The phrase “Ignorance Is Bliss” comes from a poem written by Thomas Gray, an English poet and college professor who lived from 1716 to 1771. In his “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” he ended the poem with:
“To each his sufferings: all are men,
Condemn’d alike to groan—
The tender for another’s pain,
Th’ unfeeling for his own.
Yet, ah! why should they know their fate,
Since sorrow never comes too late,
And happiness too swiftly flies?
Thought would destroy their Paradise.
No more;—where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”
Thomas Gray was not implying that to be ignorant was something to be encouraged. He was not advocating for people to remain uneducated. He was referring to his childhood. When you are in your youth, you have the luxury of remaining ignorant of so many things and are allowed to be carefree and happy. People have taken this quote, twisted it, reshaped it and changed its meaning to be something it wasn’t intended to be. People like to plug their ears when an uncomfortable topic comes up and say, “I don’t want to know. If I don’t hear it then it can’t bother me. I’m better off not knowing, even if it means living in a fantasy and ignoring all sense and reason.”
Religion is a topic where people can use this type of avoidance mechanism to avoid anything uncomfortable or potentially life-changing. There are people within Christianity who never open their Bible and would rather take the word of another person to get their lessons on faith. Some people are content not knowing what is actually in there and are happy with the promises made to them by someone whom they trust. If they actually read the Bible, there’s a chance that their perception of religion could change (and in a significant way) and so would rather not know. Living the life of a “church Christian” is sufficient. Being a “Good Berean” as my pastor would say, is of no interest to them. In Acts 17:11, the Bible says this, “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The Bereans read the scriptures daily to verify that what was being taught was in accordance with what they deemed was “God’s Word.”
Some Christians are good Bereans and they search the scriptures as the early Jews did. Sometimes when they read a passage that seems different than the message being taught by a church leader, they go to that same church leader and ask for clarity. That’s when the message can get twisted and re-imagined. If the Bible contradicts what is being taught within the church, the Bible isn’t confirmed as it is written, but rather excuses are made and creative thinking and some fancy wordsmithing make it all work out. I know this to be true as I had several occasions where I read my Bible and the message was not at all in line with the Pastor’s message. They had a way of making sense of it by saying things like, “It’s only a metaphor” or “that’s not what they meant here” or even “we can just ignore that part because it is not meant for us anyway.” Common sense would tell us that the message from the pulpit should match the message that comes from the book being read from at that same pulpit. But, we accept the explanation from the church and let it go. Better to be ignorant of the facts than to make waves.
Another thing that happens out of ignorance is you get Christians who take the Bible literally. Not just a little of it. Not just some of it. Not even most of it. But ALL of it. It’s all true. 100%. This is where ignorance can be the most dangerous. Some not only ignore all of the evidence that points to the Bible being written by man (uninspired from God) for man’s purposes, but also ignore the history of changes being made to the Bible over the years. The Bible has had words (and some entire books) removed and added. Did God authorize these changes? Nope. Men voted on what parts they liked or disliked. Scribes made their own changes as well. Some words are in the earliest texts, but not in the later editions. And some words are not in the earliest texts but are found in later editions. God’s word. THE WORD. Somehow the Almighty has allowed sinful wretches like us to change his word and influence billions. Does he care enough to stop that? Apparently not because there are so many people that open up their Bibles, written in English no less, and assume that each word was carefully placed there by God himself through his chosen, inspired authors. When you ignore the “paper trail” of forensic evidence that shows the changes to this “unchangeable masterpiece, “you have made the decision to be blissfully unaware of evidence that may unravel your faith in order to maintain your belief system.
The danger of ignoring evidence that contradicts your position is that you are likely to spread that misinformation to others. Christians are commanded to preach the “word” to the lost in order to bring them to Christ. If the “word” is not divine and has been changed over time, you are not preaching truth, but rather propaganda in order to keep the religion machine running. People are always searching for something. Some search for truth, no matter where it leads. Others search for hope, and sweet words that comfort hurting hearts are preferable to ones that point to a reality that some don’t want to consider.
I’ve said this many times before: The truth is the most important thing. When you ignore what you don’t want to know or cover your ears from hearing a view that is in contrast to what you want it to be, you are setting yourself up for difficulty later in life. When you have the false hope of an afterlife where loved ones are waiting with open arms (which isn’t in the Bible by the way) then when you lose loved ones, you are not equipped to deal with the finality of it all and closure never comes. There’s always a hurt that doesn’t go away and you need to keep reminding yourself that one day it’ll pass (when you are reunited in Heaven) based on the faith you have. This faith is based on just words without evidence. Waiting on Jesus to return doesn’t prepare you for the life you have to live right here and now. Waiting on a savior to come and fix the mess we’re in “down here” makes us complacent or apathetic towards causes that need our attention. We tend to put the responsibility on Jesus when he returns and blissfully go about our lives while we wait. Pretending that there isn’t a need doesn’t make the need go away.
Ignorance can feel like bliss at times because you can tune out the world’s ills. But ignorance is not bliss to the ones who don’t share your faith in things unseen (and unproven). Your ignorance is like a virus that just keeps spreading. It spreads to the point where instead of holding out our hands to help, we clasp them together in prayer and plead for help from a God that has never answered. We send our thoughts, our prayers and all too often, our condolences when prayer fails once more. You can believe what you want to believe about there being a creator or not. But when you ignore the fact that your book has been created by mere men with clear earthly agendas, and then use your book as a weapon (in the name of your god) to cover anyone who disagrees with guilt and shame, then that’s not okay.
Belief is one thing. If you choose to remain ignorant to keep your faith in God, then that’s your prerogative. When your ignorance becomes more than a personal thing and you feel the need to indoctrinate others in the church of ignorance, then you are out of line. I never would have thought so when I was a believer, but now that I am out of my blissfully ignorant state, it is all too clear. I was blind to the truth because I chose to be. I chose a life of false hope and blissful ignorance because the alternative seemed too scary. But when you have the truth on your side, you can prepare for that life and make the necessary changes to live it fulfilled. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is just ignorance. And ignorance is why religion has become what it has become. It is a collection of billions of people who cannot agree on one single thing and force their beliefs onto others. If God is real, then he is content that we are all ignorant of him because what we call religion is certainly not what you’d expect to see from a loving, intelligent being.