Religion – the final frontier

As children, we learn an important ability; an ability that that makes life so much more enjoyable. As a child, I called it ‘play pretend’ – ‘Let’s pretend I am sheriff, and you are the deputy’, or ‘let’s pretend I’m Captain Kirk, and you are Spock’.

Today, I know its scientific name: it is called ‘Suspension of Disbelief‘: the willful disregard of reality in favor of some fantasy. Almost everyone has this ability, and it allows us to enjoy reading a book, or watching a movie. This ability greatly varies between individuals, and it is quite arbitrary. For example, I enjoyed reading the ‘Hunger Games’ books, but disliked ‘Divergent’ because – for reasons I do not understand – I was unable to keep my disbelief sufficiently suspended while reading it. Yet both stories are equally unlikely, there are many people who like both, and some even prefer ‘Divergent’.

Still, one thing is certain: suspension of disbelief is an active frame of mind. It requires that, for example when you open a book, you consciously switch into ‘play pretend’ mode: I now ‘play pretend’ that what I read is actually happening, and I am inside the story. When I close the book, I snap back into reality.

And that is what I don’t understand: it takes considerable effort to ‘snap into’ the stories of holy scripture; those stories are even more unlikely than most science fiction. Surely it should be effortless to get back to reality. Yet religious people can’t. Otherwise perfectly reasonable people, believers can’t switch out of their play pretend mode when they leave church. They are stuck in a preposterous, horrible, bizarre universe. They can’t get out even though they must invest massive amounts of willpower to stay inside, to ignore their own disbelief.

Maybe they should ask Scotty to beam them up?