Why facts are useless against religion

I've been there too many times to count - a discussion with a religious person which seems absolutely impervious to Facts. Actually, it doesn't even have to be a religious person, it can be people holding very strong opinions on everything from political to economical to social to aesthetic to any type of issue. I know that I am correct, I can present plenty of evidence for my position and why the opponent's argument doesn't hold, but they are impervious to it. Why is it that my Facts don't work?

It is because the other person are convinced they have Truth. Having absolute certainty negates the need for Facts. There is no way to challenge Truth with Facts as they operate on different levels: Truth is underpinned by belief and Facts by evidence. A believer will usually have found a person or persons they trust to tell them the Truth, which is why most believers are followers. Since they do not trust me, especially since they've been warned against me by those they trust, there is no way they will let what they consider to be my Truth challenge their Truth.

Of course, there is no such thing as the Truth. But that's a Fact, and good luck trying to convince a zealot of that.

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Comment by Logicallunatic on May 15, 2012 at 5:14pm

That type of person is simply not schooled in the habit of scientific/critical thought. At the risk of sounding uppity, they don't know how to weigh evidence or wait for evidence; therefore evidence will be lost on them. They have a poor grasp on probability and can't seem to grasp tools like Occam's Razor for example. They let emotion and the need to be right override facts. And they're afflicted with a bad case of confirmation bias. I think that's the main part of the problem. 

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on May 15, 2012 at 5:30pm

The thing Theists don’t understand is that all their “facts” are purely subjective. They have presupposed the “revealed Truth” of their book as being the only knowledge that matters. The important word is “presupposed”. They have taken it for granted all along so it is “obvious” to them that their god exists. It is true to them. However if we challenge them and ask them for any evidence to make this “truth” objective to us, they cannot do so. There is no justification for their belief. It always boils down to having Faith and that is enough for theists because they already know the bible is true as it is the word of god.

Their truth can never become objective and exist independently outside of their brain. Even when groups of them all maintain the same belief in a god you will never get a description of this god that does not forever contradict itself. Group polarization keeps it the illusion going. The Fact is that they have no justification for their beliefs other than the presupposition that it is based on what they belief to be a revealed truth.

Comment by Andrew Goldman on May 15, 2012 at 10:02pm

If theists would actually examine and accept all the facts around them, then they wouldn't be theists. Of coarse us atheists see that these facts are obvious and indisputable, but for a theist to accept these facts, they would be admitting that their religion is untrue.

Comment by Unseen on May 15, 2012 at 10:17pm

You're also just giving them a chance to prove their faith. The more absurd what they believe and withstand criticism, the greater their faith!

Comment by Mabel on May 15, 2012 at 10:54pm

If theists would actually examine and accept all the facts around them, then they wouldn't be theists. Of coarse us atheists see that these facts are obvious and indisputable, but for a theist to accept these facts, they would be admitting that their religion is untrue.

@ Andrew - It is weird how theists give themselves permission to reject any facts that contradict with their faith.

I don't know why I think that since I used to do it also. Once you get used to accepting all facts, not just ones that don't contradict with your religion, it's hard to go back and think like you used to.

I try to give believers a break since I also fell for the BS, but it's confusing because I broke way at a fairly young age and sometimes, when it comes to older believers, I think "really? you're still doing this? It's time to grow up."  But I know, I know, sometimes the indoctrination is so deep, they just can't find their way.

Comment by James Feurtado on May 16, 2012 at 8:22am

My friend who is a christian believes in heaven and hell,and often says he hopes the rapture happens in his lifetime. He's actually a cool , gay, and party kind of guy, so his comments sometimes throw me off. He's and educated man, yet thinks evolution is not real, we constantly send each other videos and clips about religion and evolution. Sometimes when i send him clips of these demented young earth creationists in the south he says well not all christians believe that, he also agrees that the idea of the earth being only 6,000 years old is wrong as well.

My issue is how do you deal with christians who seem to create their own religion in their heads? All religious dogma is set in stone if I'm not mistaken, or are there certain sects of christianity or other religions that update their beliefs yet still call themselves christians even though there current beliefs contradict the actual bible. Any advice on how to deal with such individuals?

Comment by Arcus on May 16, 2012 at 11:33am

@James: Run. Run fast, run far. ;)

I've found those who distorts religion to be more favorable to their personal views to be an extra PITA to discuss with, because they can pick and choose in their belief system. They are very common here in Europe where modern day Christianity has turned into a kumbaya sect which either disregards anything negative in the Bible or make up some far fetched allegory in which anything bad that's described is for some ultimate good reason.

If you are able to ever hit one of their argument version of moving targets, expect the goalpost to be moved. Hammer it in that they are committing a fallacy and move back. Unfortunately the only result is mutual accusations: You accuse them of not staying on point, they accuse you of not moving forward. After all, they know they have truthiness on their side..

Comment by Gabriela Menicucci on May 16, 2012 at 1:31pm

My employee a few days ago was talking about something which I don't remember but she came up with "we women came out of a man's rib". After I politely told her that I can't even look at her or breath the same air as her, she became curious about Evolution. I explained it to her, looked for documentaries on youtube about it, and she was fascinated. It took me 2 days but finally she understood it and  he had this great smile on her face and thanked me for telling, what she called as The Truth. The relief of knowing that the bible account was BS made her incredible happy, I truly saw relief on her face and joy for life, she was like "Everybody needs to forget about what the bible says! they need to know the truth!".

Unfortunately it has not always being so easy to light up the way for believers.

Not long ago I was talking another of my employees, she was convinced that the only reason why a man who's handsome and rich would rape and murder and young boy was because "the devil" made him do it. Normally I let stupid comments pass. But this was something way beyond stupidity. She made it worse by suggesting that poor people kill because they want to, so they are not victims of satan, they are evil themselves. She hold this belief as a fact of life.

I will tell you that the conversation got heated, but I was willing to take it to the ultimate level. Her argument was that if you have everything material in life you don't have the need to kill people therefore you are being used by Satan.

In a tone that some would call "arrogant" and even "aggresive" I explained her who was Satan as a character in the bible according to the jews and how christians twisted the whole point of "the adversary", after, I explained her how a biblical argument such as "satan made me do it" doesn't hold any ground in any type of trial, what is a psychopath and finally that there's no such thing as angel, demons, satan and god.

I also pointed out to her that the god of the bible didn't seem to appreaciate rich people, on the contrary, he considered them rotten by nature, so no need for Satan to persuade them. They we

It took me 5 hrs of heated debate and finally she said "You know what? That whole bible thing is all made up BS! I won't believe in it until I see evidence". Pff! She realized how crazy her belief was.

This leads me to the conclusion that in order to reason with them you need to spend several hours and even days.

Comment by Mabel on May 16, 2012 at 1:53pm

(snippet): This leads me to the conclusion that in order to reason with them you need to spend several hours and even days.

@ Gabriela - Thou hast special powers. I proclaim thee god of atheists. lol. No, seriously, that is so great. I think you have a special talent for deconverting theists. You write great also. I always enjoy reading your posts.

What is your secret? How on earth do you keep them from getting so mad that they storm off?

Comment by M on May 16, 2012 at 3:36pm

Don't forget Faith.  Belief not requiring fact(s).


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