“We love the truth, but we love our fantasies even more,” might well be man’s epitaph. His stubborn refusal to put aside childish beliefs will probably be the death of him. Ours is the Age of anti-Reason, whose logical endpoint, barring a second renaissance, is destruction.
Two thousand years of Christianity have been based on a lie, in which countless millions have blithely and willingly believed, notwithstanding its absurdity—in fact, because of its absurdity, as Tertullian proclaimed:
“The Son of God was born: there is no shame, because it is shameful. And the Son of God died: it is wholly credible, because it is inappropriate. And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible.”
He might have added: “and because something perverse in us makes us want to believe nonsense.”
In our time, Christianity of the woolly Anglican kind is waning, but in its most blatantly irrational fundamentalist form is resurgent. The revelation in her newly-released letters that Mother Teresa felt she was praying to no one all those years might give some cause for pause, but most will rationalise her misery as a “long dark night of the soul” that just happened to be very, very long. They want to believe what Mother Teresa said she believed. Similarly, Kerry Packer’s testimony, after being dead for 15 minutes, that “there’s nothing there” will never begin to compete with stories of seeing loved ones beckoning from the other end of a shiny white tunnel. The latter is what folk want to believe.
Meanwhile, as noted in earlier extraordinarily popular columns by me, Islamic nonsense is also rampant, furnishing incontrovertible evidence of the link between wishful thinking and the committing of atrocities.
Men in the prime of their youth blast themselves and those around them to bloody oblivion, thinking they’ll wake up in paradise being serviced by beautiful virgins.
The very same western “intelligentsia” that makes excuses for Islamo-Fascism has its own strain of apocalypsia—global warming. Because it wants to believe man will pay for his success and his pride in it.
Same old same-old! In the early 15th Century, the Taborites of Bohemia predicted that Christ would return to earth in February 1420. Believers in the prophecy braced themselves. The month came and went—nothing happened. But the non-event didn’t deter the Taborites. They announced that Christ actually had returned, but had decided to join Elvis in hiding somewhere in Karori. Armed with this knowledge, they embarked on 32 years of civil war against those who disputed it. Not to be outdone, the astrologer Johann Stöffler predicted that catastrophe would rain down on Europe in February 1524.
As the date drew near, mass hysteria took hold, much as it is doing now over global warming. Expecting a huge flood, many people built boats or moved to higher ground. The flood never came. But all over the world, folk carried on believing whatever they wanted to believe.
The Puritans were especially enthused about an imminent apocalypse, notwithstanding Jesus’ singular failure to keep any of his previous appointments, and exported their enthusiasm to America, where it’s had a ready audience ever since.
At the forefront of contemporary wishful thinking are smelly students and their lecturers. Name any current insanity … anti-Americanism, “Mordi” spirituality, New Age mumbo-jumbo, the cult of uncertainty, ugly wimmin’s Studies, deconstructionism, postmodernism, outright nihilism, anthropogenic global warming, MBA courses … you name it, it thrives in academia and was probably spawned there. It has smelly students and lecturers all over it, wanting to believe it because it’s fashionable—and because it’s rubbish.
Am I then stricken with apocalypsia myself, believing that destruction born of stupidity and perversity is inevitable?
Not necessarily. Men have free will, and as one of the greatest men ever, Robert Green Ingersoll wrote, “It is a blessed thing that in every age some one has had the individuality enough and courage enough to stand by his own convictions.”
This was not, note, a license for wishful thinking:
“A fact never went into partnership with a miracle. Truth scorns the assistance of wonders. A fact will fit every other fact in the universe, and that is how you can tell whether it is or is not a fact. A lie will not fit anything except another lie.”
There is probably no one reading this who is not beholden to one or more of the forms of wishful thinking touched on above. But in case there is such a one, and as a challenge to the rest of you, let me close with Ingersoll’s invocation to independent thought, in the hope that you’ll be inspired to break free from mindless conformity to trendy subjectivism:
“Surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought, at least, you are without a chain; that you have the right to explore all heights and depth; that there are no walls nor fences, nor prohibited places, nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought.”