In Part 1 of this series I urged reasons why, as a matter of pure definition, it makes enormous sense for members of this community to call ourselves genuists. I also discussed particular benefits. Here I describe another.
When I was a believing Mormon, had I then been confronted with the term genuism and its definition, I’d have told you I was a genuist myself. In principle at least, there’d have been nothing inconsistent in this. Like most faiths, Mormonism constructs a façade that allows at least the uncritical (and perhaps information-deprived) to be sincerely convinced they have ingenuously followed authentic evidences to reach true conclusions.
Perhaps as a reader you do not realize this. You should.
These communities build complex webs of notions (supposed evidences and logic) that are interconnected and strongly self-reinforcing. The supporting strings intersect and mutually-compliment very much as do facts and notions involving evolution. And they “gel” similarly, in a manner that seems to build a resounding, emphatically-convincing case for one who is bound by their spell. In significant respects, indeed, a theist becomes just as convinced — as does the evolutionary biologist for the general notion of evolution — in the conclusion that a huge mountain of exquisitely intertwined elements consistently compel his theistic (and sometimes believed to be genuistic) conclusion.
Of course, there are very major and critical differences. For theistic communities, many of the supporting facts are thinner than tissue paper, and on due examination can quite readily be found as false (within that community, of course, there are no elaborate, sophisticated and structured mechanisms constantly arrayed to challenge supposed facts; instead there is quite the opposite). Regardless, such “facts” as involved are received wisdom, and uncritical eyes readily become blind to any myth status. Employed logic is often likewise faulty, but inevitably such elements as involved offer at least the sheen of coherence. At minimum, this sheen is sufficient to seem powerfully persuasive to a sympathetic mind. There are also countless faulty assumptions. But, as assumptions, no one thinks to question them. The bottom line is this web of pretense becomes as persuasive, when welcomed by the anxious-to-embrace mind, as is “the real McCoy” of an evidentiary picture when presented to an authentically genuistic mind.
And it’s not just a web of supporting notions that’s involved. There is also a vast web of defensive notions that also seem (at least when uncritically embraced) to most persuasively answer against apparent attack. Again, there are parallels with evolution. We “believers” in that model see frequent attacks hurled against it. We are well aware of them. We understand them. And we understand answers that show how misguided, off-base — and, yes, naïve — the attacks were in the first place. Theistic believers also have answers that, in their minds, make our attacks seem foolish. Again, it’s not truly the same thing, for their answers only survive (only manage to maintain their glistening sheen) when maintained by the anxious-to-embrace, sympathetic, and uncritical mind. Or, optionally, sometimes it is just the young, inexperienced and naïve mind.
Regardless, it works. And, binding it all together — tying it up and putting a grand and gorgeous bow on top — there are feelings. Theistic communities are expert at creating feelings of conviction (it’s what testimony-bearing and hymns are all about, among other things). I “feel” so strongly it’s true, the feeling in itself becomes the sealing evidence of authenticity.
If you have never been in such a community (if you have never been fully under the spell of legerdemain that’s involved), I think it is not possible you can fully appreciate how authentically persuasive it all can sometimes be. People become extraordinarily convinced, and it’s not generally (as folks in our community sometimes assume) because they are lacking in mental horsepower. Indeed, it is often those on the higher end of the mental-horsepower spectrum who become most convinced. I believe this is because a more agile mind can more ingeniously maneuver more strings into an even broader web, so as to make the sum product even more convincingly support the desired, end-product conclusion. A more agile mind is also sometimes more able to invent and maneuver ingenious methods by which to “explain away” seeming inconsistencies.
I should know. I was one of those. And I was (at least I thought I was) a genuist.
To be sure, I had no particular title at the time for what I have now defined as a genuistic stance. But the underlying substance, at least, is what I thought I was. Mostly, indeed, it is what I was — though, in retrospect, it is now painfully evident that at one stage I was a very poor practitioner of genuism.
Specifically at age eighteen, I encountered a particular “crisis of faith.” It is now evident that, when transiting through that crisis, my personal need to believe was so great that, without realizing I was doing so, I allowed it to eclipse my much more noble genuistic dedication. Stated oppositely, I subjugated my genuistic principles to a base need to believe for reasons of personal need (details regarding that incident are part of another story). This set me on a path of twisting cleverly to maintain belief. Regardless (and as I have above attempted to explain), twisting works. Self-delusion succeeds. I was simultaneously a genuist at heart (or at least I thought I was), and, yet, I was also the unwitting product of my own self-delusion.
There were elements of timing.
Prior to that crisis at eighteen, I was an innocent. Based on the grand web of supposed facts and logic to which I’d been exposed (which might be somewhat less-kindly referred to as propaganda, perhaps even brain-washing), my Mormon convictions made sense. It is in innocence that children believe in all kinds of hogwash. From their limited perspectives, even crazy things can seem to make sense.
But as time goes by, experience broadens. At age eighteen I encountered a particular experience that was a very bad fit for all that I’d prior been taught to believe (again, details are a separate story). At such point, I could have gone in one of two directions. I could have granted the experience its complete due and proper weight, or I could have sought to get around it, surmount it, explain it away. It is of course the latter I did. Upon so doing, I was no longer an innocent.
But I was not horrible. I was not aware I’d violated my own higher principles. Had I been aware, I’d not have been willing to do it.
Perhaps more importantly, I was still a kid, and my genuism had not yet had full opportunity to well mature. This is something that happens (at least for some of us) with time. Within a very few years, I indeed became better, waxing into a stronger and more authentically-dedicated state of genuism. Yet, for some considerable time I was also still a devout believer in the fraud of Mormonism. How could this be?
It is my experience that human minds are constantly at work in assembling life’s pieces into the mosaic of a giant jigsaw puzzle. That mosaic paints an all-encompassing picture. It’s how we see life, the universe and our place in it.
Compare this to the “game” that’s involved in assembling an actual jigsaw puzzle. There, we often consult the image on the box’s cover to guide our assembly of pieces. Imagine that a puzzle manufacturer has a perverse sense of humor. It puts pieces inside the box that belong to a different picture than is on its cover. Imagine further that a particular group of puzzle consumers finds itself emotionally invested in the fraudulent picture on the box’s cover. Thus, with ingenio
us creativity, members of this community develop a scheme by which to assemble pieces (pieces that actually should be assembled to form a different picture) so as to make a picture that, overall, is essentially the same as on the box’s cover.
Perhaps more important than that their assembled mosaic resembles the box’s cover, it’s an image that becomes, in and of itself, coherent and compelling. It may be true (indeed, it positively will be true) that in many places the piece’s shapes do not mesh together very well, as needed to form the picture involved. Often significant force was required to make two pieces join. In some instances cardboard was bent. There are numerous gaps where edges did not meet. In other instances whole portions of a shape had to be scissored off. But, overall and regardless, a coherent image was produced. That coherence, of itself, has enormous power.
I describe this because it’s a good metaphor for where I was essentially at, in my early twenties. I was a member of that deceived puzzle group. Even as my genuism had matured to a more robust and dedicated commitment (in particular, as compared to when I had somewhat betrayed it, at age eighteen), I remained under the spell of an assembled, puzzle-pieces mosaic that was, in a word, compelling. This was particularly true because I had never seen how the puzzle pieces could be more sensibly assembled to form a different picture. I had no hint they could be. The picture I saw was the only picture I knew the pieces could be assembled to fit. And, yes, I was fully aware the fit was somewhat forced here and there. Regardless, overall persuasiveness in the picture was transcending. I also did not find it terribly troubling where my mosaic left some holes to be filled, here and there. Assembly of life’s mosaic is a long-term project, after all. Just as when working with a standard jigsaw puzzle, while in-process it’s often a while before all pieces are finally filled-in.
With this as stage, consider my likely reaction if as, say, a twenty-two-year-old, I had encountered an atheist/genuist, heard him use the term “genuism,” then listened as he went on to describe its meaning. I believe I’d have reacted by saying essentially the following:
“I’ll be darned! I am also a genuist. Those are my principles too, and, yet, look how differently they have led us.”
The situation would have triggered within me a two-part interest:
1. A very strong curiosity, seeking to understand how a fellow-traveler genuist reached so opposite a conclusion, as compared to mine.
2. More careful examination and scrutiny regarding what epistemological modes and methods are acceptably consistent with an authentic genuistic stance. To put this another way, simply by learning this virtue possesses its own explicit title and definition, I would have found myself having a heightened consciousness of its precepts, and increased determination to honor and live up to its standards. By obvious extension, I’d have been compelled toward a much more rigorous and scrutinizing examination of what I’d formerly thought were my genuism-based conclusions.
Ultimately, I think it credible that mere association with genuistic expressions would have hastened my escape from youthful delusions (perhaps I’d have made it there by age twenty-three instead of twenty-five). To be sure (and as I’ve above recognized), I was already unusual regarding placement of my priorities. But I think, within theistic groups everywhere, there are persons like me. I think the term genuism (and this community’s robust and salutary expression of it) might be one of the best tools for helping such persons escape, and perhaps somewhat sooner, as opposed to later.
For me, indeed, I think mere knowledge of the “genuism” expression — as such (just knowing of the title, and having awareness of its connected principles) — might have done much more than just hasten my “twenty-something” escape from a delusionary mosaic. Specifically concerning that “crisis-of-faith” episode when I was eighteen (when I direct-betrayed genuism, though then without knowing it), I feel certain, had I then possessed even a moderately-enhanced consciousness of genuistic expressions, I’d have reacted differently. I did not then know to ask myself whether I was putting personal need in belief ahead of accuracy. I was not conscious even of the risk I might be doing so. Had I merely realized that absent due care there was a place I might so ignobly tread, I feel quite certain the simple light, of such realization, would have enabled me to avoid going there.
In never would have, in short, allowed myself to make the transformation from youthful innocence into a co-conspirer in the delusionary enterprise.
What eventually happened to me is, at age twenty-five, I happened to encounter another experience (details again another story) that again could not be well-reconciled with my assembled mosaic. Metaphorically, I came upon a group of puzzle pieces that created a positive indication of gross misassembly in my prior mosaic. Yes, I could have again done much as I did when eighteen (I was very conscious of this option; family and friends felt I was very wrong for refusing to take it). This time, however, I was prepped with a foundation of significantly more mature, dedicated and conscious-of-its-precepts genuism. Given this, I was not willing to again do what I’d formerly done. I would not now (and consciously, no less) force together pieces that so obviously did not fit. I would not cut pieces off. I would not leave many pieces unused, and still stored in the box. I was now determined to give all matters their full and due weight.
At the time, I thought it was an incredible stroke of coincidence where I happened to have stumbled onto my own particular, impossible-to-fit-with-others (and with-integrity) set of puzzle pieces. I also thought anyone else, if confronted by a similar set, would surely react as I had. And I thought discovery of this set was essential to my own salvation, outward from what I now knew was a delusion. Over time, I discovered most others would not have reacted as I did (i.e., even if encountering the same experiences). I further realized, given how my genuism had matured, I would have eventually made the transformation out regardless (i.e., even absent an experience set that at the time I thought was remarkably unique). Regardless, sooner is better than later. I wish it would have been even sooner, for me.
I was talking with my wife the other day. I said I wished I could tell her the best thing I’d ever done was to marry her. I could not. As good as that decision was, it pales – in terms of how much I thank myself for having done it – in comparison to my decision to fully respect such evidence as dictated abandonment of my Mormon faith.
I now wish to describe my experience, building a new mosaic, after determining my old one belonged in a dumpster. To be very clear, this is a determination that, once reached, never in the least wavered. From day one in my new life, I felt positively certain my old picture was necessarily — positively had to be — rubbish. There was no doubt whatsoever. Yet (and in spite of this certainty), all by itself that old picture still seemed compelling. Just viewing it (as an isolated entity unto itself), it still seemed as transcendently persuasive as it ever had. Though knowing it must be false, I continued to marvel at its grandeur.
More particularly, it passed “gloriously,” and here is why I use that expression.
By and by, I found myself taking a puzzle-piece grouping that had formerly been assembled to paint the old mosaic. Out of sheer curiosity, I decided to see how those pieces might be assembled differently, to fit the picture on a new puzzle-box cover (one where I was convinced Mormonism had to be painted as a fraud, though I was very uncertain what else might materialize). At fi
rst, I found gentle but sharp delight in discovering: “I’ll be darned; those pieces now slide together effortlessly. Unlike before, they are now (and quite suddenly) a perfect fit.” Then I discovered the same with another few pieces. And a few more after that. Over time, it was as though I’d taken my entire prior-assembled mosaic, tossed it on the floor and scattered its pieces. Then I worked to re-assemble, this time with fitness of the connections as my only criteria.
How wonderful it was to see the new image take shape. What began as small delight grew, rather quickly, into very great delight. This new image was not semi-abstract as was the prior one (abstract-fuzziness cannot help but occur where pieces are forced to fit a false image). Nor were any of the fits between pieces imperfect. On the contrary, I found all sliding together, with perfect precision. And the resulting mosaic? Oh, what a thing to behold. Smooth on its surface. High resolution. Crystal clear in the sharpness of its definition. It was as though I’d suffered from terribly compromised eyesight all my life, then became fitted with perfect optical correction, and began looking at things again. What a supreme joy it was to discover this difference. It’s a joy still. I love — I truly love — to see the real!
Perhaps even more important than such sheer epistemological delight as is involved in seeing an accurate view of things, I have been transformed into a more whole, complete and good person than I’d otherwise have been. It has made me dramatically better equipped to live life to its fullest, with true productivity, and to exert a much more beneficial influence on family and community.
What does this description mean for our genuistic community? What should it mean?
I think, even if they are a small minority, there are likely at least some hundreds of thousands, out there in theistic communities everywhere, who are at heart genuists, much as I was. Some may have fallen unwittingly into delusionary choices, as did I for a while. Others may still be in a state of innocence, as I also once was. Regardless, if persons with compelling but false mosaics can be acquainted with this higher principle and standard as embodied in the term “genuism” — not merely acquainted, but also given the benefit of a conceptual “handle” by which to grasp, store and manipulate the concept (as I see it, words provide handles for concepts) — if they can be given these benefits, and simultaneously understand the majority countenances the opposite of such higher morality, I suspect a great many may be very much inclined to express their innate genuism more perfectly. Possibly not immediately, but over time I think there might be a significantly strong effect.
Given this, I think we have something of a duty in this community. We must be a “City shining on a hill.” For the sake of our fellow-traveler, at-heart genuists (who are nevertheless unwittingly subject to false mosaics), we must make the light of genuistic conceptions shine brightly. If we make this light shine, those who are at-heart genuists will see it. They will be assisted. They will more robustly recognize the virtue of genuism, and the evil of its opposite. They will increase in their determination to be authentic genuists. By and by they may (as I did) escape a delusionary path, or perhaps avoid entering one at all.
Referring again to the term itself, just having the title (a good title, and one that refers so directly to the underlying substance of concern) carries power. Mere understanding of the term (what it means, and what are the requirements that naturally flow from it) can go a long way toward providing the needed trigger by which those of similar moral stance might more fully join our path.
And the term provides a common language. On the basis of genuism, we can speak understandably to fellow travelers who might nevertheless still be theists.
Genuism is the word.
Almost, even, you could say genuism describes our “religion.” This would not be, of course, in any Constitutional “Wall of Separation” sense (I believe for the term “religion” to be a targeted concern there it must involve at least some component of theism). Genuism is nevertheless at least religion-like in that it’s a principle and standard by which to govern one’s life. It is, furthermore, a matter of conscience, and the term itself is I believe the very best title for this attribute of conscience as has been proposed.
Please, may we call ourselves genuists?