Let us start at the root of what is wrong with religion…Faith!

Believing despite the lack of, and often in opposition to, evidence. How anyone holds such a concept as a noble quality baffles my mind. They seem to confuse Faith with Trust. Trusting someone who has earned it is obviously a good thing and giving complete strangers limited trust is mostly beneficial. When I stop to ask for directions, I have no reason to assume that s/he will lie to me. I did lie once when giving directions, but it was an honest mistake.

In religion you are commanded to have Faith regardless. And even encouraged all the more when reason points in the other direction, as if having Faith in the most implausible is somehow more admirable. Absolutely bonkers logic!

If they’re Bible thumpers they may throw Job at you or Abraham. Job, who had his Faith tested by God who allowing Satan (notice how the Christians move all blame from God to the Devil) to spoil his life, only to reward him later. And Abraham, who was commanded to kill his only son to prove his Faith. God stopped him just in time, but I can’t imagine their father son relationship being quite the same after that. If you know your Bible it can be a lot of fun to get into a biblical argument, but don’t worry if you don’t, you don’t have to take the argument there. They have the burden to prove that this mismatch of documents, which don’t agree, and was written long after the fact by people who weren’t there is reliable.

Their final argument for Faith: Faith is a gift from Jesus, God, Allah, etc. If their chosen deity has not given you the gift (label used sarcastically) of Faith, you can’t possibly understand.

This is their end of conversation argument. I just think it’s arrogant. Normally followed up with: “If you truly looked for (insert deity here) you would be blessed with Faith.”

So it’s our fault! I know it would be wrong of me to speak for all Atheists, but I have to say, if you care enough to call yourself an Atheist it must be because you have spent some time considering the likelihood of a supernatural being who created the entire universe and cares about something as insignificant to the universe as us. As Richard Feynman used to say, “It’s not in proportion!” I don’t know the statistics off the top of my head, but I think the Mormons are the only group who has read their holy book as much as Atheists (Don’t quote me on that.)

In my opinion, most Atheists are Atheists because they looked deeper into their religion. Whereas, most believers continue to believe because they refuse to look at their religion critically (I’d say honestly.) They have confirmation bias (To them holding the belief is more important than why they believe it.) Of course that’s only this Atheists opinion.

Quote: “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear.” Thomas Jefferson

10 responses to “Let us start at the root of what is wrong with religion…Faith!”

  1. Joey Hodge says :

    Yes, I think you are correct to point out that faith is often confused with trust, especially in most modern religious thinking. Speaking as a Christian, I am both disappointed and embarrassed by this.
    I would however like to point out that this is not the description of faith found in orthadox Christian tradition or in the Bible. There we see a very different understanding of what faith means. Christians point to a particular passage (Hebrews 11) a lot of times as the “faith” chapter, but reading it carefully, one will see that in each and every example cited, the action of faith is preceded by a reason of proof.
    Therefore, within a Biblical context, faith is never based on the absence of evidence, but rather on the abundance of it. Any religion that expects you to accept anything as true without any evidence for it, is fideistic, and is categorically un-Christian, and irrational.

    • belfastatheist says :

      You say you accept your version of Christianity because evidence supports it, so I’ve gotta ask. Why are you a Christian? And why is it so important for all the religions of the world to “Get ’em while they’re young”?

      If you check out the guidelines for joining The Brights (http://www.the-brights.net/action/register/children.html), a Humanist movement, you’ll see rules which I think would kill most religions if they adopted them. Why? Because empirical evidence for anything supernatural, does not exist. That is why the label “supernatural” is used. You might be tempted here to claim that God is natural…He is everything…He is the universe, but that doesn’t take care of the characteristics given to God by Christians: “…one who is, who speaks, who sees, hears, acts, and loves.”

      • Joey Hodge says :

        You ask why I am a Christian. The simplest answer is that I believe Christianity offers the best explanation of reality. It is the worldview that seems to be the most consistent with what I data I have witnessed about the nature of being, knowledge and morality among other things.

        I don’t really understand your second question. Why do religions of the world want to “get ‘em while they’re young?” Are you asking why most cultures teach their young the truths about reality as best as they understand them? If that’s the case, the answer seems pretty axiomatic.

        Alright, so these guidelines you linked to for joining The Brights seems pretty simple and straight-forward. So what makes these guidelines any better than any guidelines for joining a particular religion? In other words, why is it better to be a “Bright” than it is to be a “Christian?”

        I don’t want to get sidetracked by semantics, but I do agree with you that there is no evidence for anything supernatural and you were exactly correct in your assumption that I would claim instead that God is natural (but he is not everything, nor is he the universe.) I do. But I also think God is immaterial, and there’s plenty of evidence that immaterial things exist. What exactly are your objections to this?

      • belfastatheist says :

        I should have worded my question better. What evidence convinced you to believe what it is you believe about a personal God? You are a Christian, so I conclude that you believe in the risen Christ, at a minimum. What is the evidence that supports that?

        I didn’t say being a Bright (I’m not in full support of the Brights movement. I would prefer to use the label Humanist.) is better, only that their refusal to accept individuals who don’t understand what it is they are joining is better.

        Conscious thought (in a very strict sense) is immaterial, but it only happens within material minds. What evidence can you bring that supports the existence of a conscious mind that does not require a material brian?

  2. Joey Hodge says :

    I think the way you worded your question is fine. Your new way of asking really doesn’t really alter my answer, but I can expand on it some more. I can certainly talk about the logical and evidentiary arguments for the existence of God, most of which I think are valid and provide plenty of that kind of evidence. But since you specifically asked what “convinced” me, then the best way I can answer that question is compare it to the same thing that convinces you that I actually exist. You interact with me as if I am another mind. Now you don’t have any physical or really any empirical data that I am real. You just have some bits of data arranged in certain patterns on your computer screen and you find it useful to assume that the best explanation for it is that it originated with another mind.
    Likewise, if I see patterns of information in my own personal experience of reality, including things like science, nature, logic and morality, it becomes a reasonable and useful to assume they originate from another mind.
    Now as for the evidence for the risen Christ, it is based on the same kind of evidence used to support any historical event. Such things as having reliable multiple independent accounts of the event as well as the extent to which many eye-witnesses went to attest to the validity of what they witnessed.
    Thanks for clarifying that you prefer Humanism to being a Bright. I would still like to know why you think being a Humanist is better than being a Christian, as well as why these particular guidelines for joining the Bright’s is better than joining “most” religions. I have a suspicion we are going to be on the same page concerning the second part of that question, but I’d like to find out for sure.
    In your last question you are claiming that that conscious thought (which I would actually call a “mind”,) while immaterial, requires the existence of a material mind (which I would call a “brain.”) While that in and of itself might be a reasonable assumption for you to make, the question that follows would require me to make the same assumption you do in order to answer it, so that means you are begging the question. You might need to reword that one before I can answer it.
    Thanks for sharing your perspective.

    • belfastatheist says :

      I’m after a specific answer, which I haven’t received yet. You have claimed that your belief is supported by evidence, and I want to know what that evidence is. Because of what the evidence would support it would be more important than ending war, curing cancer, feeding all of the starving children and putting an end to every other form of harm in this world put together, if it exists. So…what is it? Keep in mind that arguments are NOT evidence. Just because you can string words together in a sentence to form an ”idea” which, in your mind, is plausible does not in any way mean that it is true. That is the difference between a Scientific Theory and a Hypothesis.

      There’s a big difference between me accepting that you exist, and you accepting that an all powerful, all knowing being exists. People leaving comments on blogs is an everyday occurrence, I do it myself. I’ve watched lots of people first hand leaving a comment to a blog post. As of February this year, Facebook has 600 million active users (I’m sure it’s not that many as people have multiple accounts, but it’s still a lot.) That’s a lot of support for my belief that you exist. I may be wrong about something which is unimportant to me, such as you being a white male. I accept that because I have no reason to think otherwise, and it wouldn’t make any difference if you actually turned out to be Chinese.

      You, on the other hand, are accepting the existence of a being that is more improbable than our own existence. I base that statement on the complexity of a being that would have the accepted characteristics of the Christian God. A being which can comprehend, no less create, our universe is more complex than our universe. I’ve watched people type comments into a computer and seen the comments appear on the screen. I’m going to assume that you have never watched a God create a universe out of nothing.

      I’m not going to argue that believing in a God isn’t useful, because for lots of people it is. It brings solace, comfort and it gives many people a direction for their lives. I would argue however that a belief in a God/deity/higher power isn’t necessary for these things.

      I must have missed that History lesson at school when they taught the resurrection of Christ. “Reliable multiple independent accounts of the event as well as the extent to which many eye-witnesses went to attest to the validity of what they witnessed”, really!? You must be referring to the gospels, and are you seriously going to hold up the gospels as evidence!? Would you take me seriously if I put forward the book Heracles by Euripides (421-416 B.C.E) as evidence for the existence of Hercules? Of course you wouldn’t. Was there a prophet walking around during the appropriate time and in the appropriate place? Yes, lots. Was one of these prophets crucified? I wouldn’t be surprised. Did the crucified prophet rise from the dead? I’m going to need more evidence than what’s found in an old book. Humans embellish and humans make stuff up, why? So people will read what they write. It’s not hard to imagine how multiple documents appear claiming supernatural events by different authors. It happens all the time. Do a Google search for Star Trek fan books and you’ll find loads, all of them with the same foundational concepts. You can make the claim that the writers of the gospels never met, never read each other gospels, never even heard of the stories, but what do you think is more plausible? That a man was God, died on a Cross and came back to life three days later, or…one man wrote a piece of fiction, which may have been based on the life of a real person, and was used as a bases for further works of fiction.

      A Humanist wants the best for humanity. A Christian wants to please a being they can’t know exists. Without a real God telling Christians to do what Humanists do on their own, without having to be told, leaves an opportunity for bad people (or just misguided people) to speak for God…and lots of believers listen. I’m sure you can think of examples on your own, as it’s so common.

      If you can provide an example of an immaterial mind, which functions without a material brain, I’ll be more likely to take you seriously. You can’t, you have done nothing more than state that it’s possible. “Possible”, in this sense, is equivalent to anything being possible. In the same use of the word “possible”, I can say that it’s possible that tomorrow all the grass in the world will turn pink. And just like you would be justified in not accepting my claim, I am justified in not accepting yours.

  3. Joey Hodge says :

    To me it sounds like you are holding up a moving target when you ask for evidence, which makes it difficult for me to give you the kind of answer you are looking for. On the one hand you are saying that you want to hear “specific answers,” then you are saying that a logical argument wouldn’t count as evidence. Now of course I have no right to dictate what you should or should not consider to be evidence for you, but my point is that you seem to be using an inconsistent standard. Don’t you think that you base most of the things you believe in on a string of ideas, which when you compare them to the data around you, consistently make sense? That’s the whole idea behind things like scientific theory as well as mental development. How is that any different from a logical proof?

    Furthermore, you would not test something like evidence concerning marine biology in the middle of a desert, so it doesn’t make sense to test evidence for God by things like curing cancer or ending war. There must be some kind of reason why one would expect God to do such things to begin with, prior to testing it. People who expect these kinds of results, have either completely made up their own version of God in their minds, or have listened to someone else who has, rather than looking for objective evidence for God in a place they should expect to find it. Any kind of God who must cure cancer or end war today because these are bad things, never would have let them happen to begin with for the same reason. Do you not agree?

    Let’s compare your reasons for believing I exist, to my believing God exists. To me, they sound pretty much identical.
    1. “People leaving comments on blogs is an everyday occurrence.” Well the sunrise is an everyday occurrence too. It’s actually been going on much longer than people leaving comments on blogs. I’m not saying that’s evidence of anything. I’m just saying that your example isn’t that kind of evidence either. People posting on blogs says nothing to my existence, you just interpret it that way, just like the way I interpret the process that brings about the sunrise as God’s doing.
    2. “I’ve watched lots of people first hand leaving a comment to a blog post.” I’ve watched lots of people give up their time and resources to help other people in need as well. Let me point out that you have never watched a ‘mind’ leave anything on a blog post. You may have watched a ‘body’ do it, but you just assume that there is an immaterial mind as part of that body, but I’ll talk about that more later.
    3. “As of February this year, Facebook has 600 million active users.” As of 2008 there were over 174 million Christians in just the United States (according to the US Census.) Again this isn’t really much evidence of anything on either side. So lots of people post on blogs and lots of people believe in God. That doesn’t really prove that either one of us (God or me) specifically exists.
    I think you did hit on one very important point, though. You can’t know much about me based on the evidence you’ve seen so far. You can only guess at what I’m actually like (i.e. white male vs. Chinese, or something else.) So then if you wanted to find out more about what I was actually like, then you would have to assume that I existed based on the evidence that you do know.

    I don’t agree with your assertion that God must be more complex than the universe. Complexity requires some kind of assembly of various parts. I would say that God is irreducibly singular making him not complex, but very, very simple. That’s an orthodox Christian view, not just something I made up by the way.

    In any event, I do agree 100% with you that belief in God or something similar is not necessary at all for someone to find solace, comfort and direction. I’ll even add that such a belief is also unnecessary in order to have a sense of ultimate morality and purpose. In fact that’s the foundation for one of those logical proofs I was talking about.

    On the resurrection issue, I’m talking specifically about the books of Luke, John and Mark. I’ll leave out the book of Matthew because in my research some of the objections you hint at (being based on other works) carries some weight with that book. So we’ll just leave it off the table. Many will also try to draw these kinds of connections between Luke and Mark, but I find those much less credible. Either way, you still end up with multiple, independent accounts of these events, which is historically considerable. In addition to the multiple independent accounts, the historicity of Jesus resurrection also stands out against things like the Heracles account in several ways. Heracles is never presented as a journalistic account of events, instead it follows a mythological pattern of storytelling. In contrast these gospel books are presented as a journal of events and follow no such discernable pattern from mythology (with admittedly a few exceptions, but none of which relate to the resurrection account.) Lastly, and the reason I mentioned it in the beginning, there is no record of anyone going to their death to defend the truthfulness of their eyewitness of events surrounding Heracles. The same cannot be said for those who claimed to have witnessed Jesus’ resurrection.

    Don’t you think though that being a Humanist also just as much leaves open an opportunity for “bad” people to make decisions based on what they ‘think’ is best for humanity, but actually is not? What if a Humanist sincerely thought that the human race would be better off without birds and had the technology, power and authority to exterminate all the birds from the planet? The only difference I see there is that instead of people attempting to mis-speak for God, they are mis-speaking for humanity. How is that any better? If you are suggesting it is more prominent that people misrepresent God, I will give you that, but that only stands to reason given there are more theists walking around than there are humanists. If the roles were reversed, and the shoe was on the other foot, I see absolutely no reason to think that there would be less incidents of people using these kinds of excuses to justify abusing other people. Do you?

    Now I’m not sure where you got the idea that I was asserting that the “possibility” of an immaterial mind without a material brain was evidence of anything. I don’t think I ever said anything like that. I don’t see where I even ever used the world “possible” in there. So your last paragraph sounds like just a straw man argument, or perhaps you were confusing me with someone else? In any event, I’ll expand some more briefly on that subject. You asked if I could provide an example of an immaterial mind that functions without a material brain. I assume you will not accept God as an answer, so that withstanding, I’d have to say no… BUT in the same sense, can you provide an example of an immaterial mind that DOES function WITH a material brain? You see, you do not have even a shred of evidence that any immaterial minds exist other than your own, yet you interact with other people, like myself, in such a way that demonstrates that you believe such minds exist. Do you realize that is pure assumption on your part, based only on you firsthand experience of your own mind? Is it reasonable? Certainly! I do the same thing. But the point is, it is not empirical, not scientific, and it does not rely upon any kind of physical evidence. It is strictly a metaphysical and logical observation of the nature of reality and a reasonable assumption that follows from it.

    • belfastatheist says :

      There is no moving target. I’m just making you aware of what does, and does not pass for empirical evidence. Your beliefs do not get special treatment because you think they should. Either you have empirical evidence which supports your claims and can’t be used to support an opposing claim, in which case you have the makings of a scientific theory, or you only have logical arguments which means you have no more than a hypothesis, and if your logical arguments are only accepted by people who are biased (have a selfish desire for it to be true), it is a failed hypothesis and is/should be discarded by those who actually care about what really is true.

      I never said God should cure cancer or end wars. I said if God and an after life does exist, then our time on this world is just a blink of an eye compared to the hereafter rendering it less important. Different believers believe different things. Most believe that our time on this Earth is a test. If we pass we get to live forever in paradise. If we fail we end up in Hell. So it doesn’t matter what we die of, cancer or a bullet in the head, what would matter is that we’re “saved”. So it’s your moral duty to “save” as many people as you can. And if you withhold evidence, which could “save” us, you’d be committing the biggest immoral act imaginable.

      Your comparison between what I believe about you and what you believe about God:
      1. If you had actually witnessed a God, or any being, raise a celestial object into the sky, I’d say you had a point, but you haven’t, so you don’t!
      2. That really annoys me about you believers; you take credit away from the good people doing good deeds and give that credit to a fictional being. If you believe that everything is part of a grand plan of his, then you have to accept everything, which causes harm, is up to him as well. He lets the rapist do whatever he wants to those little girls and boys. He lets earthquakes devastate huge numbers of decent people. The fact that for you “God can’t lose” is enough on it’s own to discredit your belief. Something good happens; God gets the credit. Something bad happens; we don’t understand the will of God. What a pile of shit! The truth is if your God does exist, he doesn’t live up to modern societies standards of morality. If I was in a room with a dirty old man that was about to do something unspeakable to a little boy/girl and I had the power to stop him, I would, and I hope so would you. Your God is in that situation everyday, and he does nothing! His only saving grace is that he does not exist!
      3. Let us look at the probabilities.
      a. The probability that you are a human being typing on a computer: I, and every sane person, would put that very close to 100%. Why? For the same reason I assume that every painting has a painter. I only have knowledge of paintings being created by painters. This is first hand observation. It consists of two parts: 1. Watching the painter paint. 2. Watching the painting being painted. I’ve watched human beings create blog posts and I’ve watched blog posts being created, both at the same time.
      b. You have watched the sunrise and sunset. This is the same as number two, watching the painting being painted. You have never watched number one. You have never watched a being raise the sun into the sky. So the probability that a God raised the sun gets close to 0%. But if you can show me some of your evidence (if it’s any good) you can raise that probability.
      “God is irreducibly singular”: You may not have pulled that out of your ass, but someone else did!

      None of the gospels have been independently verified to have been written during the days Jesus supposedly was alive. The earliest is about AD 60, which for me, means they should all be left off the table. I’m glad you left Matthew out, I’d hate for this conversation to sink any lower and talk about what Matthew claimed to happen after Christ’s crucifixion.

      Matthew 27:51-53: 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

      It’s amazing some of the crap that people will believe!

      The difference between a Humanist and a Believer is that Humanist’s are not listening to a voice in their head!

      The immaterial mind has only been shown to exist with a material brain. When part of the material brain is damaged, so to is the immaterial mind. When you lose part of your brain you lose memories and your personality changes. Scientists have been very successful at identifying which parts of the brain is good at logical problems and mathematics, which parts are good at visualisation and creativity.

      I accept that I believe a lot of things without empirical evidence. If I demanded that for everything, I would have a very sheltered life. But this is where we are different, if someone points out to me that I believe something without evidence, I can be honest and say yeah, and if it’s something that influences my actions to a sufficient degree I can honestly analysis my beliefs and change them if and when it’s in my best interest and in the best interest of those around me. And what’s in my best interest and the best interest of those around me is that I hang onto the beliefs which hold true, and discard those that don’t. When someone points out to you that you believe in God despite the lack of evidence, you can’t. You’re stuck! It’s more important to you that what you believe is true, rather than believing what is true. You have dedicated yourself to keeping your faith.

      I apologise for the things I said which are rude, but you’re annoying me now. You’re very welcome to continue posting, but I can’t guarantee that I could be bothered replying. You did give me an idea for my next post though, so thanks for that.

  4. Joey Hodge says :

    No problem and no offence taken. I don’t think you are being rude (yet anyway.) Now I’m well aware of what empirical evidence is and how it is used. I’ve never said that there was (or even should be) empirical evidence for God’s existence, only that there is sufficient evidence (by your own standards) to know that he exists.
    You admit you don’t rely exclusively on empirical evidence, which is true, but you seem to imply that the empirical is more fundamental than the non-empirical. If that’s what you were trying to say, then that’s an incoherent position. I am very much an empiricist and I rely on empirical evidence as a basis for making decisions and for the majority of things that I do, BUT it is down right delusional to think that it is more fundamental than non-empirical evidence. The belief in empirical evidence to begin with requires a non-empirical assumption of its usefulness.

    The interesting thing about the majority of your post is that you are right on the money and I really don’t disagree with 99% of what you say. I’m not sure why you insist on using it though as straw men to defend against points I never made to begin with, but I kind of get your need to vent some frustration over it.

    One thing I really want you to think about, especially in light of your humanistic worldview, is that regardless of which way a person believes, both Christians and Humanists are human beings and they both have the potential to use their way of thinking as a justification to do bad things to other people. It really doesn’t matter what you choose to make your scapegoat. So you have failed to provide any kind of justification for embracing Humanism over Christianity.

    You made one incredibly inaccurate statement. You said that “the immaterial mind has only been shown to exist with a material brain.” That is a load of nonsense! No one has EVER shown an immaterial mind to exist at all, yet everyone believes that they do. Furthermore, your claim that damage to a material brain results also in damage to an immaterial mind, lacks any kind of foundation whatsoever. There’s not one shred of evidence to back that idea up.

    You say I’m staring to annoy you now, and while that was never my intent, I will say that it is probably a good indication that I’m forcing you to think about a few things concerning using logic and reason consistently. So that probably is a good thing. And I honestly don’t mean that in a condescending way, although I realize it might come across that way. I say it because I appreciate these kinds of exchanges because they are challenging for both ends. Like you said, there is something productive in the end to take away from it.

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