Posted in: Atheism

Hot Thoughts

By Bob Passantino, ©Copyright 1989 by Bob Passantino.

There’s a difference between a platitude and a “hot thought.” A platitude sounds nice, makes you feel good, and makes others think you know what you’re talking about. Example: “What’s meant to be, will be.” A “hot thought,” on the other hand, is a principle, often expressed in a simple statement, that is an important tool in evaluating and understanding a given proposition. Example: “A difference that makes no difference is no difference at all.” Let me show you the ineffectiveness of the platitude and the usefulness of the hot thought.

Think about the platitude above (“What will be, will be”). How can you use this to understand or evaluate a proposition? What does it really tell you? Nothing. It just has a few more letters that the unforgettable (and just as vacuous) statement from the est (Forum) cult founder, Werner Erhardt, “What is, is.” But you can’t use it to do anything other than fill in a silent spot in a conversation.

On the other hand, think about the hot thought (“A difference that makes no difference is no difference at all”). How can you use this principle to understand and evaluate a proposition? Take the query you sometimes hear from non-believers concerning the nature of reality, “Maybe what we think is real isn’t really real. Maybe we’re really a figment of someone else’s imagination.”

Now, when you ask someone like this how he could know that this thing called reality is really illusory, he is unlikely to have a test ready for you. In fact, if you press him, pointing out sensory experience, historical records, memory, predictabilty, etc. as tests showing that what is called reality is real, he is likely to respond, “I know, but just maybe all the sensory experience, memory, etc. are also figments of someone else’s imagination.” Of course, even that still affirms that something is real, since he’s talking about someone else having these figments of his imagination.

But what else has this person done? He has attributed to an illusion everything commonly understood as reality. He hasn’t really discovered or proved anything about reality or illusion, he has only made the two words “illusion” and “reality” artificially synonymous. He hasn’t done anything useful to know or perceive reality more accurately. By predicating everything to illusion that you predicate to reality (sensory experience, predictability, etc.), he has tried to make a difference without showing a difference. There’s the hot thought: “A difference that makes no difference is no difference at all.” He’s going to have to come up with a difference that makes a difference before he’s going to persuade anyone who’s thinking straight.

Think of other ways you can use this hot thought to help you understand and respond to challenges to your faith. Once you have seen this principle in action a few times, you will begin to become comfortable with it and you will think of new ways to use it. When that happens, my principle becomes your principle, and you have your own “hot thought” — a principle that is hot in two ways: (1) it’s “stolen” from someone else; and (2) it really works, it’s valuable, or “hot.”

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