Monday, 25 June 2012

On (Un)Certainty

Are there two kinds of people in the world: those who are sure of things and those who aren’t? Or is it more complicated?

I have friends – good friends – who are atheists, to whom it is obvious that there is nothing beyond what can be explained by science, to whom thinking otherwise is ludicrous, or even perverse. They appear to find the fact that I believe a conundrum: I seem outwardly intelligent, logical, and down to earth, and yet I purport to believe such tosh. Fortunately, because we are friends they come to accept it as (I think) a charming eccentricity, part of the weirdness that makes me me.

I have other friends – good friends – who are, well, ah, I think I’ll call them Assured Believers for the moment. To them the existence of the Divine is self-evident, as is a clear and definite relationship between the divine and themselves. Prayers are made in the expectation of their being answered, and seeking day-to-day guidance from God is de rigueur. I am not so sure how they regard me: are they disappointed at my liberal tendencies and lack of assurance, sad that my early flush of evangelical zeal seems to have withered away, or just accepting that I am different? (Maybe I should ask them.)

The odd thing is that both types of friend seem to me to be incredibly similar. When in the presence of each their arguments, their beliefs, seem powerful, natural, compelling. Their confidence that they know the way the world is constructed* are impossible to distinguish in kind. Sometimes I envy them: both of them.

For I cannot be like them. I cannot even imagine being like them (except in the sense that when with them I tend to pick up the pattern of my surroundings, like some flat fish (but not chameleons!)). What is it like to be sure?

One of the purposes of this blog is to try to effect a reconciliation between the two world views characterized (caricatured?) here, at least inside my head if nowhere else. But I think it also has to explore reconciliation across the other axis: between being certain and being doubtful. Otherwise I risk living my life on an island between two landmasses rather than being a bridge between them.

*I initially mistyped this as ‘constricted’…