The glue of delusion
Posted on 12 March 2014
Says Stephen Asma: “If you want to get rid of religion, you can’t ARGUE it out of existence with rationality. Instead, you have to “feed” the hungry emotions something new as a healthier replacement. The emotional brain has a voracious and different dietary appetite than the rational brain.”
It got me thinking a bit. Striving to understand our surroundings and our universe, the struggle to refine our individual and collective understanding of what is true has immense value. As we discover more about the way things are, the way things work, we’re equipped to better ourselves and the world around us. Yet, we’re deeply emotional beings; emotions dictate the majority of decisions that we make in any given day. The awesome roaring power of emotion can overwhelm any argument we care to throw at ourselves. It’s damn near impossible to talk yourself out of gut-wrenching fear or sadness.
I bristle when alternative medicine (I mean the kind that actually, demonstrably doesn’t work at all) offers false hope, or convinces someone to turn down treatments that might actually help. I get cranky when psychics or astrologers or numerologists guide people to make poor decisions or exploit their credulousness for profit.
But what about when a delusion is the only glue that’s keeping someone functioning? A lie that sticks things together enough to stop someone from breaking down completely? What about when the truth is too terrifying to face? Or when the truth simply cannot be known, and that in itself is so horrifying that it’s debilitating?