“Alcoholic ? Who, me ? Not on your life ! Mind you, I do have a few drinks with my mates at the pub and at parties with friends. Some of them, I’m sorry to say, can’t hold their liquor. Me, I like a good Scotch or three, but I never overdo it. And I can give it up anytime I like.”
His wife, his children, those same mates and friends all know he’s kidding himself. Freud called it denial.
We use the word in many ways. I deny hitting the ball through the window or pulling my sister’s hair, or … telling lies. I deny you the right to enter my property. I deny that cars and industrial pollution contribute to climate change (in fact, I don’t). But here we are talking about refusing to believe that I have a drinking problem, or that my son was caught with his red hand in the till, or that my wife did really die in that plane crash. The cure of such denial is called enlightenment.
Readers will have guessed what I’m driving at. Believers wonder how atheists like me can deny the “evidence” of God’s existence. I wonder how they can allow their faith to blind them from seeing the folly in believing that dead people are still alive, in some sort of “after-life”. We do not want to admit that we have become addicts of alcohol or drugs, or, painful as it is to admit, that certain terrible events in fact took place, or that death really is the definitive end of personal existence.
To be liberated from illusions, wishful thinking and denial is to discover the truth that alone can make us free. From Illusions to Illumination …