Sometimes, because of all my writings on uncertainty, I get the feeling that many people have the false impression that I’m just wishy washy, uncertain, and full of doubt all the time. This is not the case. I could be 99.9999% certain about something, but then focus on the 0.0001% uncertainty in order to demonstrate a point. No matter how sure about something I am, there is always a chance that I could be wrong. That chance could be very small, but it’s always there, no matter what I think or believe. The refusal to acknowledge the possibility of my own human fallibility is pride, arrogance, and extreme foolishness.
Having said that, there are some things I believe to a very high degree of certainty. For example, I’m pretty sure that the Earth is not flat. I have seen pictures of the Earth from space. I have seen the curvature of the Earth from airplanes and high mountains. I have traveled a great distance around the Earth, from Hungary to China. Even if I did not have my own personal experiences, there seems to be enough evidence out there to dispel all doubt. I could almost be willing to say I know the Earth is not flat, but what would be the point? When do people really use those words anyway? My complaints about the phrase – “I know” – come from the feeling that it implies absolute certainty, but perhaps this is only in certain contexts.
Generally speaking, I think most people will simply say, “the Earth is not flat,” and then move on. There is no need to add an emphatic “I know” to the start of it. However, if someone comes up and claims that the Earth is flat and an argument ensues, a person, without sufficient ability to explain how or why the Earth is not flat, may feel pressure to assert their knowledge. “I know the Earth is not flat. It’s just not. I can’t say how I know; I just do.”
To me, the above case is most like religious expressions of surety. People understand that their views are not universally accepted, but they lack the ability to coherently express their reasons for their beliefs. Therefore, they feel the pressure to fall back on, “I know.” If a person has confidence in their beliefs and clear reasons for those beliefs, they should be able to just say it. “This is the case because…” To me, adding “I know” to the start of an assertion is giving up on trying to reason with someone and trying instead to appeal to faith. It gives the message, “just trust me”. I know this.
Now, having said all that, I find myself in that very situation that I have just described. I am not the expert that can explain everything perfectly, but I am quite sure about certain things. I have tried to express my views for several years and have not been believed or understood. I often feel incapable of explaining all of my reasoning to those who will not or cannot understand. Perhaps it is time to fall back to “I know.”
A long time ago, it was common knowledge that the Earth was flat. This was the reality that the people experienced, and to believe otherwise would have seemed foolish. As time went on though, more and more evidence came to light to prove that the Earth was not actually flat. Gradually, people were forced to reconstruct their reality. The Earth was not flat, and this became knowledge. What would it take for people today to go back to believing that the Earth is flat without forgetting everything we have learned in the interim? I could probably come up with a number of possibilities, but I would not place any of them above a 0.00001% chance of being correct. With confidence, I can say that the Earth is not flat, and if backed into a corner, “I know the Earth is not flat.” This is not absolute, 100% certainty though. I refuse to go there.
When I believed in the LDS church, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and so on, I knew these things were true to a high degree of certainty. I had no real reason to doubt any of them, and I can remember saying that I knew they were true. Since then, I have gained new knowledge and come to new understanding. I have had to reconstruct my reality, and like those that learned the Earth is not flat, I can no longer go back to believing as I once did. How could I? The new knowledge supersedes the old completely.
Friends and family members that still believe seem to think that I have only lost something that can be regained. This is not the case. Because I have gained new knowledge, I can’t go back and believe as I once did. I have moved on. I am in a new place, and there is no going back. Here are some of the things that I have learned and know to be true (with varying degrees of certainty):
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is built on lies, deception, and fraud. Even with my gift for creativity, I struggle to save it. It is more likely that the Earth is flat than that the church is true.
- Moroni 10:5 “By the power of the Holy Ghost, ye may know the truth of all things.” – This is a lie which takes advantage of people’s deepest hopes and desires. Belief in such a principle discourages rational thought and encourages acceptance of things one only wishes were true.
- Church teachings about family, temples, and the celestial kingdom are manipulative and do more to harm family relationships than to help.
That list could be broken down into many other points or expanded, but I think the point has been made. I did not just lose my testimony. I gained knowledge. I did not just casually walk away from the church. I made discoveries. These were not happy and uplifting discoveries, and so people that are taught to follow the Holy Ghost through feelings of peace, joy, etc. can rarely accept them. These things can be traumatic, and do not bring peace or joy, but they are true anyway.
I believe in the considerable value of uncertainty, but I also believe in continuously increasing my knowledge and understanding to lessen that uncertainty whenever possible. The church is false. I know this to the greatest degree of certainty I allow myself. Like the flat Earther that finally discovers the truth, there is no real way to go back. And why would I want to? I only want to believe what is true. My only regret is that I did not learn these things sooner. The greatest mistakes of my life are a direct result of my belief in the church and its teachings. So much heartache, depression, and misery could have been avoided if only I’d seen the truth earlier.
But… could I be wrong about everything I’m so sure about? I will never close the door completely on my uncertainty, but I have been openly expressing my thoughts and feelings about this for seven years now, and it seems nobody is able to refute a single part of it, assuming that’s what the silence means. Or perhaps, I’m just not capable of adequately explaining my position. So today, I have to fall back to “I know.”