July 6, 2011

Reality is Not a Democracy

I'm not SatanCan you think of a time when you were right about something and all your friends were wrong? I suspect you can. After all, we tend to remember things like that. It could have been something quite trivial. Perhaps you knew which band recorded a particular song, and all your friends thought it was someone else. The point is, you were right and everyone else was wrong.

Imagine what it must have been like to be the one person (or perhaps one of a very small number) who first realized that the Earth was not flat! Think of how much flack the earliest proponents of heliocentrism faced. And yet, they were right while the overwhelming majority was wrong.

Going against conventional wisdom can be a lonely experience indeed, and being right does not always seem sufficiently consoling. But I suppose I don't have to convince you of that, do I? After all, you are atheists. If you are living in the United States or other countries that still expect people to believe in superstitious nonsense, you know all too well what it is like to feel like the only sane one in a sea of lunatics. And yet, you are right. You have realized the absurdity of believing extraordinary claims without sufficient evidence.

You are by no means the only atheist. There are over 24.6 million of us in the U.S. alone! We are a minority, but our numbers are growing and there are already more of us than many influential minorities. And we are right. If we have learned nothing else from the history of science, we should remember that popular opinions are often wrong. The fact that most Americans believe in gods of some sort does not make them any less wrong. Reality is not a democracy; it does not conform to popular opinion.

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