Posted by: Jim | August 29, 2008

Faith is Dangerous

I’ve been following two great blog posts here and here which are trying to answer the question “Is faith reasonable?” It’s a glimpse into how tightly people cling to their faith, even when unable to present any acceptable evidence.

 

I felt compelled to explore a different line of reasoning, which is how I believe god “evolved” in our minds over the millennia. My line of reasoning was so different, so I’m going to post here why I think it is not only unreasonable but dangerous to believe in god.

________________________

 

Humans developed our current level of intelligence hundreds of thousands of years ago. Back then, we didn’t live long and we also didn’t have the scientific method. But we still had amazing brains with our fantastic imagination, and our ability to conceive of the mystical. We also had our insatiable curiosity and the ambition to answer our tough questions:

 

1. What happens after we die?

2. Who is in control of all these random events going on?

3. Where did all this great shit come from?

4. How can we control our violent impulses?

 

And so, in the absence of science, we invented god. And for hundreds of thousands of years, “God” became an acceptable answer to a lot of tough questions. “God” was unfalsifiable, and actually had the added benefit of keeping people in line, and so added social controls which actually helped humanity survive through those tough early years. So the tribes who were immersed heavily in a “God” tradition were more survivable than those that did not.

 

The name of “God” varied from culture to culture, but it was basically the same mystical concoction of the human imagination. So for ten thousand generations, human brains were conditioned to favor the “God” concept.

 

Then science arrived, and we began to answer questions using fact and experimentation. Science has been prominent for only about 250 years—a mere drop in the bucket! But so far, not one single mystical assertion or “God” concept has been provable using scientific observation and experimentation. Some things, like volcanoes, used to be thought of as mystical, but science has redefined and demystified them, and their non-mystical nature is no longer in question. This is because the volcano myth was falsifiable. Anyone caught throwing a virgin into a volcano today would be thought of as a kook and a criminal, even though just a few hundred years ago, this practice is what held societies together.

 

Many people have deduced that mystical phenomena do not really exist at all, even the unfalsifiable ones. To show how it is unreasonable to believe in these gods, these skeptics have created intentionally fictional, equally unfalsifiable gods. (The Flying Spaghetti Monster, the omnipotent teapot floating in space, etc.) Many others, however, still cling to the existence of mystical phenomena. But still, many faithful adherents continue to cling to their belief in god. Among a variety of reasons, I think they cling because these mystical phenomena offer comfort where science does not. They also cling due to familial pressure, fear of the unknown, fear of death and chaos, etc. There are many reasons why it is easier to remain mired in the paradigm of religion, rather than trudging forward into the realm of science, where there are no convenient answers.

 

But if you look at theism and science over the last hundred thousand years, you see science as the new paradigm and theism as the fading, old paradigm. Consequently, the more advanced governments on Earth use the rule of law to control society, thus eliminating the necessity of the fear of god. These two paradigms won’t be in direct opposition if science ever proves the existence of god. But that isn’t looking likely.

 

It’s not surprising that the adherents of the religious paradigm feel threatened by science. To wit, the fear of atheists has eclipsed the fear of blacks, women, and homosexuals. The fear of science and reason is growing so profound that many religious people are attempting to push us backward in time. Christian groups want to introduce Biblical principles in our government. Funding for scientific research and development has been stifled for religious reasons. The Reactionaries of yesterday are perceived as the moderates of today—but they are still reactionaries.

 

Yet we are all taught to be open-minded and accepting. “Be tolerant of other religions,” is the mantra of the enlightened—even though many of the religions we tolerate are themselves intolerant of anyone outside their religion. Although Christian teachings imply tolerance, many prominent Christian voices today are distinctly intolerant. Islam today is an even better example. It matters not that there might be 99 peaceful Muslims for every militant fanatic. The heart of the problem lies in uneducated person having an irrational belief in an irrational, non-existent god. These pliable minds are then easily manipulated by greedy forces seeking power. A gun is put in the adherent’s hands and he is told to point it at “infidels.” So the irrational adherent points the gun and pulls the trigger. As these growing ranks of fanatics continue to gain power and credibility, the world is headed for some very troubled waters.

 

In 2008, a day when science and rational minds should prevail, the shrill, scared voices of irrational religion are gaining volume, and we teeter on the brink of a massive, irrational, war. Although the war is actually over resources, those who kill others will be led to believe that they are doing it in the name of one imaginary god or another. Without the emotional hook of “god,” these greedy forces might not have such an easy time of manipulating the poor into fighting their petty wars.

 

After reading Dawkin’s “The God Delusion,” I was a bit put off by his recommendation to stop tolerating irrational religious thought. But I have come around and now agree with him. In order to preserve society we have to take the courageous step toward free thought and science. I do not agree that the poor or uneducated populace “need” god to preserve social order, as many orderly societies exist today with poor people, and without god. When it comes to the poor and uneducated, we should not simply apply the salve of god, but rather do the rational thing: educate them and raise their economic status. This response decreases the likelihood of them being manipulated into killing others for an irrational religious cause.

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Responses

  1. Nice job, ButcherDude. Too bad we’re vastly outnumbered by lemmings.

    * * *

  2. The way I see it, most readers of this blog are the lemmings. I am not a dissenter for dissention’s sake, I clearly have a different slant on the world.

    Jim, your consistent assault on those who do believe there is a God (including me) is hypocritical. Your belief that there is NOT a God is also faith. We each have our own brand of faith. Why not leave it at that?

    I suspect that if God snatched you up to his domain one afternoon for a field trip, no matter what was done to prove his existence to you, you would find a way to refute it. Even face to face.

    The thing is, you can’t do the same for me. You can’t have a vast empty void confront me and convince me that it does not exist.

  3. Todd, a vast empty void DOES confront you. You don’t see it because you can’t swivel your eyeballs 180 degrees.

    You have a clearly different slant on the world? Really? Wow…well, I’d love to hear about it. You certainly haven’t exhibited it here.

    And for the record, Mister Different Slant, that tired old bullshit that Religiotards drag out whenever their five-word understanding of the universe peters out — that somehow a LACK of belief constitutes a ‘faith’ — then I guess you have ‘faith’ that there are no unicorns or leprechauns or little green men from Uranus, right? I mean, the overwhelming evidence, coupled with the human tendency to create mythologies over the ages, would suggest that these fanciful creatures are just that — myths. You don’t require ‘faith’ that they aren’t there; you simply dismiss them because the part of your brain that hasn’t been atrophied from disuse does the calculations and assumes, correctly, that these particular myths aren’t true. And if that isn’t enough, you pick up a few books that trace where the mythologies came from, and that pretty much settles it.

    If I suggest that inside your head, where you’ve never actually seen, is a tiny blind baby mole who is randomly typing on a tiny keyboard, giving birth to all the so-called ‘thoughts’ that float around in that otherwise vast empty void of yours I mentioned earlier, and you opted not to believe my hypothesis — would that constitute a ‘lack of faith’ on your part, or just the tiny remnant of common sense that somehow evolved in even the lower primates such as yourself?

    Think about it…or at least try real hard.

    * * *

  4. Jim,

    Thanks for the read, and thanks for the link to my site. If you could update the link… I’m in the middle of moving hosts as you probably noticed. Everything else on Catacomb Subculture will be posted at http://catacombsubculture.com. There you will find a new link to a much fresher version of the site. Be patient though, I’m still ironing out some kinks.

    Now, back to our issue. I’m an odd duck. I’m an Evangelical in a loose sense of the term. I identify with the Apostle’s Creed, past that, I’m not sure where I “fit in”. I think what you have said in this post may be accurate, but I am also a little scared that it may be a bit of a generalization. Well, I know it’s a generalization to some degree, because your wide brush has missed me.

    I have spent a lot of time on my blog and Daniel’s discussing some philosophical insights that I believe could lead to an understanding of my faith from the outside looking in. However, I don’t think that has been accomplished. Meaning, I still feel quite misunderstood. So, I guess from here, I’ll just try to explain myself a little instead of appealing to Kierkegaard and Wittgenstein.

    You seem to believe (as many of my other atheist friends) that religion is based on fear. This is where I believe your wide brush has missed me. My faith is based on existential experience. It would be much easier for me to live day to day with the calm reassurance that my life will just end. But instead, I live, like TS Elliot, in the “daily terror of eternity”. I also live each day in the sweet and heavy trouble of a calling. I’d love to just leave it behind and live my life the way I want, but I can’t. I’ve tried and, in the process, have rewritten the book of Jonah several times. God is not my bowl of cherries, and heaven is not my “pie in the sky”. In fact, if I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that neither heaven nor hell existed, my relationship with God wouldn’t change at all. In fact, many times I think I’d actually prefer it. (It’s tough for my finite mind to wrap itself around the concept of infinity.) I’m not afraid of science, I just had my wrist screwed back together after a snowboarding accident, so I’m actually a big fan of science. I have actually been socially ostracized more for my faith than commended or accepted. (not that I’m any sort of outcast, it’s just that I’ve found people like for you to have a “religious preference” just not a real conviction) And that goes for my family, too. I can’t really figure out how my faith is based on fear. From where I sit, my faith is based on an experience I had, and a series of experiences that have continued thereafter.

    When you say “faith is dangerous”, I think you mean extremists are dangerous. If any worldview is taken to an extreme it can become dangerous. It just so happens right now, that most extremist are religious extremist. But, think of the damage that atheist extremist have done through communist dictatorships (Stalin’s Pogroms, Pol Pot’s reign over Cambodia, Chairman Mao’s human rights atrocities.) Hitler was a Nietzschite extremist.

    And you also hit the nail on the head when you said. “The heart of the problem lies in [sic] uneducated person having an irrational belief in an irrational, non-existent god.” You could have stopped half-way through the sentence, though. The problem isn’t God. The problem is an absence of educated people coupled with an abundance of others ready to take advantage of them; whether that be in the name of God, Country, Race, Region, the Almighty Dollar or FSM.

    People of faith have done much to make the world a better place. Faith is not dangerous, people are dangerous. This is the only provable doctrine of Christianity.

  5. Welcome Wade!

    I agree with what you are saying. Extremism is the thing that becomes a social danger–whether religious or not. That’s why I’m taking such a harsh stance. I believe that today, what we’re seeing in America is a form of extremism. If Christianity (or ANY religion) begins to become a prerequisite for an elected official, we have a problem. While extremism in America doesn’t take the same form we see in Islamic extremists, our brand of extremism is still dangerous. Our country has gotten really good at the faith thing, and forgotten how to think. And we are in deep shit because of it.

    We are extremely uninformed.
    We are extremely apathetic.
    We are extremely out of touch.

    So now the richest and most powerful populace in history can be manipulated into believing whatever a handful of powerful, ambitious men want them to think.

    As an Apostolic, would you be okay with Apostolic tenets being legislated as a government mandate? How about Catholic legislation? How about Mormon legislation, and on down the slippery slope?

    If our nation were a bunch of clear-thinking, educated people who have a faith that doesn’t really do any harm, then I would be focusing my energies on something else–because why would I care? But you are an exception Wade. Most religious people I encounter do not know how to think, and thus do not know when they are being manipulated.

    You are right, “God” is not the problem at all. It’s his followers.

  6. How does the bumper sticker go? “Please God, save me from your followers!”

    “As an Apostolic, would you be okay with Apostolic tenets being legislated as a government mandate?”

    No, no, and hell no. If you wanna see my thoughts on this check out this post…

    http://catacombsubculture.com/losing-our-christian-rights-never-knew-we-had-any

  7. good luck jim!
    on your mission to convert the convicted-esp as it seems its extremely unromantic to consider that we might have all risen from some s(h)mear of sludge…..

    from the wikki god:

    Apathetic agnosticism (also called Pragmatic agnosticism)—the view that there is no proof of either the existence or nonexistence of God or gods, but since any God or gods that may exist appear unconcerned for the universe or the welfare of its inhabitants, the question is largely academic anyway.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic

  8. Warren,

    I nominate you as “Most sensible Christian.” And even though I mean that as a compliment … it’s also kinda funny.

    Stop by more often!


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