November 2, 2012 2 Comments
“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”
There are a lot of sayings out there. Some are genuinely wise, others are merely fluff coated in wise sounding words. Deepities, I believe the word is.
Since becoming a skeptic I’ve become accustomed to analysing these types of quotes at a much deeper level than I used to and sadly I’ve discovered a lot of them fall into the deepities category rather than actual wisdom.
But, it’s always nice when these sound bites do actually show a great deal of wisdom. Even nicer when it comes from someone who a great deal of people admire, as it’s incredibly frustrating when spiritual leaders give dodgy advice and people just suck it up without question.
This sentiment leads us beautifully back to the original quote. It’s a rather common one, so maybe you’ve heard it. This is one from the Buddha. Like all the spiritual leaders over the generations, Buddha had some sayings that were rubbish and would classify as deepities, but what’s great about this particular saying is that it encourages people to disregard dodgy sayings, even if the Buddha himself said it.
‘Believe nothing…unless it agrees with your own reason and…common sense’. Very clever words to live by. Or more to the point, be skeptical with. Far too often I see people accepting things that clearly don’t make sense to them, yet they take it on as wisdom either because it’s part of the larger belief system (whether religious or not) or because it’s easier than questioning it further.
Actually if I’m going to be completely honest I have to admit I really don’t know why people accept these things. It’s something I can’t wrap my head around and therefore can’t understand or sympathise with. Perhaps if some readers accept some of the following examples you could try explaining it to me?
The easiest example to jump to is the phrase “God works in mysterious ways”. Frankly that’s not an answer. It’s a non-answer. Which basically means it’s a statement that sounds good, but adds no new information to the question. ‘Yes I know it’s mysterious, that’s why I asked!’ The main issue I have with this non-answer is that far from going against reason and common sense, it asks you to put both aside and accept things anyway. This should instantly set off alarm bells. If you’re being asked to put your common sense and reason aside there’s a very good chance the actual answer will not fulfill either.
The other example that instantly comes to mind (and forgive me for once again picking on Christianity, it’s just the religion I’m most familiar with) is the concept of the Holy Trinity. Since it’s introduction into Catholic doctrine in C.E. 381 at the Nicene Council, no one has every been able to explain it in a clear and distinct way. The idea that three people/deities can be the same individual whilst maintaining their independence is quite out there. Water/ice/steam has been offered up as a metaphor. An egg, including shell, white and yolk has also be considered. But at the atomic level the former is either water, ice or steam at any given moment, not all three. And the later three components can all exist independent of one another.
I’d prefer not to have this turn into a post about understanding the Holy Trinity (although feel free to go nuts in the comments), as frankly I don’t think anyone does. My point is that despite many great minds trying to puzzle this idea out, no one really has. Certainly not to my satisfaction anyway, and I’d warrant that anyone who really stopped and thought about it would honestly feel the same way. But at that point it often gets palmed off into the previous example of simply being mysterious and not for us to understand…at least not yet.
And this again brings us back to the original quote. If it doesn’t make sense, maybe it’s not that it’s incredibly complicated, or beyond human understanding or supposed to be a mystery. Maybe it just doesn’t make sense?
So I ask you, if you have a believe or opinion or even a piece of information that doesn’t entirely make sense to you, don’t just accept it and put it to one side. Pick it up again and analyse it. Tear it apart and then see if it even can go back together.
For me the big one is ‘something or nothing’. Is it possible our universe could have come from nothing? Or is it possible the universe has always existed in some form or another. I don’t have a good answer, nor does it make a great deal of sense to me. So I don’t believe it. However my journey doesn’t end there, as apparently some people claim they do understand it and I feel it’s my job as an honest thinker to try to find these answers, assuming they exist at all.
– Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.