Fear of the Void

The void must be a very scary thing to many, if not most, people.  As far as I can see, people believe in god because they’re afraid of the gaps in human knowledge.  They feel a need to fill in these gaps and that’s where god comes in handy.  Everything is defined and can be traced back to a source, even if it, itself, is undefinable.

I had a phone conversation with a family member a while back that turned into a discussion about religion, god, and society.  We disagreed, so maybe debate would be a better word.  She seemed to rely on the fact that I didn’t have all the answers as proof that her belief was justified and, therefore, that our society should be founded in religious principles.

At one point, I had her cornered.  She had no response and, suddenly, there was real panic and fear in her voice as she started accusing me of some violation of the rules or principles of debate, then found an excuse to end the conversation and hang up.  I realized that she didn’t just want to believe she was right.  For some reason, she needed to.

I don’t understand this fear.  I accept that there’s a lot we don’t know.  I even accept that what we know is dwarfed by what we don’t know.  I’m OK with saying, “I don’t know”.  It’s a perfectly valid, and honest, answer.  We gradually fill in the knowledge gap, or void, with facts as we expand our knowledge.

But that’s not fast enough or good enough for some people.  They want a complete package now.  And, if any facts threaten their complete, but false, universe, they reject them – often vociferously.  They seem to think the world will fall apart without one.  Some, who have been misled or lied to and then realize it, do have or let their worlds fall apart, sometimes with tragic consequences.

Even some people who reject god and religion continue their pursuit of perfection.  They need a perfect system or philosophy to replace the old one they discovered wasn’t perfect, or even real.  They need an irrefutable core that everything else can be traced back to.

But we are imperfect people in an imperfect world.  We do the best we can for ourselves and to balance our own needs with those of society.  We try to interact with others in a way that is as mutually agreeable as possible.

Maybe we will find a perfect philosophy or system one day.  Maybe not.  Until then, we have to accept our imperfection and make do with what we do know.  We should not accept a false system of belief that offers misleading perfection, or an illusory perfect world view.

A society based on lies will eventually come crashing down.  Better to bring about a soft landing than to delay the inevitable crash by trying to hold up the sky.

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9 Responses to “Fear of the Void”

  1. Harrison Says:

    I completely agree that anything based on lies must eventually fail, however I see that everything is absolutely perfect in the world. To see things as imperfect is to see from a limited perspective, and that is the place from where belief begins and the trouble starts.

  2. paulmct Says:

    The imperfect world I was referring to was the one of our making – not the natural one, if that’s what you’re referring to.

    Thanks for reading and commenting.

  3. C. Fraser Says:

    “As far as I can see, people believe in god because they’re afraid of the gaps in human knowledge.”

    That’s probably true for many people, possibly most, but not all. I don’t know what God is, or I prefer the Tao, but it’s all just words, but I pursue and philosophize about IT because, quite frankly, it’s the most interesting question to pursue. It’s the same reason cosmologists study the universe. What point is there to that?

  4. paulmct Says:

    I don’t have a problem with people philosophizing or speculating on the nature and origins of the universe. Cosmologists studying the universe are gradually filling in the void with real information and facts.

    The people pursuing a perfect philosophy to replace religion and god still need a moral centre, a source for morals and laws. They want a neatly packaged system like religion that isn’t religion. I’ve referred to the fact that most people will probably need a neatly pakaged replacement system like that for them to go along with it, in a post – ‘Self-Serving Faith’ – a couple weeks ago.

    I have seen criticism, by people who have lost their faith, of atheists for not having all the answers. They want answers now. There’s nothing wrong with answers, of course, if you find real ones. But, if you don’t have them all, you do what you can with what facts are available.

    I don’t really have a problem with spiritual people. They may believe in a god or energy of some kind, but they don’t push dogma and religion. Quiet contemplation or meditation is usually enough for them.

  5. C. Fraser Says:

    Absolutely, your last paragraph is perfect. I have a problem with fundamentalists of all creeds who are ignorant to anything but their own bullshit.

    It’s all about the search and personal growth. Most religions have a core of similarity with a gloss of myth that tries to lead people to some kind of ‘truth’.
    Discovering ‘faith’ on your own terms is much more satisfying than having someone read to you from a book of stories.

    I find it amusing that Christians are absolute in their belief of the phantastical life of Jesus, and without blinking an eye accuse other religions of being false in their own stories.

  6. notabarbie Says:

    I found you through d-C and love your stuff. It’s very insightful.
    You said, “I’m OK with saying I don’t know.” That comment might seem so benign, but having come from a fundamentalist Christian background, being able to say I don’t know and mean it, is the most freeing thing for me. Well, that and realizing that there really isn’t a god that knows everything thought that goes through my mind :-)

    There were many things I enjoyed about your post. That was just one thing that stood out to me.

  7. paulmct Says:

    Thanks, notabarbie. Am I blushing? Oh my, now I have standards I have to live up to – a fan I can’t disappoint. I don’t know if I can handle it. I better check myself into rehab…

    Seriously, being able to let go is so important. So simple yet so hard. But, you are allowed.

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. Self-Serving Faith « Bloggin’ Off Says:

    […] imperfect.  It’s convenience over quality.  A replacement system will probably have to be neatly packaged and easily consumable for them to go along with […]

  9. the chaplain Says:

    Thanks for a great post.

    Harrison said: I see that everything is absolutely perfect in the world, a statement with which I respectfully disagree. There is much beauty in the world, but I can’t see perfection in a world in which significant numbers of living beings are born with deformities, in which predators eat their prey, often while they’re still alive and so on. The world is what it is. Perfection and imperfection are values that humans assign to the qualities and relationships that exist in the world.

    I agree with notabarbie’s statement that being able to say I don’t know and mean it, is the most freeing thing for me.

    I’d rather admit humblythat there are limits to my knowledge than grovel humiliatingly at the feet of a capricious creator.

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