This post picks up form a conversation that left off back in March of this year. The post started out with me presenting some of the latest (at the time) examples from Bob Carrol's "What's the harm?" section of Skepdic.com. This section covers everything religion from Voodoo to Islam to Christianity to Scientology, but the examples I sighted both came from "Christians." One was of a boy starved to death, the other of children being beaten to death, all in the name of bringing them "closer to God" or some such thing. And I expected that most people would say that, "MY religion is not like that!" And sure enough no one really stepped up to defend the practice. (Obviously.)
But as the piece evolved, I came to a realization: That if you take ANY person, no matter how religious they are, if you find some who they would consider "more religious" than themselves, they'd also inevitably think that other person was a little crazy as well. And this judgment would become stronger the greater the difference in religious zeal. The Atheist thinks the twice-a-year Church goer is a little crazy. (Just a little.) The twice-a-year guy thinks the once-a-week guy is a a little crazy. That guy thinks the guy with his kids in bible school is a little crazy. That moderate guy thinks the fundamentalist is a little crazy. The Fundamentalist thinks the Cultist is a little crazy. And the Cultist thinks the Terrorist is a little crazy. Line these people up by religious faith on the X-axis, and plot their judgment of the next guy down on the Y-axis and you'll find that amount of crazy you are, is some positive function of how religious you are. Not a very encouraging thought, for pretty much ANY believer, but think about it. I don't think you can deny the observation, even if you don't appreciate the implication...
Think about someone who you think is significantly more religious than you are.
Don't you think they're at least a little crazy?
The thing is that no matter where you are on the spectrum, this holds true! (OK, yeah, I don't know who's to the right of some guy who's strapping a bomb to himself, with the intent of blowing his crazy ass up and taking as many people with as he can, but... well... You can't deny the man's FAITH now, can you? Misplaced though it may be, this man has FAITH on a level I cannot even comprehend. In that case? No one is more Religious and no one is more crazy!
Anyway, that was the gist of the original post. And my final question was, since we can all acknowledge the increasing level of insanity that it brings, and with so many well-documented example of demonstrable and unnecessary harm, bloodshed and death being caused by EVERY religion under the Sun...
Why do we need it? What good does it do that we couldn't accomplish without it?
Now a LOT of really good comments came out of that post. Some agreed with me (Kevin Kelly, TomCat)some took issue with me to varying degrees. (JLarue) and that's all good. That's why I DO this blog, in fact. I particularly liked poser Kimberly's statement that "going to church doesn't make me a Christian anymore than standing in my garage makes me a car." I really liked that. LOL
But the most intriguing, and by far the most frustrating (LOL), comments came from poster Steeve.
In response to my request that, "I would really like for some moderate, liberal defender of religion to try and convince me of it's inherent goodness." He replied:
No can do, because a religion is not a social club or a set of rules. It is a truth proposition. I'll debate the truth of my religion with you all day long. If it's true, I don't really care how good it is. Reality is reality.OK. I can accept this. After all, I don't believe in the Scientific Method because it's GOOD. I believe it is, but that's not why it serves as such an important part of my life's philosophy. I hold in such high esteem because it is the WAY that we determine what is TRUE. (Or... at least what should be accepted as FACT.) And as Steve says, "Reality is reality."
But is Religion "reality?" Does it really satisfy any objective measure of the "truth"? Maybe to Steeve. And I'm willing to let him have that much. But it being the truth from his point of view is no more profound than me saying it's NOT the truth from mine. One of us will have to do better. Now, in addition to Bob Carroll's 'What's the harm' section of Skepdic.com, I could refer to Joe Sommer's website (another member of my Hall of Fame) and his article "Why the Bible is Unreliable" which calls out logical contradictions, claims disproven by scientific evidence and moral position that not even the most hard-core fundamentalist would still consider to be 'moral.' (And for the whackos that DO, I'll refer you back to Bob Caroll.)
So there: I've done better. And with all due respect to poster Steeve, and much is due, either a whole lot more is needed, or I'm forced to conclude that what you call "reality" is what I call "Shit you made up" or "Shit you happen to believe." Unless there some objective truth or facts to support it, you are playing VERY hard and fast with the definition of the word "reality." Granted, we do all live our own respective realities, but I only expect anyone else to see the one reality that we all share. And that is NOT one described by religion - it is one that quantified and defined by Science.
Do you actually need to be CONVERTED to simply accept that other people think that Christianity is reality? Your original question was along the lines of "given that religion is crap, how is it justified?" The correct answer is "Well, I don't think it's crap."And I went on to reply that I didn't just say "religion was crap." I pointed out that it does DEMONSTRABLE, TANGIBLE HARM. Then, I asked if it did any GOOD. I also asked whether or not that same GOOD could be done without all the mental baggage: asking me to believe many things that have been proven false AND asking me to condemn things that I don't see as wrong. I'm keen to let anyone believe anything they want provided that (1) it is not the answer to a question already answered by science (like... the earth is 4000 years old and dinosaurs and man lived side-by-side, for example) and (2) does not do harm. And whether it's a dramatic as beating a child to death or merely denying two gays the right to marry or a rape victim the right to terminate the resulting pregnancy, there is no shortage of harm being done.
You want to talk about souls, heaven, hell, the afterlife, God...? Fine. I won't tell you you're wrong, because I can't proove you wrong. But I have no reason to concede that you're RIGHT, because you can't proove it either. If you want to believe it's "reality?" Knock yourself out. But that kind of "Reality" - the kind that each one of us has, and which is distinct for every person...? is hardly anything profound. At that point, "reality" DOES simply mean, "Shit I made up, that I REALLY BELIEVE."
Now, while this all sound very hostile and confrontational, I want to reiterate that I RESPECT whatever beliefs of this kind any of you may hold. HOW, you ask? Simple: If you don't expect me to live in your reality, I won't expect you to live in mine. BUT... when something is PROVEN by Science, it's time to accept it. And when HARM is being done to another, it time to STOP it. That's all I'm saying.
A simple "Separation of Church and State" issue, really.
Now... Steve DID say that he accepts evolution, rather than Genesis as a literal story. Fine. Good. But it's just after that where he really loses me:
I do believe in the resurrection of Jesus, because that's where the real evidence in the real world points. Anyone who can show that the real evidence in the real world points somewhere else is welcome to, but as I started to show in my previous post, it's been nothing but decades of failure by all of the best minds in the business.I will say to Steeve exactly what I have said to EVERYONE who's ever said something like this. First of all: WHAT "real evidence in the real world?" All you've got is a STORY written by someone trying to get you to WORSHIP them! (Or, OK, worship as they do.) It's still no more than a fanciful claim at that point! There IS no "evidence." Just a claim, made in a book that's already been shown to have gotten it wrong MANY, MANY times! Second: It is not up to me to prove that it DIDN'T happen. YOU'RE the one making the positive claim. You're the one who has the burden of proof. I say it's impossible, and I've got every single atom of Science that has withstood public and peer scrutiny over the past 2000 years on my side. I got the billions and billions of people who have died in the past 2000 years who DIDN'T come back from the dead to establish the null hypothesis. And there is no evidence to support the positive claim. Null assumption? "X" didn't happen, unless you can show some evidence that it did. And someone else merely making the claim and having a lot of people believing it is NOT "evidence."
And it was about this point that the famous meme from Steven F Roberts came up. I paraphrased, but it goes like this:
"I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours."The way I said it was:
Many religions have resurrection stories, virgin or divine births, fulfilled prophecies, etc... I see no reason to reject some and accept others, just based on the number of people who believe them.And this is a critical point. Because that is really all that's being presented as "evidence." Lot's of people believe in the Bible. Well... Lot's of people believe in the Koran. But Steeve doesn't. Lot's of people believe in the Tora. But Steeve doesn't. Lot's of people believed these claims when Siddartha Guatama made them. But Steeve doesn't. And lots of people believe in Shiva, Vishnu, Kali, etc... But Steve doesn't.
So if Steeve expects me to accept the claims made by Christianity, after BOTH OF US have rejected them when they were made by everybody else... I'm going to need a damned good reason to accept it this time around. If there's nothing NOVEL about what's being proposed and no more EVIDENCE to support it? Why on earth should I treat it any differently than I did the LAST time I came across the claim?
Now... I may have missed something at this point because he then says:
You should look into Christianity again, if you're so inclined, because you can't explain its origin. You still believe the grafted-on myth thing, which is historical and collapses on inspection. The definitive work on this is here.
I don't know who's telling you to believe Christianity because Bible stories are unique or because there are lots of believers, but they're wrong, and they're not me. They haven't posted on this thread. Yet you're arguing with them.
OK... so to be fair, maybe I was misrepresenting Steeve's position or what he was saying of putting words in his mouth. OK. I can accept that. But... at no point was I offered any OTHER reason to believe what was being claimed. Maybe it ended up being a strawman, but I don't see where else I was supposed to go with this. And I don't think my points were being addressed either.
He DID offer me a link to a work that he recommended. But I didn't end up buying the book, which he describes thusly:
That link should have been more about what the atheistic community needs to argue with, not what you need to argue with. It would be a prohibitive time investment, and I don't have the slightest idea if the book would be of any value to you.At this point, I forced to conclude that we ARE in fact missing each other's points.
It's sort of a compendium of everything that's historically knowable about what the earliest Christians thought about the resurrection. He draws on essentially everything available that's relevant to that topic, although that topic is so narrow that 2/3 of what's relevant is the bible. The argument is of the form "what could have caused this belief to emerge in the way that it did".
I don't CARE what "the earliest christian thought about the resurrection." Especially if 2/3 of the work references the Bible. The BIBLE is what's under scrutiny here. So it can't be used as evidence to support its own claims. Whether they believed it the way it's described today, or slightly differently, is irrelevant. That will not answer the question, "DID IT ACTUALLY HAPPEN?"
And it does not answer the question of why I should accept THIS CLAIM on the basis of no more than a BOOK, when it's been made before and I've rejected it on the basis that I had no more evidence that (1) The Claim, in (2) a Book that (3) a lot of people believe.
This may not be what you offering me as a "Reason to believe" and it may not be YOURS, but I've just gone back and read the comments, and you don't offer me anything else!
I'll say it again: If you get something good out of believe in the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, than fine. I'll let you have it. In fact, I'll fight, kill and die for your right to. I will still hold that:
1) There is not inherent good done by Religion that could not be accomplished with all the mental baggage. (Believe in Genesis, Virgin Birth, Resurrection, Miracles, etc...)
2) There are no necessary rules of morality that are part of Religion that are not part of a Secular Humanist philosophy.
3) Science is contradicted and harm is being done. This is a FACT, and even you - who I truly do respect, and who's input on these matter I truly value - have done nothing to tell me why I shouldn't let this PISS ME THE FUCK OFF!
and 4) The Steven Roberts quote:
When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
In particular, I don't see where you even tried to address this, let alone "thoroughly destroyed" it (in our "little religious war" as you claimed. But I'd love to see you try. And I wouldn't ask if I wasn't truly interested.
So HIT ME (or Misters Carroll, Sommers and Roberts) with your best shot!