This I Believe

Bil - San Clemente, California
Entered on November 2, 2006

The problem, and the virtue, of beliefs is that we don’t all have the same ones at the same time. Let me dwell awhile on the problem side of this equation.

I recently had an epiphany of the most mind-boggling magnitude. Rather an apt choice of phrase that, for it was all about how the mind can get boggled.

And now, some of my former best friends treat me with utter suspicion – the suspicion that I have completely lost my marbles.

“For why?” you ask.

I have a theory that possibly explains the origin of every religion that has occurred on this planet. Every single one. (Now stop looking at me like that – it is only a theory, put up for discussion and discourse. But since it attacks the core beliefs of just about every person of faith, no wonder most of them think I might be stark raving mad. Or that I am the latest mutation of the Darwin Disease).

First: my new theory. I call it my new theory, for I am certain that I have never heard it elsewhere. If this is all old hat, I promise you, no plagiarism was ever intended,

The human mind is rather like a massive information processor. I am told the average brain processes about 4 billion bits of data per second (impressive – huh?) And a similar source says that the conscious part of human awareness is processing about 2,000 bits a second. But there is a lot of evidence that the interface between the conscious part and the rest is a bit flakey.

Have you ever found yourself in mid-sentence of a conversation, and suddenly realized that you have no idea what topic is under discussion? What has happened, is that your short term memory has dumped, and long term memory is too busy to make up the shortfall. An event so common, it is often now called a brain-skip.

If an implanted or otherwise false memory exists in the subconscious, it is the very devil to convince the awareness part of the brain that the false-memory is indeed false. It is though we are hard wired with a basic philosophy “What affects me, is”. Testimony given at trial that subsequently was proven to be inaccurate is not always the result of ulterior motives.

Now, suppose you arrive for the very first time at a new location, and within the first second or so of arrival, you have a similar sort of short term memory dump. You may find yourself with a long term memory of a place that you know you have never seen before, and no short term memory of it at all. Again, such a common experience we have given it the name déj– vu – possibly an early source for the concept of reincarnation and a latter one for movies that revel in unsound science.

If you try to tell believers of reincarnation that their faith may be based on some sort of brain skip, you may well be in for a pretty severe verbal bashing.

But, try to get a grasp of the epiphany that I had.

Suppose at a moment of great stress, or emotion, or quiet contemplation, the aware part of your brain became conscious of the rest of your brain. What could you make of it?

You had been in the presence of something with an apparent IQ of about 2 million, that knows every single detail of your life, and is always present wherever you may be. A god-like creature, indeed. And it is not you. Of that you are certain. You haven’t a single shred of godhood about you. You cannot even remember where you left your library ticket – what chance have you of performing a miracle or too?

And you have an unshakable memory of meeting this god-like being. It affects you, therefore it is a real being that you met.

Further, when you got around to sharing your experience with others of your tribe, some of them had experienced the identical experience. It would seem that this invisible omnipotent being knows everything about everybody and is permanently everywhere.

Those with the shared experience become people of faith. Filling in the missing pieces was simply a matter for the theologists.

So, there you have it. I have a theory that all religion may be caused by man’s inability to describe a particular type of brain-skip.

So to the consequences.

The big mistake I made was trying to get others to discuss with me the pro’s and con’s of my new theory, in a polite and constructive debate. See where it leads to. A mental adventure of the greatest kind, perhaps.


My friend, should it happen to you that you might consider believing in something radical, may I counsel you to pick on something not too radical?

I would rather have friends and family who are comfortable in my presence, and not constantly eyeing the location of the nearest cell phone, exit or safe haven. People who like being with me, not wondering if my delusions might turn into something nasty and violent. And I am convinced that you would want the same comfortable life yourself.

So don’t go proposing things too extreme.

And if there is a God – why did he pick on me to stumble onto my new theory? Is it the ultimate irony delivered by the one who moves in mysterious ways?