Saturday, April 28, 2018

UWTWCHCGN Part 2: Facts And Allegiances

     Over the years, many have criticized the Church for promulgating a fantasy: specifically, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. The logic, such as it is, runs approximately thus:

  • The Church says Jesus of Nazareth returned to life after being crucified.
  • But dead people can’t return to life.
  • Therefore the Church is trading in fantasy.

     What stands out about the above is the logical fallacy usually called affirming the consequent. The deployment here is moderately subtle, but the fallacy remains. It’s often found in political arguments as well:

  • The National Rifle Association claims that firearms in private hands save lives.
  • But guns kill people.
  • Therefore the NRA is lying (and probably wants to see people die).

     These arguments are comparable in that they fail to mention any relevant facts. The fact most relevant to the first one is the existence of many corroborations of Christ’s return to life. The fact most relevant to the second one was recently provided by the Center for Disease Control: a study, suppressed until recently, that indicates that more than two million defensive uses of a privately owned firearm occur in a typical year. Those facts seriously weaken the arguments above, though they cannot be conclusively refuted.

     When the evidence points in a direction contrary to one’s beliefs, it seems to me that the rational thing to do would be to open one’s mind to the possibility (at least) that one might be wrong. That doesn’t seem impossible in either of the cases above. That having been said, quite a lot of people, when confronted with the relevant facts, react with fury. They attack the “messenger” rather than allowing that he might merely be informing them. The result is often a hardening of the attitudes and a widening of the divide between them.

     We have here a puzzler of some significance. We know from direct observation that Americans don’t enjoy hard words, anger, or confrontation. Yet there appears to be more of it withe every passing day. Moreover, none of it, in any objective sense, is unavoidable. So why?

     Why, indeed.

     Among our human needs are some of which we remain continually conscious, some which only come to mind on occasion, and some we so greatly dislike to think about that we don’t even admit them to ourselves. Two exceptionally powerful ones belong to that third set. They’re so powerful that they account for most of what we of the First World do.

     Abraham Maslow included one of them in his hierarchy of needs:

  1. Physiological needs.
  2. Safety needs.
  3. Love and belonging.
  4. Self-esteem.
  5. Self-actualization.

     It seems incontestable to me that the Level 3 need (Belonging) couples directly to both Level 2 (Safety) and Level 4 (Self-esteem). No one can be quite as secure alone as he would be in a group that values him. Similarly, no one can feel that his life is worth much entirely in isolation from others; to live simply for the sake of living is essentially sterile. But this is a side issue that deserves its own discussion.

     The need to belong is most powerful in him who feels insecure and uncertain of himself. A group that accepts him voluntarily provides him with evidence that he matters. Few of us can retain a positive outlook without that reinforcement for our value.

     Historically, the great “belongings” have been provided by churches and nations. There are important similarities between the two:

  • Each promulgates a set of mandatory convictions.
  • Each demands a degree of allegiance.
  • Each requires that the allegiance be demonstrated by adherence to an ethic.

     Other, weaker and more transient “belongings” are available – family; friends; trade associations; clubs for various interests and pastimes – but religious affiliation and patriotism have historically held the top spots.

     It follows that the absence of religious belief and patriotic bonding leave a void that takes a lot of filling.

     Two men in the mental health field have produced important books about the second of the great, unspoken needs. The first, M. Scott Peck’s The Road Less Traveled, was extraordinarily popular for decades. The second, Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search For Meaning, has largely been neglected these past few decades. Both point at the seldom-discussed human need for a life that means something.

     It is especially noteworthy that Peck and Frankl hit upon the same insight:

Frankl: The salvation of man is through love and in love.
Peck: Ultimately, love is everything.

     But what is meant by love in these statements? A superficial reading of Frankl would suggest that it means love of other people, or perhaps of one special person. He makes a declaration of terms in an abstract but memorable passage:

     Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self. Whether or not he is actually present, whether or not he is still alive at all, ceases somehow to be of importance.

     Peck is more explicit though still somewhat abstract:

     Love is the will to extend oneself for the purpose of nurturing one's own or another's spiritual growth.

     The concentration of both writers on spiritual self-extension has been missed by many who claim to be their followers. It becomes particularly piercing in light of the contemporary trends toward secularization, and toward separating sex from love.

     I’m aware that the foregoing is more indirect even than my usual examinations. As always, I maintain that there’s a method to my madness. I want you, my Gentle Readers, to contemplate the spiritual dimensions of love, belonging, and the need for a meaningful life before I proceed to any conclusions. In particular, I hope to get you to reflect on the commonalities between love of God and love of country. These highly potent sources of belonging and meaning are what bottom-tier allegiants to any of today’s trendy Causes have elected to forgo. Many have also forfeited family love by doing so, as innumerable painful Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners have demonstrated. But with that I veer too close to the ideas in part 3 of this series, and therefore I must withdraw.


Col. B. Bunny said...

There's an associated idea, that of fidelity to the reality of one's subordination to something higher or greater than oneself. To love someone is to subordinate oneself in a significant way to the well being of another.

To acknowledge that one's ideas are partial or less than the ideas of a greater intelligence, either an explicit divine being or the collective wisdom of one's ancestors in the form of custom, isn't necessarily love but it certainly makes a human being lovely. Anyone who has spent two minutes listening to, watching, or reading about someone who acknowledges only himself knows what I am talking about. Al Goldstein, noted pornographer in his time, had this to say about God: "I believe in me. I'm God. ____ God. God is your need to believe in some super being. I am the super being. I am your God, admit it. We're random. We're the flea on the ass of the dog."

xmaddad1 said...

I have seen this "Study" quoted all over the place, but, I have yet to see a 'link' that feeds to the study.
Both Kleck and Old NFO have supplied 'LINKS' , but, both have led to the SSRN website without any of the Info? Where is the STUDY?