The importance of looking at broken things

There is this thing that happens where people say that the afterlife MUST exist because the alternative is too horrific to contemplate. When you say there is no evidence to suggest that one's consciousness survives death, they might respond with "so you mean Hitler got away with mass murder?".

It's easy to see why people do this. They don't like ugliness and they refuse to accept that an ugly world exists. So they come up with beautiful scenarios that make them feel better. They imagine a world where justice is absolute and inescapable. Where bad people get what they have coming after death and good people are rewarded for being good after death. They do this because the alternative - an unjust and ugly world - is too difficult to contemplate.

The evident truth however, is that we do live in an unjust and ugly world. And also that truth and beauty have no necessarily causal relationship. Truth is often ugly and beautiful things are often false. Ever faced betrayal at the hands of someone attractive? There you go.

But the other thing we often don't think about is that this refusal to acknowledge the inescapable ugliness of the world is not limited to religion alone. We see this everywhere in the popular discourse. There are people today who believe the holocaust never happened. They say it is so cruel and ugly that it could not possibly have happened. There are those who think the Covid pandemic is a hoax. They shudder at news of millions of people having died all over the world and shake their heads saying this cannot be true. They hear about climate change and the dire predictions about our planet's future and they go into denial saying this can't be true.

This is one of the roots of our fake news problem. Sure, there are those who lie consciously and with a profit motive (yay capitalism) but the largest chunk of people who believe these lies actually believe them because of this quasi-religious tendency to think the world cannot be ugly.

And the root of this tendency is anthropocentrism - the tendency to think that human beings occupy some kind of central position in the universe. It's religious sure, but it's not only religious. Religions built on top of it by claiming there are celestial intelligences that love and protect human beings. Cosmic beings that favour and bless human beings. So over millennia, the tendency to think we are special and protected became part of popular consciousness.

And now, in this at least semi-irreligious world, the tendency remains and warps our perception of reality, causing us to close our eyes to ugliness. If we drop the need to feel special and deserving of eternal value, and come to the conclusion that the world is in fact, fairly ugly, we might survive to make it actually beautiful one day. If not, goodbye I guess.

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