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The Bliss of Ignorance

Posted by on 01/08/2012

The Bliss of Ignorance is directly responsible for religious reverie, and that sublime state of infuriating superiority and pity that those of religious bent take towards non-believers. The thinking person can never have such certainty, because we realise how little we know about anything; that much of what we think we know will be revised later, and that life is a process of learning. And of course there are some things that each of us would rather forget, or not have known in the first place.

But oh, to have the bliss of ignorance… What a fine thing it must be to feel that one has the answer to everything; to sit and smile, like the ‘fool on the hill’, even if it is because of self-delusion; to think that ignorance leads to truth, wisdom and understanding, and that one is possessed of all these things.

And yet, I can’t help thinking that such bliss can ever only be temporary even in the minds of the most fervent believers. Surely the half-intelligent amongst the self-deluded must always be on the look-out for anything that could disrupt their delusions, so as to avoid those things. That means that a level of fear must be present. The ‘many disguises’ of the devil could take any shape, from an article on astronomy that shows our minor place in the universe to a TV programme that points out an unwelcome fact about evolution. And God Forbid the books of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and the remarkable A. C. Grayling, let alone that scandalous work The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, which completely destroyed the credibility of the Bible as any kind of history book or divinely inspired work over two hundred years ago.

So all then is not quite as blissful as it may seem for the ignorant, and we should have pity on them, because it must be quite a struggle in our Age of Information to remain ignorant of the knowledge that would end their state of ‘bliss’.

Having said all that, I suspect that some of it may not be true; that for many who profess themselves to be believers, the damage has already been done and the struggle they have is not that of avoiding unwelcome knowledge, but maintaining their self-delusion despite realising that it is self-delusion. Thus they become hypocrites, and it seems fairly clear that many such hypocrites will be preaching from pulpits, saying words they long ago ceased believing, and preaching for the most part to an audience of hypocrites who get their temporary fix of delusion-reinforcement that allows them to go out feeling less self-deluded for a little while.

The Bliss of Ignorance thus becomes the Bliss of Self-Delusion and although to the contemplative person it seems sad that people want to live like that, it is ultimately their own choice. It is fortunate for them that at least in the western world, they can live in relative comfort with the aid of modern technology, designed by scientists and technicians who are mostly atheists, and when they get ill, be treated by atheist doctors and surgeons. Were it not for atheists, the lifespan of the religiously self-deluded would most likely be shorter and more brutal…

Another thought occurs: that perhaps it is exactly those who are most self-deluded who are the most violent ‘defenders’ of their faith. If they don’t really believe what they delude themselves into thinking they believe, what they are really defending is their own self-delusion. The outrage at being mocked; the self-reinforcement they get from trying to persuade others to believe the same thing; the condemnation of those who think differently; the gathering together with other deluded ones, can all be thought of as ways to hide themselves from the truth that would expose their own delusions.

Religion in that case is a system of installing self-delusion, reinforcing it, making it transferable to others through the offer of the Bliss of Ignorance, and finally defending the installed delusions through a type of self-defense that can become very aggressive when the delusions are challenged. It is a system that has evolved over thousands of years to be very efficient, but it is a system that in the end creates far more misery than bliss. People trying to promote their own ignorant religious views to reinforce their own self-delusions is the cause of much of the trouble in this world, and that is a bad thing about religion.