The majority view is that global warming is real. The minority view is that it’s not. The majority view is that masks save lives. The minority view is that they don’t. Since nothing in my own behaviour hangs on who’s right, it’s not that I’m agnostic. It’s that I don’t give a shit. And not giving a shit is very different from giving a shit but not knowing where to put it.
That Jesus saves is the majority view. The minority view is that he doesn’t. In this case who’s right matters a great deal. The view that he saves is that he saves if but only if one believes he does. So if I do I’ll be saved, and if I don’t I won’t be. I’d rather be saved than not be. So this is a case where I do give a shit who’s right. As it happens I think the minority is. If I’m wrong, well, it wouldn’t be the first time.
People want me to give a shit about what they want me to give a shit about, whether anything in my behaviour hangs on it or not. I used to find this odd. But then I realized we all do this. I have a list of movies – movies having nothing to do with what the course is about – that I want my students to see. Why? I suppose it’s because I think there are certain mental states, be they doxastic or aesthetic, and however epiphenomenal they might be, that are just intrinsically better having than not. And, of course, that I wish these states on others. I guess that means I’m a good person, or at least a better person than I’d be if I didn’t give a shit about other people having mental states that are intrinsically better having than not.
So what I’ve learned from this meditation is to be less irritated, and more appreciative, of people who want me to believe that global warming is real, or that masks save lives, or that Jesus does. They want me to believe these things because they care about me. And in some cases – cases where it’s no skin off my ass – maybe I should repay their kindness by believing what they want me to.
I say in some cases because you can’t always please everyone. If I believe that global warming is real to gladden the hearts of most of the people I know, I’m going to sadden the hearts of the fewer people I know who want me to believe it’s not. I could do my best to only seem to believe, but people see through this kind of pretence. So in those cases – where you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t – it’s probably better to pretend you’re agnostic rather than that you just don’t give a shit. True believers find agnosticism about their Precious disappointing, but they find our not giving a shit about it downright offensive.
Therefore let this be our resolution. And let’s see if it can survive until tomorrow morning.