.R.E.M WROTE A SONG ABOUT MY SITUATION
Let's talk about scripting. For a brief overview (and a good example) of scripting click here and read the whole thing. I left a comment at that post, and I'm still thinking about it.
For those of you who don't know (or those of you that I haven't told), Scripting is exactly what it sounds like: unconsciously pre-planned human behaviors used in social situations. Leighton describes an incident where a homeless woman asked him for change at a bus-stop. The typical Script-response that most of us have to these situations is to say, as Leighton puts it:
"'I'm sorry, I don't have any change'--along with appropriately distancing voice inflections and body language that lead to cessation of the social interaction."
This is the essence of scripting. We perform actions without thinking in order to send the appropriate social message to others. At a certain level, we actually need this kind of thoughtless automation, as Leighton points out when he says
"if we had to think about controlling every aspect of our bodies whenever we want to do something, we would be lucky to cook a meal, much less drive. If most of our socialization weren't automated, we'd never get anything done."
Sad, but true, I suppose. As interesting as this branch of psychology is, I'd like to pose a question to my loyal fans similar to the question that I posed to Leighton.
How much of our religious or political beliefs contain truth that we really believe, and how much of it is a result scripting?
Take, for example, our nation's thirty-year long war over abortion. I used to participate in a lot of online abortion-debates when I was younger (on the pro-life side, naturally), and even then I noticed that a great deal of the "arguments" on both sides were actually being recycled and reused like so much waste paper. (Click here, btw, for some sterling and recent examples of this phenomena. I haven't been in an abortion debate in about eight years, and its good to see that nothing has changed.)
Eventually, I noticed that the debates usually ran something like this:
Person A makes claim X
Person B responds to Person A with claim Y
Person A refuses to recognize authority of claim Y, responds to Person B with claim Q
Person B refuses to recognize authority of claim Q, re-responds to Person A with claim Y and/or responds with claim Z
Repeat this cycle for ten thousand pages and you've got a nice abortion debate on your hands!
The critical thing here -- the most important thing, you might say -- is that very little rational thought is being done by either side. Both sides believe certain things, both sides use evidence in their "scripts" to support their arguments, neither side reaches a conclusion except the conclusion that they started out believing. This is not to say that conversion from one side to another is impossible, per se, only very rare.
Now we fix our gaze upon religion. Why is it that we believe in the Trinity, for example? (Or, rather, why is it that we believe the enormously complex ideas and creeds formulated about the Trinity?) I admit that I'm biased in my opinion, but it seems to me that we tend to believe it because, well, believing in the Trinity is one of those things that Christians Are Just Supposed To Do. I mean, are we really smarter than those Nicean bishops? Should we really defraud The Deposit of Faith? And look! I've got some nifty verses from the Bible that conflate Jesus and God, so I guess those Turkish bishops were right all along....etc...etc.
Now, I realize that maybe the Trinity is not the best subject to question. I don't know what kind of evidence I would need to see to believe in the Trinity, and thusly I can't quite imagine what kind of evidence I would use against this particular doctrine. I mean, how do you "disprove" something that someone already takes as an article of faith? This is besides the point, however.
Christians believe in the Trinity because they must. Because it's written into their script. When challenged, they will marshal whatever evidence and support they can find and integrate it into their script. The arguments may differ from time to time, but the outcome is already predetermined. Calvin strikes us from the grave, apparently.
THIS IS WHERE THE .R.E.M SONG COMES IN
I'm at a place in my life right now where I'm no longer interested in belief-for-the-sake-of-belief. I'm no longer interested in believing something because the Church or Paul or the Evangelists say so. I'm no longer interested in defending bronze-age Middle Eastern religious texts, and then pretending they're personal notes from the Creator of the Universe. In other words, I'm tired of scripting. I'm tired of believing things because it's the right thing to do.
I've decided that from now on, whatever I believe, I'm going to try and believe it not because it's appealing, or moral, or traditional, or beautiful – but I'll believe it because I've found it to be true. Not what the Church has found to be true, not what my friends and family have found to be true, but me – what I have found to be the closest thing to Reality that I can fathom.
Of course, I'm not so naive as to think that I can figure it out all by myself. All knowledge is built on previous (and often refuted) knowledge, everything in human life is done within a human community, etc, etc. I know all that, and I keep it all in mind. I've decided, however, to question every claim – to demand evidence for every claim and to realize that all truth is provisional.
I've decided that I need conversation, discussion, debate. Evidence. I need to touch truth and see it for myself. I can no longer believe in the 'weightiness' of an argument simply because it was taught to me as being 'weighty'. Now I've got to hold it in my own hands and see just how heavy it really is.
I've decided to leave my old script behind – to start from scratch, or a close to scratch as I can get. If the truth is out there – if Truth is really out there, then I think I'll find it one day. If I don't find it, however, I hold out hope that somebody else will, and that my journey may help them along somehow.
Thats where I'm at right now. So where do we go from here?
"Even as the young Afghan man was dying before them, his American jailers continued to torment him.
The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.
Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face.
"Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"
At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.
"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying.
Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen. It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time."
Teens who take the pledge are also more likely to take chances with other kinds of sex that increase the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, the study of 12,000 adolescents suggests...
AN HONEST QUESTION
I've had to ask myself an honest but difficult question.
"Am I loosing my faith, or am I loosing somebody else's faith?"
This is critical, I think. Critical as it may be, I still don't know the answer. Is it really possible to have a faith apart from the Faith-Bearers and Gate-Keepers? Would "my" faith be any more "real"? Would it contain any more "truth"? How would I know?
What say you?
"The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to overlook." -William James, Principles of Psychology