Applying a Rational Standard

keep-calm-and-raise-your-standards-3I actually had a somewhat interesting discussion with a Muslim recently where I questioned him on the validity of beliefs, not his in particular, but of all religious beliefs in general.  He is one of those theists who says they’re not proselytizing, they’re just telling people what they believe, as though that isn’t exactly the same thing.  Clearly, I told him, the reason he’s telling people what he  believes is because he thinks others ought to believe the same thing, otherwise why bother?  What’s the point in engaging people he will never meet in an online forum to discuss the religion he holds if he doesn’t care if they believe it too or not?

That made him stop to think for a while but he came back with the statement that, even if he wished people would take Islam seriously, no one should believe anything he has to say unless they have personally verified all of the things that he and his religion say.  Well then, I had him!  So I asked if he had personally verified the things that his religion claims.  He said yes.  Well then, how had he verified that Allah actually objectively exists?  He had an experience, of course!

But that doesn’t get him out of hot water.  He has no way of verifying that Allah was actually the cause of his experience, it’s just an assertion, made without a shred of objective evidence.  If someone from another religion came to him and made that exact same claim about their god, he wouldn’t see any reason to take it seriously, in fact, he’d pointedly reject the notion without bothering to try to verify the claims.  It goes against his religious beliefs, therefore it has to be false.  That’s not verification, that’s rejection out of hand for irrational reasons.

raising-your-standardsIf he has a standard by which he’s “verified” his own beliefs, how can he refuse to acknowledge that standard for other people going by the exact same standard?  It makes no sense whatsoever.  That makes it an irrational double standard and thus unworthy of intelligent people but the religious use them all the time.  The beliefs that they have an emotional attachment to can be “verified” by having an “experience” for which they can demonstrate no causal link between the experience and their god.  The beliefs that they do not have an emotional attachment to are ridiculous when they seek to do the exact same thing.

Of course, as soon as I pointed this out, he stopped responding, only time will tell if he decides to think on what I’ve said, or if he’s retreated into his religious comfort zone and is pretending that I said nothing worthwhile.  He was on the right track, he ought to be verifying everything, he ought to be applying logic and reason to his beliefs and using that to determine what he ought to believe and what he ought to reject.  Of course, as a theist, he’s not doing that, all he can do is make excuses for why his particular set of beliefs is the exception to the rule when we all know it really isn’t.  We all need to look at the things we believe and ask “is that actually true” and to question our experiences and wonder “is this actually what happened?”  That’s the first step on the road to rationality and why theists simply will never do so.  It’s the fast track to rejecting religion.

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