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You won’t believe the BEST reason for being an atheist! February 5, 2018

Posted by Ubi Dubium in Brain Glitches, Responses.
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A while back Jim posed a question on his blog, The Common Atheist.

His request was “If each of you would share right here one of your best arguments for atheism…”

And I replied with one of my best reasons, but since it was in a comment thread I tried to keep my answer brief.  However, I think the point I was making deserves a more careful discussion.  So here’s a full post about it.

First, we need to look at how people get their understanding of their religion.

  • With christianity, first and foremost they get it from other people.  People they trust.  People who tell them that they know things about god or the supernatural.  People who claim to speak for god.
  • Secondly they get it from a holy book, which is just a less direct way of getting it from other people.
  • And thirdly, they have personal experiences, including intense emotional experiences, that they believe come from their god.

The problem is that this is not unique to christianity.  All over the world, people of all different religions are getting their understanding from other people, holy books, and personal experience.  And there is no one majority religion in the world, no consensus about what god is or what god wants.  That means that people are using the same method for arriving at truth, and reaching different conclusions.

When people are using the same method, but getting inconsistent answers, this points to my first conclusion:

1. The method itself is flawed.

In science, if people were using some particular method for determining, say, the speed of light, and one group got an answer of 100,000 miles per hour, another group got an answer of 10 mph, another got an answer of -7 with no units, and yet another got an answer of “lumpy”, we would quickly realize that this was a terrible method and we shouldn’t trust it.  Perhaps one group would accidentally have an answer that is more correct than another, but this method gives us no way of knowing which answer is the correct one.  They may well all be completely wrong.  We need to throw out the flawed method, and find something else that gives more consistent results.

So if we have an unreliable method for arriving at the truth about religion, there is no reason that we should trust any particular religion’s version of truth.  Not unless they can show that they have a different and more reliable method of arriving at their answers.

And this leads me to my second point.  Millions and millions of people all over the world are using a flawed method to arrive at truth, and not getting consistent answers.  Yet those millions of people all feel confident that their method is working and giving them correct answers, and that the fact that other people are getting different answers from the same method is not concerning to them.  They don’t recognize that they are using a bad method, even though the evidence of this is so abundant.  So my second conclusion is:

2. Human brains are really bad at this. 

In a way, it’s like the Dunning-Kruger effect on a global scale. We evolved to be good at many things, including tracking animal migrations and remembering which plants are edible in which seasons.  We are good at working in groups, adapting to new environments, telling stories, creating tools to solve problems, and teaching skills to our children.  But we have no natural talent for discovering correct information about whether a god or gods exist,  and if so which ones, or what they want from humans.  We are so terrible at this that we aren’t even able to recognize just how bad at this we are.

The answers that one group of people are completely convinced of are no more likely to be correct than the different set of answers from another group.  Religions cannot all be right, since many of their beliefs contradict each other.  But they can all be wrong.  If you pick one at random to believe in, or just follow the religion of your parents or your geographical area, the odds are high that you have chosen the wrong one.

So my final conclusion is:

3. It is reasonable to withhold belief in all religions until a better, more consistent, method of determining the truth has been devised.

So far, no religious group has been able to produce such a method.   I’m not holding my breath that they ever will.

(The click-bait title and image is a bit of an experiment on my part.  I’m curious if using such an obviously stupid and artificial header will affect how many views this post gets.  We’ll see.)

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Comments»

1. Steve Morris - February 5, 2018

Technically you should probably say that this is an argument for Agnosticism, and that we should withhold judgement on matters of religious belief until a reliable method is found for determining the truth. Some would say that Science is this method, but Science doesn’t disprove God, merely certain types of beliefs, e.g. Creationism.

One obvious conclusion of your article is that the human brain seeks some kind of explanation for deep questions of meaning and existence and is willing to go out on a limb to get answers. Darwinism and the Big Bang theory, even when accepted as truth, don’t always satisfy this need in many people. They still feel there must be something “more”.

Personally, I don’t believe that Science will ever disprove religion, but religion may simply become irrelevant and fade away, just like older superstitious beliefs faded when a more appealing idea came along. In Europe this has been happening quite consistently. It may not continue, however. One of the lessons of history is that beliefs we thought were categorically ridiculed can very easily come back into fashion in a modified form.

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Ubi Dubium - February 5, 2018

Well since gnosticism/agnosticism is about knowledge, and theism/atheism is about belief, I think the argument is really for both. We lack sufficient knowledge, and we lack a method for getting sufficient knowledge, so holding a positive belief is therefore unwarranted.

I also don’t think science can ever “disprove religion” because religion will just keep moving the goalposts so that it can’t be properly investigated. (Of course, we can and do use science to investigate specific claims made by religions, and so far have never verified a single one as correct.)

Liked by 6 people

Nan - February 5, 2018

I also don’t think science can ever “disprove religion” because religion will just keep moving the goalposts A-MEN/A-WOMEN!!

Liked by 2 people

shelldigger - February 5, 2018

Oh but science has disproven religion. Evolution, astronomy, geology, damn near every branch of study with an “ology” has proven the written religious works (or even moreso the theist claims based upon the book) wrong. Therefore religion is proven absurd.

Science. The reason we have apologetics.

I agree that religion, with time, and a deeper understanding of the actual facts, will become irrevelant and fade away. Though there will always be con men running the con to some extent.

Liked by 1 person

Steve Morris - February 5, 2018

A friend of mine is a Catholic priest. We studied Physics together at university. He believes in the Big Bang theory, Darwinian evolution, and that God sent his Son to die on the cross.

I think that what you mean is that Science has disproven the ancient creation myths of religion. Not so many people believe in those myths anymore.

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shelldigger - February 5, 2018

Tell that to the mouth breathers here in the Bible Belt. They sure believe in creationism, then you have your biblical literalists, who believe every damn word is the gospel truth and anyone that doesn’t believe as they do is a filthy heathen riding the rails straight to hell.

Enough of these folks are out there, teaching their children, and infiltrating schools/politics. You better bet your ass they believe.

Just because you found a progressive Catholic, does not mean that there not scary numbers of people who believe in creationism fairy tales.

…and none of them figure they need any science, for sure they don’t need to know any of them facts that might lead them
astray.

Also look up CD.

Liked by 2 people

Steve Morris - February 5, 2018

Science will never reach those people, but hopefully it may reach their children. By the way, it was a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaître, who first proposed the expansion of the universe. Pope Francis also believes in the Big Bang, so there is hope.

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2. makagutu - February 5, 2018

I have come to the conclusion that people believe more in the people who told them about deities and rationalize as they grow older. They then include the bible in their defenses among other arguments.

Liked by 3 people

shelldigger - February 5, 2018

It all starts with the indoctrination (relying on trust in the individuals perpetrating the con), the continued reinforcement by weekly church going, resulting in continued exposure to belief and believers, would I think strengthen the belief over time. So…yes.

We get a few dropouts along the way though 🙂

Liked by 2 people

makagutu - February 6, 2018

Luckily there are a few dropouts along the way

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3. jim- - February 5, 2018

Years ago a coworker and I were discussing the differences in our faith. Back when it was more ok to talk religion at work. I gave my testimony and he stated my feelings are invalid. You can’t trust “feeling”, you need the group and the Bible and the ministers to keep faith on a correct path. He was right about that. But wrong about that. You can’t trust your feelings about religion, and the only way it makes sense is group excitement and constant explanations about every iota. HIS explanations. If I had a shred of honest proof that prayers were answered or the Bible was infallible without a hairsplitting, ad nauseum justification it might be worth looking in to. But it can’t be done. The reason faith and prayer get an ounce of credit is its’ call to action. To make something happen. Faith inspires works. Work I just do on my own now without costing me 10% and time wasted waiting for answers and analyzing whether god heard me or not. Belief can be a motivator. Nothing more. And thanks for the ping back Ubi!

Liked by 1 person

4. Daniel Digby - February 5, 2018

I’m afraid I chose “lumpy”. So which Bible verse tells us the True speed of light? Why bother with facts when you know the Truth, and why should anyone change their mind just because there’s a better, more reliable, consistent and repeatedly verifiable method for getting an answer? Why bother with a method when you’ve already got an indisputable source for the answer? And doesn’t reading the same passage over an over count as repeatabiity?

It all reminds me of this exchange with a scholar so well informed that he didn’t need to bother reading links that might contradict him: https://boldquestions.wordpress.com/2015/06/19/48-sure-fire-gotcha-questions-for-atheists-part-4/#comment-1515.

It also aids your faith and everyone else’s if you can publicly lie like an SOB.

Liked by 1 person

5. Arkenaten - February 6, 2018

The idea of a ”best reason for atheism/ being an atheist” might be a little misleading and could be perceived as being a choice, when in truth, a belief in any sort of deity has to be inculcated which means that atheism is the natural state of the average human.
In fact, the word atheist would not even be regarded as a word if it were not for theist.

In the spirit of the post, however, as I regard religious people not quite right in the head, the best reason for being atheist is simply because I enjoying being normal.

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6. Nan - February 6, 2018

Just re-read your post and this jumped off the page: We are so terrible at this that we aren’t even able to recognize just how bad at this we are.

Absolutely!

Liked by 2 people

7. jim- - February 25, 2018

Thanks Ubi. Good to see you friend.

Liked by 1 person

8. treeoftalking - February 26, 2018

Speaking to your first point, the flaws in the method, I often find myself taken aback by those ecumenical folk who insist that “we all worship the same God, no matter the differences in our faith.” If you and I were discussing a mutual friend, and you knew this person as a complete party animal, capable of drinking folks under the table and staying up all night, and I knew him as someone who never touched a drop of alcohol and preferred the quiet life, then this raises some questions. That is: 1) we are either talking about completely different people, or 2) our friend is engaging in some level of deceit with one of us. Granted, a person might have a reason for lying to one or another of us. Perhaps he knows that I am a stodgy person who hates parties but wants to remain an associate because I could advance his career. But when it comes to a figure like God, who supposedly wants all people in this world to be saved, then lying to some subset about what is necessary to salvation is sadistic at best. No, you are not all talking about the same God–or if you are, that God has some issues.

Liked by 1 person

9. Pre-Reborn | Tree of Talking - April 7, 2018

[…] tolerant religious worldview. (My own eventual conclusions rather mirror Ubi Dubium’s recent discussion of the problem of religious methodology.) The problems I had with faith were problems inherent in the phenomenon of faith, with issues of […]

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10. thespartanatheist - July 22, 2018

Great post! I think people are very willing to be deceived because they don’t realize how easily they are deceived. It doesn’t take a very deep dive in human psychology to realize how gullible we can be, and how hard we can convince ourselves.

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