See, rational and critical people evaluate evidence in an attempt to discover if a particular claim is actually true. They do not embrace a belief because it makes them feel good emotionally. If someone ran up to me and said “Luke Skywalker is walking down Main Street!”, should I believe it? Now I’m a fan of the original Star Wars trilogy so it might give me a momentary “wow, wouldn’t it be great if it was true!” feeling, but is there any reason I ought to accept the claim? Of course not. Luke Skywalker is a fantasy character, he doesn’t exist in reality. Yes, Mark Hamill could be over there and I’d go say hi, considering I’ve met him many times before, but it’s certainly not Luke Skywalker. More likely than not, I’d go see, just to verify the claim. That’s what rational and critical people do.
Unfortunately, the religious don’t do that, in most cases they can’t do that because of the way they’ve defined their religion. It’s neither possible, or in those few cases where it is possible, practical, to go see if these things they profess are factually true and to be honest, they don’t care anyhow. Religion isn’t about facts, it’s about feelings. It’s about feeling better by believing a comforting lie.
They will claim “there are things about God that we just don’t understand”. That makes no sense, they’re claiming to understand it because they’re professing belief in it! It makes no sense to believe something for which you have no understanding. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t accept things that we don’t understand completely, we do that all the time in science. We don’t understand all of quantum physics. We accept it based on the overwhelming evidence that we do have though, and continue to seek out answers in those areas that we lack knowledge. With religion though, you have no evidence. There is no reason whatsoever to believe that any of it is objectively true. Their claims that we “just don’t understand” are a dodge to get around their own lack of justification in some areas. It’s so ridiculous that even they can’t come up with an explanation, therefore they feign ignorance as a means of getting around it. That’s not rational or critical.
How many times have you seen the old canard, “you can’t prove your wife loves you!” Well no, I can’t prove it, but certainly I can offer demonstrable evidence. First and foremost, my wife is real and I can prove it. That’s a lot more than theists can say for their gods. Secondly, I can identify behaviors in my wife that would support that conclusion. Not only can the theists not find any demonstrable behaviors that their deity has taken, but even if we look at the Bible for instance and take the stories told about God, those stories tell a very bad tale. At least my wife hasn’t flooded the planet and killed millions, she hasn’t sat by and watched someone be tortured just for shits and giggles (Job) and she doesn’t threaten to send anyone who doesn’t do her wishes to eternal torment. So yes, my wife, who is actually real, is a lot better than that monster in the Bible. I won’t even get into the fact that we can hook her up to modern medical machinery and test her brain responses, thus objectively measuring her love.
This stuff really kind of pisses me off, not only because it’s so common, but because it’s so blatantly ridiculous. It’s like theists just string together words in an attempt to make their belief seem less ridiculous. I don’t know if they just don’t understand the words that are coming out of their mouths, which I suspect is largely true, or they’re just so deluded that they actually believe that they apply critical thinking to their beliefs. Unfortunately, most theists I run into have a double standard when it comes to beliefs. They apply one standard, the same standard that most of us use, to just about everything in their lives. They look for evidence, they apply logic, they withhold assent until the claims pass objective muster, only then accepting them as provisionally true. Then they apply an entirely different standard to religion, one that ignores evidence, avoids logic, relies on blind faith and wishful thinking, simply because doing so makes them feel better. I’m not sure if they are just blind to the glaring differences between the two standards or if they recognize but ignore them, but it is difficult to imagine two standards with less in common and even more disturbing when the theist demands that the second standard doesn’t really exist. Clearly it does and clearly they are using it. If not, they could not possibly hold the belief that their religion is true or that their god exists.
The next time someone tells you they’re being critical and rational with regard to their religious beliefs, stop them immediately and require that they back that claim up. It’s just not true. No person who was applying logic, reason and critical thinking to religion could possibly hold that said religion was factually true. It just can’t be done. They’re not being critical or rational, they’re being dishonest and disingenuous. There is a huge difference between the two.