How do you Break the Spell?
I read somewhere, I don't remember where or when, a story about an old lady in 18th century Scotland, (or was it Ireland? England?, doesn't matter where) the thing is this lady's son went out on a fishing boat, and the boat didn't come back, it may have been a storm, pirates, a fire on-board, something happened, bottom line, the ship sailed and it was never heard from again.
After some years, in these situations most people give up on hope on ever seeing their loved ones, but not this lady, she would assert that her son was still alive, she had no reason or evidence that would support her belief, but that didn't stop her. She just knew that her son was out there, alive, somewhere, and it was only a matter of time before she got to see her son again.
I can only imagine what it is not to know what happened to someone you love. I put myself in that lady's shoes and can see where she is coming from. You want to keep the hope alive, you don't want to face the unthinkable, the worst case scenario, the excruciating pain that comes from losing your son.
Perhaps she thought that her son was in some tropical paradise, they wrecked with no way out of it, and settled in with the natives, had 10 kids, and was living a happy life secluded from Civilization. Most likely he drowned in a bad storm, who knows? The question is, which version would you rather believe? The lady, let's call her "Mary" chose to believe the version that made her feel better, not the one most likely to be true. Who can blame her?
As more and more years passed it become more apparent that the son was probably not coming back and Mary would not see her son again. But then, one day, 27 years later, a stranger showed up to Mary's town claiming to be her son.
I can see the commotion, the excitement, he's back! Our Mary was right all along. But then things turned ugly, the guy claiming to be Mary's son, had no resemblance at all to him, the more they town people got to know the guy the more apparent it became that he probably had heard about Mary's story and wanted to take advantage of her.
But Mary saw things differently, she was so happy that her son was back and she thought that the town people were jealous of her happiness she wanted to believe that her son was alive so badly that she ignored any signs that it was not him. He didn't look the same, did not act the same, it was a complete stranger, but she could not see it.
My question is, if you care about Mary, do you make her see the truth or do you let her be happy the way she is?
The answer depends, is she really happy? or does she know, deep down that her son is gone? What if she really believes it? Who are we to interfere? Do we draw the line when she starts to make bad decisions? When others start to take advantage of her faith to gain favors? Do we draw the line when she starts hurting others?
Is it wrong to let her live her life in such delusion? Is it wrong to make her suffer and shatter he hopes?
Some say no, let her be happy. I can relate to that, live and let others live, as long as she is not harming anyone else, that's ok.
But others would say, well, if you care about her, if you really have love, concern and respect for that person, the dignified thing would be to help Mary face reality with courage and strength, help her grieve her loss and move on with her life.
The right answer should be somewhere between those extremes, you can't make a person see reality if they don't want to. You have to let people have the freedom to make their choices as long as they are not harming anyone else. You can provide guidance if they ask for it. But you can't go around telling them how wrong they are.
And that's kind of how I feel about atheism. I see people believing in all kinds of stuff that I see as superstitions, as something slightly above Santa Claus for grown ups. But I can't go around telling people that, especially if they don't want to hear it, if they don't want to question their beliefs. I used to take for granted that since I am always trying to question what I think its true, I thought that others would do the same. But that's not the case, in fact, most people would love to share their beliefs with you, but not the other way around.
But, sometimes, faith can have its consequences, when it goes to extremes, let the law take care of it, otherwise, education will solve the problem, since religion has evolved a lot since the elighqment, I think that it will eventually go away on its own now that we live in the age of information, thanks to the internet, curious minds will have access to other people with the same questions, and ignorance while it may never go away, it will be mitigated effectively.
How is that for a self-delusion?