Trigger warning: suicidal ideation
So this may come as a shock to all of you but I am in fact a human being and not a robot. Because of this fact, there are certain things that I mess up on, have emotions about, and respond to in biased and sometimes irrational ways. There have been a number of people who have been pushing my buttons lately, and I apologize to people that I went off on, but there is something that I need to address, which I will try to do in a series of posts today and possibly into tomorrow to explain my reaction to a particular mindset.
This is the mindset that truth is all important and that we must never ever let ourselves be irrational or think things without evidence. I think this can be a toxic mindset for a number of reasons. The first I’m going to introduce in this post is extremely personal, and so I may end up disabling comments on this post if things get out of hand at all. This is not meant to be much by way of an argument, it is not meant to be rooted in any deep or intellectual philosophy. It is rooted strictly in my personal experience and what I perceive to be the experiences of others.
So last night after feeling frustrated about this mindset for some time, I finally realized something and I sat down and wrote this:
The temporary suspension of the need for evidence is so important to me right now that it feels like a punch in the gut when someone tells me I should always look for evidence and only believe based on evidence. Right now, I have suspended judgment on something very important: whether or not I deserve to live. I don’t think the evidence points in life’s favor, but I have decided to trust those around me when they say I do deserve it, and take it on faith for now because it’s an incredibly important conclusion and because I know that others believe I’m wrong.
I don’t have enough evidence yet, and I don’t know how to get enough evidence to prove to myself that I deserve life. I’m trying to have faith in the people who tell me that they have enough evidence, or that they can interpret the available evidence in a way that’s better than what I can do.
When someone tells me that all faith is wishful thinking, I can’t help but hear “You deserve to die and anything else is wishful thinking”.
You may not like the language of faith, but sometimes we need to recognize when we are not in a position to survey the evidence, and on occasion we might need to abdicate that responsibility to others for a while. I know that my brain cannot accurately survey the evidence around me right now, and so for the moment I am asking others to do it for me. That is faith for me. It’s trust. It’s why I’m alive, and it is far from irrational. On the contrary, it’s the best kind of rationality I can muster when my brain refuses rationality.
After writing this, I am certain that I’m not the only one who has to sometimes abdicate rationality to others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels like sometimes the only way to get through my life is to trust someone else when they say something kind, even when you firmly believe it’s not true. While I strive for rationality as an ideal, we are all human beings, and we all have emotions and difficulties that make pure rationality impossible, and sometimes harmful. Sometimes the most rational thing we can do is recognize our emotions and then trust others to help us see around them. I see that as a form of faith, and I think that it’s beautiful. If you have a problem with the word faith, then just replace it with trust, and I think it’s just as wonderful. We can’t always know the evidence for everything. We can’t always see it correctly or interpret it correctly. Oftentimes our brains or our senses work against us. We need help. We need to rely on each other to see the world as correctly as possible. This intersubjectivity is the faith that I believe atheists need.