Religion is gaining more critics, and more critics are becoming outspoken about it.
Phrases such as 'religion is evil', or 'religion is the cause of most of the wars
in history'. I am guilty of saying such things myself, from time to time.

But really, I want to cast a wider net. I do not believe that religion as such
is the problem, but rather that underlying cause of religion: faith.

Faith is the ability to accept something as true, without any evidence at all.
Sometimes even in direct contradiction of available evidence.

In many religions, notably the three major ones that stem from the middle east, faith
is hailed as a positive, something good and laudable, something to be desired. Usually
they limit their praise to faith in their own religion, but quotes abound that see
faith in and of itself as praiseworthy.

Faith is, however, not limited to religion in any way (though religion may be the only place
it is seen as good of itself). Politics, for example, is awash with people who will state as true
elements of their ideology, and become angry when asked to justify it. They are easily
recognized by their ability to ignore contradictory evidence completely, while accepting even
the flimsiest argument, as long as it conforms with what they have already decided is true.

I submit that this is the true disease - religion is merely a symptom.

The retort, from people of faith, is frequently that even rational people display faith,
when they listen to scientists. After all, I know nothing about dendrochronology, or
the mechanisms of radiometric dating, so is not my acceptance of that science as much
faith as the belief that the world is 6000 years old?

Well, no. It is true that no one can know everything - the greatest phycisist in the world
can be completely ignorant of chemistry, or biology - but I don't accept calling it faith
to listen to the people who do study it for a living. I prefer to think of it as considered
trust, for two reasons. Firstly, there are usually several people studying any one subject,
and if they all agree, and no one points out any errors in their work, it is likely to be
reasonably correct. Secondly, if a scientist were to make an outright error in a published
work, such as for example René Blondlot and his N-Rays, that scientist would not be trusted
any more. Scientists who make gross errors, or commit fraud, lose their standing in the
scientific community.

There is no parallel to this in the faith-based community. In the world of faith, it seems,
the ends justify the means, and someone who has been caught out in a lie to further the
cause of his faith, is rarely punished.

Faith implies a level of irrational certainty, whether it be in political leaders, ideologies
or gods, the result is always the same, and it is never good. It may, quite by accident, have
some positive side effect for some, but refusal to face reality, and see the world as it is,
will always be bad in the long run.

Rationality must be the answer. If a piece of evidence goes against what you think is true,
you will not be weaker for modifying your position; rather, your position will become stronger.
Justifying your position by silly, outrageous, erroneous or even fraudulent statements, can
only hurt the cause you want to fight for. Consider your arguments for, and other people's
arguments against, and state your case based on the evidence, while remaining prepared to
adapt to new evidence that comes along.

This, I am certain, is the only way the world will survive beyond the immediate future. I'm not
sure I can have faith that it will ever happen - humanity is just too faithful

Views: 8

Comment by Cara Coleen on December 4, 2010 at 10:52pm
I agree with your thoughts. We can't blame everything on religion because it's just a byproduct of other human failings. I read somewhere (maybe Dawkin's Greatest Show On Earth?) that humans were never "meant" to be intelligent, rational thinkers and that we, as a species, have not mastered reasoning. It's sort of an accident we're as smart as we are, and the fact that there are still some very irrational ones among us is to be expected. It shouldn't be surprising that most humans are irrational.

The problem is that we're not capable of evolving past where we are with circumstances arranged the way they are. "Rational" people understand the problem of overpopulation and have less children or no children at all, while the "irrational" masses still want to reproduce. Rationality, in these terms, is not "selected for".

Fortunately, I think the internet has been the biggest opponent to faith overall. For better or worse, information is just floating around for anyone and everyone to see and consider. I would say that's a large reason why I lost my own faith. Hopefully people will keep stumbling upon (pun intended) facts and accept them.
Comment by Atheist Exile on December 5, 2010 at 1:20am
Yes, Flower, I agree.

The Internet is a great equalizer. I'm certain that atheism has received a big boost because of the Internet.
Comment by atheist_swede on December 5, 2010 at 8:19am
Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure I can agree that the Internet is wholly good for rationality. It is true that the facts are out there, but so is the nonsense. If you look at the global warming "debate", for example, the faith based people seem to feed off each other at places like wattsupwiththat, reinforcing their completely irrational standpoints. The facts are also out there on the net, but they are gleefully ignored

Fred, I'm not sure what really happened in Sweden with those rape charges. I don't know Assange, but I do know that it is easy to let fame and notoriety go to one's head, and I know that "rape" doesn't necessarily involve violence (sometimes simply not accepting 'no' for an answer can count as rape, to at least some degree), so I can't dismiss it as obviously fake. It was obviously mishandled by the prosecutor in charge of the case, but I do trust the Swedish legal system though. I think he will get a fair shake
Comment by atheist_swede on December 5, 2010 at 9:56am
Fred, I'm not sure. I guess a lot of people aren't comfortable about being outspoken in public forums on any topic. I still remember how uncomfortable I felt when I sent my first message to a newsgroup, many years ago. It nearly made me physically ill, for some reason. It took me some time to get over that feeling of unease - and this was a technical group, no polemics or politics at all. But I was at university at the time and felt I had to participate, so I forced myself. I can imagine that there are people who don't have that push never take the step.

I also think that in Sweden, religion is generally considered so unimportant to life in general, that discussing it isn't seen as being of major importance, and while I've only ever known two people in my life who were actively religious, the others really just ignored it. If the topic came up, they'd just laugh, no one felt it was important enough to debate or discuss seriously.

For some reason, the only real 'religious' debate I can remember is on the topic of female priests, but I'd like to think that had more to do with feminism than religion. I do know very many people who love to shout from the rooftops on the topic of feminism :)
Comment by Jon Heim on December 5, 2010 at 10:22am
whenever you have a blind faith in something that is not only false, but controls you're way of thinking, it's dangerous.
Comment by Alexander Jason Cherry on December 5, 2010 at 10:41am
Hear hear! I did a presentation/talk the other day on how faith is not a sacred thing (regardless if it's a religion or astrology or homeopathy or whatever other BS people buy into these days), and we should endeavour to have as little of it as possible.
Comment by Cara Coleen on December 5, 2010 at 11:50am
@atheist_swede I definitely don't believe that the Internet is "wholly good for rationality"; by no means. However, there is more credible information available that there was pre-Internet.

Of course, those sifting through the woo and the facts have to be careful and make sure their sources are credible, but that would be true if you were visiting a library, too. The convenient thing about a library is that certain works are listed under "Fiction" or "Science" or "Literature" so that we have some idea what we're getting ourselves into. Everyone knows that the Enquirer magazine is bunk (or should), but few would scoff at an Encyclopedia.

My point is that information, good or bad, is at our fingertips. It's easy to "stumble upon" information we would never otherwise see. Rational people will not accept what they find at face value. There are plenty of people, however, who will. The Internet is, by no means, reliable. My only argument is that we're given more immediate access to information we may not have even been looking for; information that will challenge the intellectually honest.
Comment by Magdiel Perez on December 5, 2010 at 10:57pm
Agree! Faith must end.

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