Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Okay, let's go over this again.

People raise their kids with callousness and cruelty because that is all they know. The kids grow up feeling afraid and unloved.

That makes them feel bad, so they try to find someone to give them what they want--security and love. They turn to parent-substitutes; authority figures. God is a parent substitute. So is the president. This is where the trouble starts, for nobody can go back in time and get the love they never received as a child. They can never go back to childhood and develop the self-esteem and self-confidence that comes from being loved and learning how to love others.

Therefore their search for a parent substitute is doomed to failure, an unacceptable situation that people fight tooth and nail to deny. Admit that your parents didn't or couldn't love you enough to teach you to love yourself and others? Forget that, they'd sooner kill you than admit it. So they try even harder to force their authority to give them what they need. The result is disaster.

There are no gods, no magic, no supernatural world. People would laugh at children for waving a stick and yelling, "Expelliarmus!" and expecting something to happen, yet they don't hesitate to wave a book or scroll and mutter Latin or Hebrew under their breath and expect a deity to listen and obey them. But they need a god, specifically a god who knows them personally (like a parent), loves them unconditionally (like a parent), is omniscient (like a parent in a child's eyes), and will always rescue them (like a parent is supposed to help their child). They will waste a huge chunk of their lives begging this parent substitute for proof of love and attention and never get it, because God is not their father or mother, he is an imaginary creature created out of need.

And people will do the same with the next parent substitute--their political and social leaders. Every president is a potential parent substitute, and we have come to speak of the presidency in parental terms. They must protect us and take care of us and tell us right from wrong. They must punish us when we're bad and reward us when we're good. But they aren't our parents, they are people with the same problems and issues that we have. They, too, are looking for safety and love. They, too, are damaged. But they are very, very rich, and can harm a lot of people while avoiding their own pain, by starting wars to feel safe and protecting their fellow elites to feel loved.

So here we are, debating whom the stimulus will help when we ought to know that the stimulus will help the elites feel safe and protected. We debate who created us, when we already know in our hearts. We fight and lie and deny, deny, deny--anything to avoid the simple truth. It's a tremendously painful truth that offers us nothing but more pain and hard work in the beginning, but it is the truth, and in the end that is the only thing that will set us free to love.


atheist said...

Thank you, Susan. This is bracing, tonic. We need to remind ourselves sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, this is great. Bookmarkable!

Susan of Texas said...

Thanks very much.

Mrs Tilton said...

Well said, Susan; well said indeed.

I do think you're taking a slightly narrow view in ascribing religious belief to a desire for a reassuring authority figure. That is undoubtedly the case in many, possibly most cases of religion. I'd make the scope a little broader, though, and say that belief (to the extent it reflects anything more than "because my parents told me so", "because those are the traditions I was raised in" etc.) is a matter of wishful thinking of one kind or another.

Belief is nothing more than response to one's own desire. But the desire needn't be for Daddy. In the case of that whelp Dreher, it seems to be desire for to be spared torments he clearly thinks he deserves and just as clearly wishes upon everyone who is not like him -- it's as though he read "Who Will Be Eaten First?" and thought it was about Jesus rather than Cthulhu. In a few cases, the desire in question might even be for something noble. But in every case, the belief is something imagined in order to fulfil the desire.

I say this based on my own experience as a former believer. The desires that gave rise to my belief weren't particularly noble, but nor were they particularly for an authority figure. Not all of the things I believed back then were bad; some would have been lovely, if true. But lovely or otherwise, I came to understand that wishful thinking was no good reason to believe them true. And so, absent any other good reason for belief, I gave it all up.

BTW, I've been enjoying your comments at Edroso's joint for ever, and only just now thought to click through to your own site. Stupid me -- that will have to be corrected.

Susan of Texas said...

Welcome, Mrs. Tilton. I'm glad you came by.

Yes, I agree. People who need a father figure often turn to religion, but not everyone who turns to religion does so for that reason.