Tuesday, July 10, 2012

people believe what they want to believe

And what did I learn from the one-on-one conversation I had requested? Nothing I hadn't known before ... only this time, the spike was well and truly driven home:

To borrow the words of Charles Williams, "People believe what they want to believe."

What they want to believe ... and if there is one thing that will gum up the works in human life, it's wanting. And suggesting or hoping that anyone might wish to be free of this gumming-up proclivity ... well, save it for your memoirs.

Bill Steplar is my 'financial adviser.' After I retired in 2009, I needed someone to help me with what little remained of my 401k. Bill seemed to understand that I didn't much care about money, but that I wanted to be as prudent as possible based on family responsibilities. In the course of setting up one thing and another, we would get sidetracked into conversations I think both of us enjoyed.

Today, as a result of a phone call a couple of days ago, Bill came by to have me sign some papers. He was dissociating himself from some bigger organization ... it was too cumbersome and took money without providing much in return. I signed. But in the phone call, I had found out he was a Roman Catholic and I said to him I would be interested to know how a continuing Roman Catholic could continue to be a Roman Catholic in the wake of the priest-sexual-abuse revelations.

Our conversation was easy. Bill just spoke his mind and I spoke mine and there was the end of it. Mostly I was interested in his point of view... which seemed to boil down to a personal relationship with his god and the understanding that leading a decent and helpful life was his number one job. People were human -- including priests -- but that didn't mean he needed to be dissuaded from his very personal relationship.

When I told him of my interest in the line "there are no atheists in foxholes" and my sense that not only were there no atheists in foxholes, there were no believers either ... he dug in his heels. "I don't believe that," he said firmly. The notion that anything -- including exploding ordnance -- could erase, even for a moment, his belief in his god ... well, forgetaboutit!

I put out a number of not-terribly-upsetting suggestions -- about the fact and fiction of belief, for example -- but Bill was, in his courteous and adamant way, convinced of his format.

It was a nice teaching for me. No sense in trying to make someone doubt what they do not already doubt. No sense in trying to get them to affirm what they have already affirmed....

Relax ... people believe what they want to believe, or, in Christian terminology, "Man proposes, God disposes."


  1. Yap. Yap Yap. I think you violated a couple of prime directives the most important one being

    Do not discuss religion or politics with the folks managing your money.

    I wish you the best of luck.

  2. 'Prime directives' ... if I were younger and more concerned, I might be impressed. As it is, I am content to be an old fool. People are more interesting than money ....

    And if I get taken to the cleaners, I will return here, tug my forelock and say "mea culpa."

  3. I seem to remember a psychological axiom to the effect that, the prover proves what the believer believes. I suppose that's done by re-framing the understanding instead of investigating the facts. But foregone conclusions are nothing new to us.