Wednesday, March 23, 2005

 

Not-belief

In the beginning of Jennifer Hecht's delightful book Doubt: A History, there's a brief quiz readers can use to gauge themselves on the scale of belief and doubt. I scored as a "hardcore" atheist.

Funny, but I've never considered myself an "atheist" at all. Belief in a thing is one thing, but not-belief is not a proper subject for belief! How can somebody reasonably define themselves in terms of something they don't think exists?

Let's put it this way. I don't believe in mole people who live in cities a mile underground, or a population of fire-people living on the surface of the sun. Let's designate "people who believe in mole-people" as "moleists" and "people who believe in sun-people" as "sunists." According to those definitions, I'm both an amoleist and an asunist. (Aren't you? I hope you are.) But I would never define myself according to those things.

Being an amoleist, you see, is not much of a thing to be. It is not a proper peg upon which to hang one's hat. It doesn't make much of an introduction: you wouldn't shake a stranger's hand and say, "Hi, my name's Mike, and I'm an amoleist. So, where do you stand on mole-people?"

I would assume that most people, rather than proudly identifying themselves as amoleists, simply never think about mole people, because there is no evidence for any such thing, and the idea violates science, probability, and logic, and is completely preposterous.

And so there you are.



The Quotidian Meander


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