If you are not already reading “Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal” by Miles Kimble I encourage you to do so. He shows that it is not unusual for us economists to be interested in matters like religion. As such a Homo economicus I am not alone in a Godless universe.
Noah Smith has guest posted on there, arguing that belief in God, whether or not there is a God, is beneficial for you so do it. But try and be a good human being by not being dogmatic about it:
But there is a way to avoid these dangers: Don’t subscribe to a religious dogma. Pick and choose your religious beliefs. Yes, we are all born with the ability to do this – we don’t need any chip in our brain. Don’t believe that God tells you that you’re superior to other people. Don’t believe that God commands you to wage holy war against the infidel. Don’t believe that God trivializes the life you’re living now.
But for many people, believing in God can make their lives better. If you’re one of these people, then go for it. Believe in God. And believe in a God that tells you to do stuff that’s good for your life – to treat other people well, be happy, work hard, etc. Believe these things not because you have evidence for them, and not because you desire them to be true, but because it behooves you to believe them.
“OK,” you may say, “but I’m not a pragmatist. I’m a positivist. I believe only in things I have evidence for. I value objective truth.” Fine, Mr. Positivist. I will not denigrate your epistemology. Have fun wondering whether or not you live in the Matrix!
The call for religious humanism which is personal to yourself sounds great. No problem cherry picking verses and root yourself in the moment to be a better human being than you would be. All without fundamentalist belief because if counter thinking benefits you do it. Do not just eat from the tree of knowledge, go a la carte from the world’s religions, mix and match – using something other than dogma, theology or divine sanction to decide if ethical.
Whether we call such ideas religious, philosophy, ethics or morality we are always attempting to rationalize our personal beliefs. For me the thing to stress is not that Noah says it benefits you to believe in God (I recognize atheist bait when I see it and I ain’t biting), but it benefits you to work out what behooves you as a human being beholden to no other entity and yet thinking ethically. When you have to think for yourself what behooves you not only does the chance for greater happiness await you – some actual thinking and hard graft is called for.
Noah is not offering you freedom or liberty to make it up as you go along – he is inviting you to think critically about whether something is beneficial. To be skeptical about something which is dogmatic. This is empowering, but with it comes responsibility when applying freethinking. To know things as they are. Whether we be in a matrix or not.
Bertrand Russell, an empiricist that would know to ignore a matrix loop fallacy, said:
Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.
Believing in something that profits you might, if you dare to think about it, behoove you to decide whether it is a red pill or a blue pill you have taken. Part of the adventure in life, is you may never be certain which is in the hand outstretched to you. For me humanism, without the religion, is allowing me to go deeper down the rabbit hole.
I invite you to come underground and see how far it goes without making a promise that it might profit you, but that it might just be more real, and that makes the adventure more worthwhile as you dig deep to push the boundaries of our understanding.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog