This blog post contains explicit language, but considering the title of this book what are you expecting?
This isn’t the first book I *read* by Mark Manson. About two years ago Google was offering a free audiobook in hopes of getting me to use their service, so I downloaded Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, listened to it, then never used google’s service again1. I found that book hard to review (in much the same way I find all books in that genre hard to review), but also wanted to pretty badly, enough so that I hope to reread and return to it at some point. I liked that book, and by the time I finished reading it, I liked the author.
Another friend of mine really like Mr Mason, and even reads his blog regularly. She told me that he wrote a book about hope, right around the time when both of our lives seemed pretty fucking hopeless. Maybe it would be a good idea if we read this book to give us some hope.
I was enjoying this book, up until the point I got to one particular section where the author decides he wants to talk about the importance of faith.
Oh, fuck balls. I don’t like where this is going. Not one little bit.
Linguistically, I am a strong descriptivist: there are not a lot of circumstance in which you can say that someone’s speech is wrong, that you should only really talk about the speech patterns of groups. You can try to influence this (and for the most part you will fail), by making arguments about the use of words or speech. That is what I am about to do next: I am putting on my activist hate and petitioning for a better use.
Simply put, this book is a hot mess that you get when people do not but in the effort of defining terms before making arguments. But the problem ends up being that Manson ends up saying things that piss me right the fuck off:
“So, there’s no such thing as an atheist.”
God, Fucking, Damnit!
This one is minor, but right when I saw it I knew I was going to disagree with a whole lot afterwards. This is a stupid equivocation. The fact that I am unconvinced of any God proposition is divorced from whether or not I believe in other things on faith. Even if I submitted to the notion that literally everything else in my head was faith-based (and that is not the case), I would still use the atheist label. Atheism is about one specific proposition. There are many religious people who will report to have knowledge, not faith, on the god proposition. You would not call these people faithless.
“You pay your mortgage because you have faith that money is real, and credit is real, and a bank taking all your shit is real.”
God, Fucking, Damnit!
This isn’t anywhere near the same type of faith that religious people use. Religious people have faith in spite of a lack of evidence and often with evidence to the contrary. If you question them on their beliefs or provide evidence to the contrary you watch them squirm, hem-and-haw, and try to pigeon hole their belief into reality. That is what faith is, and faith is garbage. I don’t have faith in currency. If evidence were to accumulate that no one was accepting my currency and longer, I would stop using it. If evidence were to accumulate that all the banks were shut down, I would stop paying my mortgage. These are not the same fucking thing.
“What do we choose to believe?”
God, Fucking, Damnit!
This one really fucking boils my blood, and its not even a linguistic point. You cannot choose your beliefs. Not ever. That isn’t how belief works. You are either convinced by the evidence or you are not. That evidence can be fault, or wrong, and it can still be convincing to you (which is how people come to wrong idea). Every time I hear this I ask the person I am talking to if they can choose to believe that two plus two is five. Every single time they will get flustered and tell me that “that’s not the same!”. It absolutely is, and no one has been able to come within the fucking ballpark of a reasonable explanation as to why it wouldn’t be. They know they are wrong, and they try to weasel out of it every time.
You’re probably thinking that I just went through a whole lot of belly-aching for one seemingly minor point, but Manson’s use of faith is pretty central to the thesis of the book, as is the idea of choosing your beliefs. What it ultimately culminates to is a notion of is ‘hey, stop being down about out shitty world and opt into optimism.” Frankly, I can’t even envision a person that would find that terribly compelling. If you need a book that may make you hopeful, go read Steven Pinker.
1I feel like this detail is important to mention, particularly on the cusp of Pearson’s going the Amazon ‘you never really own the product you buy’ route. These assholes can privatize libraries if they like, but I will be God damned if I will give them a fucking dime of my money.