Innocence can also mean absence of guile and absence of knowledge of guile.
This is a really interesting topic, Belle.
I would never make the decision to go back to innocence. Not after my experiences. I agree that it is the things that we know that haunt us, but I wouldn't give it back if I could. I think, in that sense, ignorance and innocence could be looked at as synonymous.
From my current understanding of it, knowledge can never be a bad thing. The more that we learn and know, the more informed our decisions become, and the better off we are. The application of the knowledge is what can be a bad thing. Nuclear weapons is a good example. We discovered how to harness the power of the atom, and then immediately decided to apply it to weapons before anything else. Can you think of any reasons why knowledge can be a bad thing?
By living life we lose our innocence but in the process we reach maturity as adults. It is a process that takes time and varies for everyone depending on their experiences. Often people are forced to “grow up” more quickly than others because the reality of their environment demands they do so in order to survive. Our strength of character is chiselled from how we cope with life. Our wisdom is determined by what we have learned from those experiences.
If our reality is built upon a framework where the world is directed by a god or astrology then our reality is based upon the results of magical thinking. As Atheists we don’t think like that. Once we admit to ourselves that we are Atheists we are compelled to view the world differently. Our worldview means we become aware of our own mortality. We are here on this rock for a finite time and when we die it’s all over. Once we come to terms with that reality we begin to build a new framework to make sense of the world. Developing our Critical Thinking is a key skill so as not to think irrationally.
A theist knows that losing their faith would mean having to change their whole philosophy of life and to admit that what they always held to be true is actually false. Maybe it is not about a loss of “innocence” but rather a loss of “naivety”. To maintain that a god exists without any objective evidence is naïve. There are no gods. A person will never reach full maturity if they insist on having some magical sky daddy that they can run to when “real” reality starts to bite.
Once we get beyond that stage then our eyes are opened to view the world anew. The “how’s” and “whys” of human behaviour become clearer. We can think freely without the chains of imaginary gods distracting us as we search for answers to the bigger questions in life. We learn to take personal responsibility for our own actions rather than lumping it onto the backs of goats. We evolve a greater sense of empathy with others knowing that they too have only one life. Our sense of morality and code of ethics is under regular review as we discover more, rather than handed to us in tablet form. All of these things make us stronger and more capable of dealing with the “real world”. We become more humble as our egos can be eroded by the knowledge that we are of no overall consequence to anyone other than a handful of family and friends on this pale blue dot. The Universe was not created with us at the centre. The Universe does not know we are here.
We have our own personal understanding of what the Truth is and that helps form our worldview. Then we have a shared truth that is part of our shared reality of life and the world around us. That is a reasoned view of reality formed thought the Consensus we reach through dialogue. What it reveals to us may at times be brutal but also it can be wonderful. When you can think clearly and without any form of woo clouding your thought process then it does not matter what life throws at you or what you may suddenly find you did not know. Once you can deal with the past it will not haunt you for the past becomes a different country. By thinking Atheist you will have the skills to deal with anything. Each time you will become stronger and wiser….
…or something like that :-)
I am always looking to improve my levels of knowledge on the academic front. I will want to be informed about the latest theories and discoveries in the various fields of science as they become available. For me the pursuit of knowledge is important. Knowledge is power but for me that power is what allows me to think differently to (most) others. I can take a lot of information in and process it quickly. I like dangerous ideas. Everything I know or think I know is allowed to be challenged by everyone, including myself. The pursuit of knowledge, or rather learning in and of itself is its own reward. I will be stone dead forever within the next 50 years (more like 30). When that happens all that I have come to know and all that I have experienced will be lost like tears in the rain. That is my reality and I would could not live my life the way I do if I was not as aware of that certainty as I am.
I know you are not just talking about academic or cultural knowledge. I can remember being bothered by my awareness of the passage of time but my knowledge of the arrow of time has changed that and empowered me. Time cares not for me so I care not for it. Someday, if I live long enough, I will wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled……and so be it.
I, like most of us, will be moved by a sublime singing voice (at 1:43 lyrics aside) and discovering the knowledge behind it (Mozart) makes it all the more interesting. Some, on a clear night, will look up at the stars and admire the wonders of their god. From my knowledge of Cosmology my mind will be further inspired because I am fully aware of my own insignificance and in that moment I am in awe of such an understanding. I would rather know that the death of stars gave me life than believe some supernatural explanation.
What would it mean to us if Earth was the only planet with intelligent life? What would it mean if we find it on another? I would rather know that Evolution is not aware that we exist than think some god is behind it. DNA created humans as a species to allow it to pass itself on. That is knowledge I would rather have and I see beauty in becoming aware of how fortunate I am to exist at all, given the odds against it.
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," – that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
Some people just have no interest in learning. They just never seem to be interested or have no spark of curiosity. There can be many reasons for that and I often think it is because they just take the answers from religion as “gospel” and never question it. I am not like that. I am compelled to be a skeptic and to seek out my own answers.
I could think of many examples of knowledge that some people may not want to be aware of and to live their lives in ignorance of it. Many prefer to bury their heads in the sand than deal with things. Sometimes life does deal a bad hand but I would rather be aware of it. If a doctor was to tell me I had an incurable disease I would rather know about it. I would want the blunt facts about it. If a sex offender moved into my area I would want to have knowledge about it. If I did an unintentional wrong to someone I would want them to tell me so I could make amends.
Maybe you are right and some of the happiest people appear to be the ones that lead more simple lives. However maybe those same people are the most content because they have derived a wisdom to live by because they have their own knowledge of life that makes them strong enough to live a simple life? I would always want to know.
I'm not sure I was every really 'innocent'. I always suspected the wizard behind the curtain, always felt that there were explanations to be pursued. Perhaps I was a bit innocent about 'the American dream', and the western world's altruistic image. I think I would like to go back on that one point, to believing that American bombs were filled with freedom and liberty could be spread by liberating foreign lands of their petroleum reserves.
I want to be wise. The more I know, the better I can handle life as an adult.
I think there can be innocence in wisdom. To me, if someone is free of self-interest but instead wants what is best, that is innocence.
Could it be argued that knowledge by itself does not make us wise? Rather if we understand the implications of what we learn from it we can construct a framework to build our worldview upon. Once we have that, we must realize that we can only build upon it through life experiences. When we leave our egos out of our contemplations then maybe we have discovered something to make us a little wiser.
Reg - I agree with your framework idea. I see reality as a giant jigsaw puzzle made of facts. Each new fact is like a new piece in the overall picture.
These facts fit together into larger patterns - interlocking frameworks. Once we start to see a framework we can slot facts into it as we discover them. Of course, often we find that our framework is inadequate, in which case we can modify it - simplify and clarify it we hope.