I spent a fantastic New Year down in Devon with a great group of people – open fires, good walks, food, drink… and opportunities for ‘deliberate’ conversation too. In one such session, pretty late one night, a bunch of us had been thinking about ‘life in a post-truth era.’ It was fascinating stuff, but just as we were about to close, we hit on something quite powerful.
What it boiled down to was this: having been challenged a fair bit about the nature of my beliefs, I asked a question in response:
If you believe in some ‘force’ – call it what you will – that transcends your existence, that exists ‘outside’ of you/us, then it seems to me that you have no choice: the existence of that force must have an implication for me, whether or not I believe in that force. So my question is this: what are the consequences for me of your beliefs?
We quickly got past the old tropes – no, people didn’t believe that I was going to burn in hell. OK. Fine. But then what?
The issue that this began to probe at is, I think, absolutely fascinating, and hugely important. The ‘liberal’ end of belief wants, from what I understand having been in it, to enjoy a sustained belief in a transcendent God/Force/Whatever… but gets very uncomfortable when this local-relative belief begins to have universal-absolute implications on others who don’t share that belief.
But I just don’t think that you get to do that. You don’t get to believe in a transcendent force without that necessarily having some consequence for other people. This caused some considerable discomfort, and nobody in the discussion who was in that place of belief was prepared to offer an answer.
So, from those who still believe in ‘something,’ what I’d love to know is this: what is the consequence – however broad – of your beliefs for me?
I don’t mean this as an antagonistic confrontation. I’m genuinely interested. But more than that, it seems to be a profound and fundamental question that one really ought to have some thoughts on if you’re going to continue to believe in, as I put it in Getting High, ‘some force tending the light’ – however it is that you phrase that.
Without wanting to reference hell again, fire away 😉