Theists have learned how to dance around the facts very well, we all know that. When faced with evidence that their beliefs are absurd, they will rush to rationalize their way around the evidence, or in most cases, simply refuse to acknowledge the evidence at all. This is because, to a theist, their beliefs are more important than the facts. This is nothing new, I’ve posted about it many, many times in the past. However, it’s a bone of contention that keeps popping up over and over.
Why don’t theists care if what they believe is factually true?
This has never been so obviously problematic than in an ongoing debate where a theist argued that “holding an unprovable ontological model of the universe can be useful, valid, coherent, rational and consistent.”
Let’s look at the terminology he’s chosen to use.
Useful – he’s already made it clear that any emotional or social benefit which the believer derives from a belief makes it “useful”, but useful to what end? The crazy guy on the corner who thinks he’s Napoleon likely derives some emotional benefit from his belief. That doesn’t change the fact that such a belief is factually untrue.
Valid – defined as “actually supporting the intended point or claim; acceptable as cogent: “a valid criticism”.” I suppose it depends on what kind of a claim one is trying to make. Is if simply that they believe a particular proposition, or that said proposition is factually true? If the former, I cannot argue, since it’s an entirely subjective claim. If the latter though, then arguments for the factual existence of something, without a shred of objective evidence to support it, simply cannot be valid.
Coherent – defined as “logical and consistent”. Since we’ll cover consistency in a moment, let’s limit this to logic. Therefore, let’s look at what logic is: “a science that deals with the principles and criteria of validity of inference and demonstration : the science of the formal principles of reasoning”. By this, the statement is clearly untrue, religious arguments virtually never follow the rigorous principles of reasoning and critical evaluation. In fact, virtually all religious arguments are riddled with logical inconsistencies and fallacies and as such cannot be said to be logical arguments. I have yet to see a single religious claim that didn’t require massive leaps of irrational thinking to achieve.
Rational – defined as “relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason”. So what does that mean? When looking at “reason”, we find “the power of comprehending, inferring, or thinking especially in orderly rational ways”. Rather circular, isn’t it? Therefore I’m going to insert some of my own personal definition for rational and reason, that of using logic and evidence to make factual determinations about actual, objective reality. As such, religion fails miserably.
Consistent – probably the best definition of this is “marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity : free from variation or contradiction”. However, immediately that’s problematic for theists because theistic belief is rarely free of contradiction and it certainly isn’t free from variation. If it was, there wouldn’t be 30,000 Christian sects out there. I virtually never see any two theists with exactly the same position and beliefs and if you limit it to a single person’s belief, then that’s hardly something to be proud of. Not only are the religious beliefs of most theists self-contradictory anyhow, but how important is it that one belief agrees with itself? Isn’t that the case of every individual belief anywhere? Not much to write home about.
As we can see, his statement fails entirely, for the majority, religion simply isn’t anything like what he describes. It’s an entirely emotional reaction to an unfair world. Rational thinking is concerned with being factually correct without regard for the emotional ramifications of that correctness. Religion is only concerned with emotional comfort and satisfaction, it’s wishful thinking about the world rather than just dealing with reality as it comes.
When I pointed this out, he started talking about “subjective reality” and that’s when he really did himself in. This is a very typical argument among the liberal theists. Who cares if anything someone believes is actually true, they get some utility out of it, therefore it doesn’t hurt anyone! Of course, that just ignores the ultimate question at hand and, as I pointed out, these believers don’t just say “I believe this, I don’t care if it’s true, leave me alone”, they are inherently making claims about the state of factual reality and those claims, based on evidence, or lack thereof, are simply wrong, or at best unjustified. It brings us back to square one. If theists simply said they wanted to believe something and didn’t try to spread their mind poison, didn’t try to insert it into society or into the schools or into politics, didn’t go to war over other people’s subjective fantasies, etc., I probably wouldn’t care that much. Believe whatever you want, just keep it to yourself. That’s not how things work though. Therefore, I have to speak out, I have to point out how irrational these beliefs are. They can be and have demonstrated themselves to be dangerous. Just ask the people in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.
I guess I don’t get the whole point of these “subjective” beliefs. If they don’t achieve anything demonstrable, except as a bandage for immature and emotionally damaged people, if they’re not true, then what’s the point?
Or maybe I just shouldn’t ask or think about it. After all, they certainly don’t.