American Parser

Standing In The Gap Of The Real And Perceived

Believe Me, Don’t Believe Me — The Duplicity Of Existentialism


A bible from 1859.

Image via Wikipedia

As usual, Jim Palmer’s Facebook page has been a great place for provocative conversation lately. Jim also has a blog at www.divinenobodies.com, if you’re interested.

Mr. Bill Lamond, a personal coach and retired psychotherapist, and I are having an interesting conversation about why we believe what we believe. He’s a smart guy, and the conversation is interesting, to say the least. Feel free to join in with your own thoughts!

These are those of Mr. Lamond in our conversation:

“It is a well-known fact that people over several Church Councils over several centuries decided what to put into the Bible. That’s not the main thing, though. THE ONE AND ONLY WAY THAT A HUMAN BEING CAN SAY THAT SOMETHING IS TRUE IS TO HAVE THE EXPERIENCE OF IT. To believe the Bible or anything else and not have the direct experience of it as YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE IN YOUR BODY AND EMOTION, is a complete experiential lie. As a “god” in your own creation of personal reality, you have to look into every single thing that the Bible or any other book or system says and see if it’s your actual experience. If it’s not, it is not, by experiential criteria, true for you. And Christ, the millions who have been killed by people who “believed” in Jesus without having their own, direct experience of the phenomena he was talking about, and then killed anyone who didn’t agree with them…the Crusades, the Jews in Spain, the endless Christian missionaries who committed cultural genocide in Jesus’ name. If it’s not your direct, i.e. in your BODY AND EMOTIONAL experience, it just isn’t true and believe me, that scares the shit out of true believers and makes them close down even harder and tighter to anything that could threaten their intellectual/mental/ego view of the world.”

Mr. Lamond, thank you for your thoughtful response. You make thinking fun again.

The fact that humans were involved in collecting the writings which orthodox Christianity now calls the Bible does not in itself mean that God didn’t direct the process. I mean, He could have tried goats, I guess, but they lack opposable thumbs.

Now, as you said, the main thing.

It’s a little silly to say that any belief not based on personal experience is a lie, even experientially. First of all, if this were lived out by everyone, no human would ever reach adulthood, including you, Mr. Lamond. It is reasonable and indeed wise to believe some things based on the experience of those who have been where we have not. Secondly, the word “lie” implies intent to deceive, and is a little strong for this context.

Scientific inquiry is based in part on direct experience, and in part on the assumption that the disparate but similar experiences of many can suggest a common truth behind the experience. In fact, accepting as valid the common experience of many others can even save one’s own life apart from having the same experience directly. If those who smoke tobacco, for instance, are statistically known over a century of recorded experience with millions of smokers to be 600% more likely to die of respiratory failure than those who do not smoke tobacco, one would be foolish to assume that statistic to be a lie until he personally tries it out. If you assume that statistic is a lie until you personally experience it and it kills you, what good is that?

Apart from that, personal experience doesn’t always lead one to the truth. You personally perceive as an experience the Sun coming up and going down every day, but you don’t believe your perception of that experience if you BELIEVE those who have studied it more than you have. They would tell you that it’s not the movement of the Sun that you are experiencing, but in fact, it is that of the Earth. That acknowledgment doesn’t mean your experience is a lie. It just means perception doesn’t always lead to the truth.

And the truth is, Mr. Lamond, as with everyone, you function daily on dozens, if not hundreds, of beliefs based on the experiences of others, which you have never explicitly, consciously challenged and examined individually and on your own. And you never will. You’ll just believe. Christians do much the same with their faith as you do with yours. And their conclusions are just as valid. Even in our delusions, we all stand on the shoulders of giants. Welcome.

Emotion is even more dangerous. Mr. Lamond, have you ever even lived with a woman? As a trained psychotherapist, you should be the last person who has to be told that emotions are undependable barometers of truth. Ever met a battered woman who stayed in an abusive relationship because she feared she couldn’t handle life outside of it? A child who feels neglected because he didn’t get his way? A man who languishes in life because he feels worthless? A bigot?

Lastly, if you stick with the idea that life is purely existential, then you have no right to judge the experience of others as valid or invalid. I find it laughable that you could excoriate anything but personal experience as truth and then say in the same sentence, “…believe me…” You’re kidding, right?

Why would anyone hire you as a personal coach if their beginning assumption was yours, that everything is effectively a lie until one personally experiences it? Do you let them validate your advice with their experience before you demand payment?

When a man beats a woman, he might say his motivation is love. What does that say about love? Nothing. Same thing with Jesus. Christ.

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One comment on “Believe Me, Don’t Believe Me — The Duplicity Of Existentialism

  1. robert williams
    January 20, 2012

    I enjoyed the thoughtful discussion of these widely differing viewpoints. I am fortunate to have experienced healing in both body and mind through the spiritfilled prayers of Christians calling on the name of Jesus.I am fortunate to have witnessed healings that defy medical knowledge in others as well. Trust with out seeing is truly hard for modern people, but your discussion does show how this happens all the time anyway. thank you both.

    Like

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This entry was posted on January 14, 2012 by in As For Me And My House and tagged , , , , .

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