America’s Addiction to Belief Published in The Humanist

I landed the cover story of The Humanist’s July issue, and it’s probably about someone you know.

“America’s Addiction to Belief” is about how modern culture prizes belief on par with fact. It doesn’t make sense that this should be the case in our so-called Information Age, does it?

From the article:

“It is a culture that thrives on the false principle that “all opinions are equal,” even those without a shred of factual data, documentation, or reasoned methodology. It is a culture where 20 percent of the American people believe NASA faked the Apollo moon landings, and where half the population believes the world was made in six days…

The reality is that the world we live in is irrelevant to belief. For example, I don’t believe that there are fish in the sea. Rather, I have seen the evidence for fish in the sea and accept that evidence. I have seen documentaries on fish and have visited aquariums, have gone fishing, caught fish, fried fish, and eaten fish. It’s not an issue of belief.”

 

The argument can be made that there is clearly something about the way our brains our wired that makes blind belief so attractive. And the antidote, we might assume, is for our so-called Information Age to gradually introduce facts and critical inquiry so that, over time, we become a more rational species.

Except I don’t see that happening. And I blame the Internet.

No, I’m not becoming a Luddite, but neither do I believe that every technological innovation is necessarily a good thing. The Internet which connects us and makes life so convenient appears to be changing our society and even the way we approach reality in ways that are, actually, rather grim. Political discourse has degenerated since the advent of the web. Harassment has reached new levels. Internet rage mobs go nuclear at the slightest provocation. Far from being the silver bullet that slays blind belief,  the Internet is a fertile ground for conspiracy theories of all stripes to take root and flower.

Increasingly, it seems that the world wide web will not be the crucible through which we evolve, but the final invention of the Krell which unleashes the monsters from our collective Id.

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