Life becomes a lot easier when you realize people will lie, cheat, and destroy for money and blame it on principles. It’s like a holdover of Sola Fide where beliefs and revealed preferences are non-overlapping magisteria. Except when you need to transfer the negative externalities of your behavior somewhere, then muh principles become like one of those infinite extradimensional bags of holding in Dungeons and Dragons where you can sweep all the consequences of your endless self-serving bullshit. It’s “my hands are tied” scapegoating ad infinitum but, by the Satanic miracle of habituation, apparently not ad nauseum.
Boomers are a lot easier to understand when you realize they think they can run up bad karma (i.e. debts in morality as well as mortgages) and then get out of it by dying:
Immortality projects are one way that people manage death anxiety. Some people, however, will keep themselves drunk or use drugs to escape their anxiety in the face of death. Others will try to manage the terror of death by ignoring the problem and by “tranquilizing oneself with the trivial.” (A term Becker borrows from Kierkegaard.) Becker describes the success of the Christian world picture as being able to take “slaves, cripples… the simple and the mighty” and turn them into heroes of their own story by looking beyond this world to the heavenly realm where they will be rewarded for their heroism by God and live with Him forever.
Becker argues that the arbitrariness of human-invented immortality projects makes them naturally prone to conflict. When one immortality project conflicts with another, it is essentially an accusation of ‘wrongness of life’, and so sets the context for both aggressive and defensive behavior. Each party will want to prove its belief system is superior, a better way of life. Thus these immortality projects are considered a fundamental driver of human conflict, such as in wars, bigotry, genocide, and racism.
Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity’s traditional “hero-systems”, such as religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason. However, he argued the loss of religion leaves humanity with impoverished resources for necessary illusions. Science attempts to serve as an immortality project, something that Becker believes it can never do because it is unable to provide agreeable, absolute meanings to human life. The book states that we need new convincing “illusions” that enable us to feel heroic in ways that are agreeable. Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution. Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of humanity’s innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world.
Turns out there really is no substitute for true belief in life after death. No amount of social engineering can revitalize people who think their shit don’t stink because they won’t be around to smell it. Romanticists absolutely BTFO.
Bruce Charlton has been killing it lately. See also:
The lesson of 2020: nobody will rescue you
Pointing-out the obvious; trying to save those who don’t want to be saved
Most modern people are, in effect, psychopaths
What the Christian churches Should have done in the birdemic (and what it means that they did Not)
The Empire Never Ended and the Black Iron Prison