not raping children?

But I digress

They think religion offers certainty because they think what they believe is the way that their religion has always been – when really, people even 200 years ago would not recognize any of the way religion is done now. And certainly not people of 2000 years ago.  And if Xtians really thought that the length of time a religion has been around is what makes it true, shouldn’t they all be Jewish? Or at least Catholic since that was the last one standing of all the early sects – until it began to splinter again?

but this is the point – if you really want certainty

science is the same no matter where you go on the planet

Sure, it can change and adapt when new data can’t be incorporated into old theories – remember Continental Drift? Replaced in the 1960’s with Global Plate Tectonics because it explained everything that the CD theory did and much more.

But, that’s the nature of science – a continual quest to increase knowledge and better understand the world.

Whereas religion, well, religion is different everywhere. If you randomly picked 5 countries, each would have a different religion dominating it, and even if it’s called the same, it’s practiced differently.

And do you ever wonder why all these people who claim to have had a near death experience always come back and say that they’ve brought a message from the beyond about how we’re supposed to be good to each other – not a one ever has said Religion X is right and all others are wrong – so let’s all be Religion X – no, it’s always them as the new prophet with a website, a book and a video to sell.