This is my second most recent tee-shirt purchase (the first one is tomorrow’s shirt), which I bought on the internet here. It’s basically a picture representation of a philosophical theory regarding religion, called Russell’s Teapot, made by 20th century philosopher Bertrand Russel in 1952.
Here is the actual text from an article Russel wrote that explains this theory (Wikipedia calls it an analogy):
“If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time.”
At the surface, this seems like a pretty blatant jab at organized religion. Well, ok, it kind of is. But if you look deeper, there’s a bit more to it that maybe Mr. Russell, a proclaimed atheist, didn’t necessarily consider.
See, what I get out of this theory is that you shouldn’t believe in something simply because you can’t disprove it. That’s one big problem I have with a lot (but not all) of religious people. They try to tell me that since I can’t disprove God (which, of course, I can’t) then I might as well believe, because I have everything to gain if there is one. If it turns out that there isn’t one, no harm is done.
That’s basically just Pascal’s Wager, which is another philosophical thingy from a french philosopher (who wikipedia didn’t have a date for) called Blaise Pascal. But that’s a whole different issue that I can argue about.
Anyways, where I was going with this post is that belief shouldn’t just be a “well, I can’t disprove it, so it might be true” thing. That’s a terrible reason to believe in something, same as for reward/punishment. That’s essentially when someone believes solely because of a Pascal’s Wager; they’re afraid of punishment if they don’t believe, and they want the reward if their belief turns out to be the true one.
You should believe in something because somewhere in your heart, in your soul, you know that something is true. Whether this be a truth about God, love, marriage, dieting, or the level of evil your teacher must possess to give you such a low grade, it is a truth known only to you, and you don’t have to justify that to anyone. If you honestly believe, without any external stimuli or persuasion, that something is true, believe it. Because belief is one of the most important things you can hold in yourself, even if it isn’t about God.
“To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead.” -Bertrand Russell