Sunday, March 10, 2013

Can I Get a Witness? II

In my previous post on this subject, I pointed out the illogic of expecting religious people to be more honest as witnesses than atheists.  Religious people are admittedly completely biased (i.e., faith) and therefore unable to be honest with even themselves.  If a person can't be honest with himself, one cannot expect him to be honest with anyone.

What makes this situation worse is that the religious person has absolutely no idea when he is making untrue statements.  He or she has been raised to think that choosing "facts" based on how he or she feels about them is not only perfectly normal and acceptable but a positive virtue in many cases.

In fact, religious people invariably assume that this sort of "rationalizing" approach to thinking is the norm.  This is one of the reasons they so often accuse non-believers of rejecting god because they don't want to follow god's rules.  They assume that we, too, are simply rationalizing our pre-formed desires.

In my opinion this sort of argument is another of those non-arguments in which the religious are implicitly admitting that they know their beliefs are delusions.  At the very least, they are admitting to rationalizing--especially if they say they think you are doing it because that is what everybody does.

If they do say such a thing to you, try to get them to admit that they have just implicitly admitted that this is how they think about religion.  That they are rationalizing their desires rather than rationally seeking the truth.

Then, you can quote or paraphrase Richard Feynman, who said in a lecture in 1964 (speaking about the scientific process):
"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool."
One of the best paraphrases of this that I have heard came from Prof. Lawrence Krauss, who rendered it as "the easiest person to fool is yourself".

If need be, you can follow up by explaining that fooling yourself (rationalizing) can have deadly real world consequences.  Feynman was on the committee that investigated the Challenger disaster in the 1980's.  In the committee's report there is a sentence that has Feynman's imprint:
"For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled." 
Science provides the tools--the process--to avoid fooling oneself and avoid the inevitable disaster when nature is not fooled.  That process is infinitely superior to the one taken by the religious mindset, which is that something is true only if they want it to be true.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Religion Is Like a Penis

I am sure most of you have seen or heard this before, but it is worth considering again not only because it is a great quotation to have handy to use against those who seek to proselytize but because of a little irony implicit in its words.

First, the quotation:

Religion is like a penis.
It's fine to have one.
It's fine to be proud of it.
But, please don't whip it out in public and start waving it around.
And PLEASE don't try to shove it down my children's throats.
--Author unknown

Some people like to change the last line to say "anyone's throat" rather than "my children's throats", but I left it this way to help make a point.

This quotation is a summation of the "live and let live" viewpoint so often espoused by many believers and non-believers alike.  As I have pointed out, this sort of philosophy has to be a two way street.  Both sides have to agree to live and let live and then actually follow through on their agreement.  Otherwise, the notion is empty words at best, a complete capitulation by one side at worst.  Therein lies the problem.

The trouble is that religious people don't seem to be capable of living up to the "live and let live" sentiment.  Partly, this is because many religions actually require their members to actively recruit new members.  It is also partly because most religious people truly believe that there are dire consequences awaiting anyone who does not belong to their particular church.  They consequently feel it incumbent on them to try to "save" the rest of us.

More ominous than the concerted effort to "save our souls", however, is the situation where religious people believe that the rules of their religion are the only "correct" rules and trump anything that contradicts them, such as the law.  Such people will try to argue that we should change the law to reflect their beliefs and, when that doesn't work, will work behind the scenes to effectuate changes in society that effectively nullify the law.

This sort of behavior clearly does not constitute allowing others to lead their lives as they see fit.  Instead, it is a dishonest, and sometimes criminal, effort to interfere in the lives of others.

I would like to postulate that it is absurd to expect people to ever live up to the "live and let live" standard of religious freedom if they won't stop their priests and preachers from literally shoving their penises down the throats of the children in the congregation.

This is not only something to keep in mind, it is also something to point out to fellow non-believers who chastise you for being critical of religion.  The "live and let live" ideal is totally foreign to many, if not most, religious people.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Prejudice in a Fancy Dress

Recently, I read "Crimes Against Logic:  Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders", by Jamie Whyte, a young English philosopher.  I would have suggested a little re-organizing and editing to make the book more enjoyable to read, but other than that small criticism, I highly recommend it.

In the book, Mr. Whyte lists faith as one of his crimes against logic.  He does so for the same reason that I call religion dishonest:  Because it isn't honest to believe in one unproven and unprovable proposition while rejecting all similar propositions.  Mr. Whyte's phrase for this it the title of my post today:  Prejudice in a fancy dress.  He gets the credit for coining that phrase in this context, and I would suggest we all remember it for future discussions with the religious.

The religious have been taught that this sort of prejudicial thinking is actually a virtue.  They do not see it for what it is:  Intellectual dishonesty and an artificial form of racism.  Faith is intellectual dishonesty both in terms of the deliberate use of bad logic and in the way the fallacious conclusions are presented disguised as something other than what they really are.  And, it sets people against each other (often extremely so) on the basis of a fantasy.