I am a true believer, and so are you!

I think that there are no gods. I can’t prove their non-existence, but neither can prove theists their existence. So, who is right? We both believe we are right. We are all living according to stories that we consider real, despite them being completely made up. The stories are handed down from generation to generation. The stories evolve a little with each iteration down the line, manifesting themselves in myths that ultimately make up the fabric of our civilization/s.

Let me tell you about my beliefs. For years I ran around telling people that I was not a believer – in god. I pestered all kinds of theists to get a better understanding of why they believed in God and how they came to do so. I never came to a conclusive result. I was convinced that theists were personally weak, or lazy, or that they were not self-aware enough to have to follow what to me were made up stories to control people.

I still don’t know the reason for theists’ beliefs. What I know is that I am a believer – and for that matter, everybody is, many without being aware of it.

I believe that one t-shirt brand is superior to another. I believe that money can buy me things, but only because (almost) everybody else on earth does so too. I believe that free time is more valuable than work. But, in contradiction to this belief, I often waste this valuable time, regretting afterward for not having used the time more „productively”.  

Our brains are not “made” to keep track of more than a few dozen individuals. Instead, they evolved to relate to a tribe-sized group of women and men. But our brains are capable of showing sympathy towards others that hold the same beliefs.

These beliefs are part of a construct of norms that we all live by. Disobedience to rules based on these beliefs will be punished in one way or the other. Either directly, by rejection or eternal burning in hell. Either way, if you want to belong you have to play along. This shared construct of norms enables us to live together in communities, helps us establish a trustful relationship with total strangers, and allows us to communicate, collaborate and trade, even without physically meeting people.

These collective stories, to which everyone contributes, become so real that we take the stories for exactly that, reality.

The common stories spin a greater web as the world becomes more globalized. Myths and religions are one kind of common stories that can span the world. The other kind of stories are not based on a mythical belief or deity, depending on how you define those terms.

Nobody can know everything – at least unless we hook up our brains to the almighty Interwebs. Having said that, believing in anything is, to a large extent, based on the lack of knowledge and ignorance about anything that extends further than the horizons of our immediate experiences.

With the rise of the availability of knowledge about virtually anything that comprises, not only our tiny individual world but the whole universe, we are seeing more convincing stories that first live beside the old stories, then gradually replace them altogether. These more “exact” stories provide a more “believable” explanation of how things work and what drives the universe until even better ones are developed.
Nonetheless, are these new stories only “real” because we collectively think that they are? Do they only exist when all of us believe in them – like the brands we wear, the products we buy, the money we pay for them with and the ideologies we follow? These only “exist” because we want them to, and most of all, we need them to exist. They are what society and civilization make them.

Some of these stories might only unite some of us, but divide us from others. This is part of the replacement process I wrote about above. I believe that this process is just a transitional phase to developing even more conclusive stories that will eventually unite us all.
Let it be the transition from nations to a borderless globe, or from gods to the one and only religion called money – or whatever replaces it in the future.

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