Humans love proof. We look for it in everything, and do this without consciously thinking about it.
If you find an out of place object, you will look for where it came from, even if you only have the time to glance at your surroundings. We all have a natural urge to seek the truth, we just generally suck at it.
If you’ve been in school at some point, you may have been told, ‘your senses lie to you’. This is true, our body fills in the gaps, throws out guesstimates, and does whatever it must to get the job done. You are a decaying ball of complicated meat-stuff, it just wants to keep running and maybe have a baby or ten, it is easy to placate.
Our personalities, as strange as they are, can be harder to please. When you see something move in the dark, your brain may say ‘Shadow, probably from car lights, back to sleep’, but when you stop and think about it, you aren’t quite pleased with that answer. You don’t have all the facts, and without those facts, anything is possible.
Short of Cthulhu hanging over your bed, tentacle mouth gaping and ready, you have no idea what is creeping just outside of your perception. So when you ‘verify’ every little fact, don’t feel odd. You ask your friend if you really have a certain personality, you ask if someone else saw that, and you ask if others liked this and that. We want to know, to make sure that what we are seeing is functional, that we aren’t going to blink and find ourselves in some nightmarescape with Michael Keaton’s Beatlejuice.
I mention this because atheists will frequently run into a situation where they ask for evidence, only to receive what is to them not evidence at all. When you are in a conversation with a theist and you ask for proof, any, that could prove the existence of a god, the things you will receive back are often emotional, anecdotal, or inspirational.
An example, stories of nefarious creatures, instances of divine decision making, or happenings that are unlikely but bring great joy/relief. The obvious response to this is ‘ARE YOU ****ING KIDDING ME?!’ but it often gets communicated as, ‘that isn’t satisfactory evidence, that is anecdotal’.
Here is the rub, my brothers and sisters in atheism, this is evidence for the religious. Not in general, and this blanketous generalization cannot nearly cover their girth, but the point still stands.
Take a look from the other side. Imagine that you have been instructed in the past that a great sense of joy means bacon is nearby. You ignore this at first, but then once while having fun at a party someone sets in front of you a sizzling plate of bacon. A memory clicks in your brain, and you confirm with your gut, you were feeling a deep sense of joy just before that bacon got there. Holy pigbits, there could be something to this baconsense. So you keep it in the back of your mind, but each time bacon is presented to you, you try to confirm if there was or was not a baconsense episode immediately before.
Then the opposite happens, you feel a great sense of joy, but cannot confirm or deny that bacon is in the vicinity. How far does your baconsense go anyway? Maybe there is bacon in the next room, or maybe someone down the street has bacon.
You meet a stranger, you feel that well of pork-power deep inside you, and you have to ask him, “Sir? Have you eaten bacon today?”
He looks at you like you are a maniac, but he confirms he has. “How did you know?”
“I could sense the bacon within you.”
Is it wrong to believe in baconsense in this case? Well, yes. If you looked at it all closely, you could find the faults in your boarish imaginings. Confirmation bias is the easy one, you only think about your baconsense when you are feeling good and there is bacon, but ignore all cases of painbacon. You also ignore all other possibilities to explain your joy, or the obvious answers to why joy and bacon are connected, like the fact that you just like bacon. We could go deeper, like Freudian Inception, the layers of this pork rind go deep.
But if you didn’t know about social conditioning, confirmation bias, or even the deeper psychological and sociological systems at work on a human on a daily basis, it isn’t insane to go with the evidence and accept bacon as your personal joy-bringer.
So what can be done? How do we get people to drop the bacon, I mean drop the gods. The answer isn’t simple, and if you thought a blanket wouldn’t fit above then you haven’t imagined just how fat this problem is.
If you ask me, the first step is, like always, education. Once you know what is packed inside your bacon, you might have different feelings when you take that first bite.