I have to laugh when atheists dismiss God as “just a mental construct.” God is just something you made up in your head,” they say, ” your imaginary friend,” implying that anyone who believes such things is childish. They claim that THEY only rely on truth, which they limit to hard, scientific evidence.
This is utter nonsense on so many levels, but let’s talk about mental constructs. I have never been to Africa, but I hold a mental construct of a big chunk of landscape between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans. The evidence I have for this is other people’s words, verbal and written. Sure verbal and written words can be wrong, but I choose to believe that Africa exists and looks like the part of map on my wall labeled “Africa.” Furthermore, I have mental constructs of the Congo River, exotic wildlife, various tribal groups and the Kalahari desert. My imaginary continent, I guess, just a mental construct, because I’ve never been there.
I maintain that all the best things like love, truth and beauty-are abstract, mental constructs-and they are real. You can’t put love on a microscopic slide or measure beauty in a beaker. But they are REAL. If you want to be such a objectivist puritan that you reject love, truth and beauty because they are mental constructs, then I feel sorry for you.
And it gets even worse. “Three” is an abstract mental construct, like all numbers. Sure, it stands for “three” things, but the number by itself is a mental construct. If you wish to reject three on the grounds that it is an abstraction, good luck in math class.
Even closer to home, “money” is an abstract, mental construct. We may think of coins or the green folding stuff people used to carry in their wallets as money, but even those stood for something else and their value lay solely in the fact that people believed they had value. We still do; if we ever stop believing, the jig is up. And even those tokens of the abstract mental construct have dissolved into direct deposit of our paychecks-digits whizzing through cyberspace and landing in our bank accounts.
And we are perfectly OK with that faith-based system; because everything we think is a mental construct. Of course, if you reject money because it is a mental construct, then no paycheck for you. Your boss will have to deliver an equivalent number of goats to your doorstep every pay day, because goats are “real” and money is not.