Tuesday, September 28, 2010

When Theists Admit Religion Is a Delusion

A couple of years ago, Guy P. Harrison published "50 Reasons People Give For Believing In a God".  It's a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.  Not least because it contains almost every argument you will ever hear from the religious and its refutation.  The refutations are a bit more cerebral and non-confrontational than they should be however.  They contain the essential reasons the arguments fail, but the way they are presented they will not even begin to sink in when used with an actual believer.

Of the 50 arguments listed, at least 12 consist of nothing more than implicit admissions that religion is not actually true, but rather is useful in some fashion.  Of course, I have already discussed one such argument--the "no atheists in foxholes" argument.  The ones Harrison mentions are:

"Faith is a good thing",
"Only my god can make me feel significant",
"Evolution is bad",
"Believing in my god makes me happy",
"I need my god to protect me",
"Without my god we would have no sense of right and wrong",
"My god makes me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself",
"Religion is beautiful",
"Religion brings people together",
"My god inspires people",
"Society would fall apart without religion", and
"Atheism is an empty and negative philosophy".

To that pathetic list I can add one that tops them all--one that was actually directed at me:  "Atheists don't believe in god because they have had too much education".

When you hear any of these "arguments" you can respond with some version of one of these:

"So, you admit your religion is not really true?"

"That has nothing to do with whether or not god really exists--in other words, that argument is just as valid even if god does not exist."

In the case of the last one, you can say:

"So, you admit that a person has to be ignorant to believe in god?"

Each of these arguments deserve a more complete examination and refutation, but, for now, I want to point out a basic flaw that they have in common.  When you hear any of these arguments or similar arguments, you can respond first by pointing out that the argument is an implicit admission that religion is hogwash because there is no reason to argue for the usefulness of a belief if it is true.  A rational person believes in facts regardless of their usefulness.

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