Reason to Believe

I had therefore to remove knowledge, in order to make room for belief.

Immanuel Kant

Belief creates the actual fact

-William James

The belief that there is only one truth, and that oneself is in possession of it, is the root of all evil in the world.

-Max Born

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.

-Thomas Paine

The goal of modern propaganda is no longer to transform opinion but to arouse an active and mythical belief.

-Jacques Ellul

I am 64 years old. I graduated from an accredited college and although my GPA was not a thing of beauty, I did manage to achieve a bachelor’s degree . Very soon I will be eligible for Medicare. I have, like Dr. Richard Kimble of “The Fugitive” a QM Production from the middle 1960’s, been free to “toil at many jobs” some of which were mindless and some which required at least a middling ability to think on my feet and adapt to changing situations. I am a licensed NYC Tour guide who scored highly on the required Consumer Affairs exam affording such accreditation. I have been a professional mixologist at times. This required a keen sense of perception regarding human beings conjoining together under the influences of potions foreign to the natural order of the human body, but oh so common to the natural order of socialization. In this pursuit I also developed an ability to quickly learn the ingredients and measured quantities for many of the newest fad cocktails. I have acted in stage plays which required the memorization of large swaths of dialogue as well as what we theater pros refer to as “blocking”. This last piece of stage business has nothing to do with the sport of American football, although judging from the execution of some of this; it may have been difficult for reasonably intelligent audiences to discern the difference. I have also directed a bit and thus at such times should have been held wholly responsible for such confusions.  Still, I was approved for such a position by better minds than me and that, in and of itself, should speak to some semblance of ability. I also served on the editorial staff of a fairly respectable trade magazine for a short time. I have done all this. And much more. And I believe in Santa Claus.

Now before you go forth as responsible citizens Googling ways to help this obviously deranged spectacle of a human being who appears to spend too much of his time looking out from the precarious position of a perch on a ledge somewhere contemplating the complexities of life and whose best friend  appears to be a squirrel; you should be assured of a few things prior to unnecessarily squandering data on your cell phones. First of all, the Ledge is just a metaphor. The squirrel, as cute as he is, is only an acquaintance who I have yet to invite to anything, but who has graciously permitted the use of his image as a sort of logo for these purposes, so long as I am not monetizing this endeavor in any way from which he should be receiving his own fair share. I can assure you I am not.  I do not have a standard photo release with his signature on it.  If I did you might then want to seriously consider using those data minutes.  I will also say with absolutely no reservation at all, that no I do not believe in the Easter Bunny as well, although I would very much like to. And I have known the tooth fairy was a fraud ever since I caught my mother red handed replacing the well-worn first tooth. The going rate on the market apparently was $0.10, which at such a time was good for a Mr. Softee. My, how times have changed!

But Santa is different. Santa flies in on  reindeer of a different color, although again, I assure you I have not actually seen Santa’s reindeer, so I cannot testify to their color. That was just a bad pun based on the adage about the assorted hues of equines. Once again, save those data minutes. I have seen reindeer, so I imagine that Santa’s are likely similar, only his can fly and the ones I have seen can’t. A minor detail. Of course, Santa’s reindeer, like Santa himself are not visible to the naked eye. Unless of course one is willing to gamble on pots full of coffee ( I don’t recommend cocoa for this-especially after a certain age) and staying up all night to catch a glimpse. You might still miss him as both his arrival, delivery and departure will literally happen in one blink of your tired eyes. With so much caffeine racing through your bloodstream, if you did see something it is likely that in the cold light of day you would swear you were merely  hallucinating.

But I know Santa is real because I can quantify his existence (to myself) in so many other ways. Although my list is never completely honored, to quote  Mick Jagger, “ You can’t always get what you want”. But the delivery of material gifts is not what Santa is about. For as Ol’ Rubberlips goes on to say in the next phrase  “but if you try sometime, you might find, you get what you need”. Santa makes sure we get what we need, the curative of love. In times such as these, it is a tonic we seem to have lost an appreciation for. But Santa shows up just in time each year, as the revolution around the big ball of fire nears its completion and we anticipate the next go around.

Belief however is not knowledge and is not physically quantifiable. Many people believe in a god, or in some cultures, gods. Some people believe in money or the power of money. Money buys access and money buys power and perhaps more importantly for some, money buys access to power. But even this belief is not always quantifiable. It is rooted in anecdote, rumor and for some, an indefinable deeply rooted personal feeling. But if belief in such monetary power were completely true, there would not be so many people in prison for bribery or abuse of power. If you won’t take me at my word, ask Shelly Silver or Dean Skelos or his son. In their case a court of laws using facts in evidence (knowledge) dispelled any belief about their innocence. My personal belief is that this society would be in much better shape if they shared their new quarters with many others of their ilk. It is ironic that a certain politician and members of his family have recently exerted a full court press on the legislative process to achieve long overdue criminal and prison reform. It does seem to cleave strongly to a long-held family tradition of looking out, at any cost, to the ideals of self-interest.

I consider myself an atheist. But I do not know that god does not exist. It is my belief, based upon my experience in this world during those aforementioned 64 years. I am more than willing to accept the possibility that I could be wrong. There are many other folks, good people, who believe differently, not just from me but from each other. Christians and Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Wiccans and many others have divergent views on the subject. In fact, many in the evangelical community believe  Catholics are not true Christians. Catholics would retort that they can trace their beginnings back to St. Peter himself. For most this nuance of belief is acceptable. Belief in anything is a personal thing. Belief in something as pertinent to our place and purpose in the universe  is extremely personal and ought to be respected as both a matter of law and a matter of civility. Yet too often too many don’t respect those who believe differently. They demonize and bastardize others as well as our legislative process.   But the wonderful thing about this country, at least for now,  is that we are all entitled to our beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they are. But as the man said ( I don’t remember which man, or woman for that matter-there are so many claiming credit) one is entitled to their own opinions but not to their own facts. And that is where we find our own, very particular, American bump in the road.

There is very little, if anything in the bible, which bears the veracity of fact. Some of the stories may or may not be true.  Did Jesus really turn water into wine  and multiply loaves of bread and fishes with the wave of a hand? Did a fellow named Noah really build an ark that housed two of every type of creature? Can we really prove that Jesus raised a person from the dead? Did a talking snake and a curious and ambitious lady collude to corrupt her mate with promises of incredible attainment just by eating apples from a forbidden tree? And if so, did that result in our own despair for the rest of eternity? Oh my! Who knows? But more importantly, who cares? The stories matter, as parables and truths about the human condition, a condition we are saddled with whether we believe in Jesus, Krishna, Buddha, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The universality of these stories is undeniable. We may not agree on each other’s unquantifiable beliefs, but we should be able to agree on quantifiable facts. Climate deniers take note.

The gospels quote  Jesus Christ as saying, “render onto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s”? Why should  people of certain gender and sexual persuasions be denied the rights granted to them in the constitution of the United States  and referred to in the Declaration as “Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” just because some of varying and unquantifiable belief have determined that others are entitled to less than the fullness of these guarantees. I have a belief that adults who march around with tiki torches chanting odes to bigotry and hate must be out of their minds. But as objectionable as I find them,  exercising their  first amendment rights is  protected speech. If corporations have the same rights as people, surly these miscreants do as well. As does the miscreant in chief. Besides, the light of day, as often stated, may be the best disinfectant.  

But it is also a matter of law that when one purposefully denies another their right to life by homicidally assaulting them with a car because their victim’s equally protected right of speech affronts them, they should face the consequences our secular society metes out. Murder is against both man’s and god’s laws as far as I know.  

This is not to say that  deeply ingrained beliefs will not or should  not come into play when electing council people, schoolboards, legislators and even presidents. But one belief should never override the firmly ingrained and fundamental principles of the constitution and secular law. These are the foundational adhesives that keep us from falling under the spells of anarchy, theocracy and in the worst cases, fascism and dictatorial leadership.

So, although I believe in Santa, I  can’t expect legislative bodies to enact measures requiring every household to provide milk, cookies as  well as carrots, water and oats for a team of large antlered animals.  I mean,  you should, it is the right and proper thing to do. But don’t mind me, I talk to squirrels.  

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