Predicting Religious Failure

Head in Hands
It might be impressive if it wasn’t so easy.

It’s really sad to be able to accurately predict the actions and responses of the religious and predict religious failure virtually every time.  I mentioned this on an episode of The Bitchspot Report a while back, where I was debating a theist and predicting each and every response that she would give, before she gave it.  They really are easy to chart because they only have one path to follow.  Of course, this debate didn’t go on too long because she  got upset that I knew what she was going to do before she did it.  Eventually, she pulled the “I’m right anyway and this conversation is over!”

I predicted that too.

It started off with a discussion about the existence of tangible evidence for the existence of gods.  Lots of theists popped up and said they had “evidence”, but none of them could present it.  This one Christian said she had “personal evidence” for God,  but that it wouldn’t convince anyone who hadn’t had the experience or didn’t  believe her religion.  I responded that it doesn’t qualify as evidence because, as I had specified in my argument, only objective evidence that is available to everyone and can readily be examined.  I suggested that her “experience” would be something that she couldn’t immediately identify and she’d arbitrarily assign the cause of this experience to God.  In fact, I think I described her experience to such a T that she got extremely defensive and said “I don’t have to prove anything to you!”  That’s true, she  doesn’t, so I just continued on, explaining why such experiences aren’t evidence, or even rational.

See, in virtually every religious experience, and I say virtually only to give the benefit of the doubt because I have never, ever seen a single religious experience where this wasn’t the case, the individual has some kind of experience that they cannot explain.  It doesn’t matter what the experience is, just that it isn’t immediately amenable to a simplistic explanation.  In fact, many times, even if it is clearly a natural phenomenon, they’ll reject the proper explanation for one that’s emotionally comforting.

Hand of God Waterfall
This is not how it works.

I use the case of Francis Collins quite a bit because it’s hard to find one more clear.  Francis Collins is a brilliant scientist, former head of the Human Genome Project and current head of the CDC.  He’s a very intelligent and scientifically-minded man, but one day he was walking in the woods and he saw a waterfall frozen into three parts and he immediately took this as a sign from God.  We know that waterfalls freeze all the time and having one frozen into three parts is not at all unusual, it’s a perfectly normal and natural phenomenon, yet he chose, for emotional reasons, to reject what we know is a natural event and he chose to attach a supernatural cause to it for no reason other than it fulfilled some emotional need.

Humans have an amazing ability to compartmentalize, to wall off sections of their psyche from everything else so that the rules that they live their lives by normally simply do not apply.  Collins is a prime example of this, if he had the same experience in his scientific work, he’d never claim God did it, he’d look for a natural explanation. There simply is no direct causal link between the event that happened and the cause that they claim.  You cannot point to an unbroken chain of evidence that leads directly from the waterfall or other experience to the specific deity claimed as responsible.  There just isn’t, it’s a leap of irrationality from something not understood to something desired.  In cases like Collins’, he rejected a perfectly normal event and instead attached an irrational explanation, just because it made him feel good.  It demonstrates that even the most outwardly rational and intelligent people can still harbor absurd beliefs.

Back to the debate, I said that she wouldn’t take another person’s identical experience as evidence for the existence of that other person’s god if it was different from their own gods.  She got really upset and pulled the “you don’t know me” nonsense, saying that she takes all experiences seriously.  I asked if that proves that all gods are real and she said no, of course not, only hers is real.

I rested my case and she fled for the hills, as predicted.

6 thoughts on “Predicting Religious Failure”

    1. Most of the time, what they present isn't evidence, it's just claims or blind faith or appeals to ignorance. As far as I'm concerned, if they can't draw a direct causal link between their evidence and the factual existence of God, it's not evidence for God. Most of them just don't get that.

        1. I wish that not only would they admit it's based on faith, but that faith, particularly blind faith, is not something to be proud of. I don't suspect that's very likely, is it?

          1. What about faith in human rights?

            What about faith in the existence of reality and natural causation?

            What about faith in the consistency of arithmetic?

          2. None of that is faith. Human rights are determined by humans, we decide what rights to grant, no faith required. There's no reason to have faith in the existence of reality, we can test for it. There's no faith in mathematics, it's a language that we invented to describe the world around us. Zero faith required for any of them. The only place you need faith is when you have no evidence for something. That's not something rational people do.

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