Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Religion's smoking gun

I've noticed that theists often say their religion is backed up by faith, but then they contradict this by using logic to explain their beliefs in conversation. Here's an example:

"Do you believe in hell?"

"Yes I do."


"It makes sense that since there is heaven, there should be a hell. Sort of like a ying-yang line of thinking -- since there is light, there has to be dark."

This is really interesting. It presents us with some really good material for conversation, or in this case, writing. The first thing that comes to my mind is fairly simple: if you assume heaven exists solely based on faith, why would you do a 180 degree turn and use reason to explain hell? Seems a bit strange right? You start building the case using faith, then switch to using reason, and hope the listener doesn't see this? If you are rolling with faith, why not keep going with it? It seems as though the speaker wants to be seen as using reason, or logic, but can't use those tools to start the argument off, since this argument is a non-starter.

Another provocative thought on the "starting point" of heaven is really obvious: you start by asserting the existence of heaven, without valid justification, then use this assertion to build the case for the existence of hell. It's a really interesting move, and if it were a valid way to justify something we would have a much easier time building arguments. Here's an example of this kind of method:

"Since there is a Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), it stands to reason that there must be a Flying Alfredo Monster, to establish a sort of balance between pasta toppings"

See? I just assert the existence of the FSM out of nowhere, and build off the baseless assertion in a manner that seems logical; all the while hoping no one asks for a logical explanation of the FSM. (since if they did, my trick would be exposed.) The idea of balance is one that people really react openly to, since we see plenty of examples in our day to day lives: how a woman's beauty counters her man's ugliness, or how a mother's caring nature offsets a father's heavy-handedness. Appealing to this kind of common observation is a really good idea, and it's sure to be ate up by those that are already hungry for it, but to those of us that don't start with our minds already made up, it's unlikely to do much convincing.

Another funny thought is: if you're using faith (which is simply wish-thinking) to backup claims, why would you wish for hell? Heaven is understandable -- it sounds, to most people at least, to be a pretty chill place. But why wish a terrible place like hell existed? I mean, since we're just wishing here, why not just wish for heaven and call it quits? The idea seems a bit mean right? If you're going to wish for things, at least do it without shitting on other people.

And that brings me to my conclusion. This insane wishing for other people to suffer unimaginable agonies and torture for the rest of eternity -- unjustly -- simply for not sharing your faith. Can you think of something more childish and petty? Murdering someone is one thing, since their suffering does come to an end; but wishing something like hell's eternal punishments on someone is nothing short of psychotic.

This isn't something that can be dodged by Christians either, as maturity demands that you have to wear the yolk of your faith, even if it sucks at times. If you hold a belief, and that belief is the reason for suffering, you're guilty by association. If you believe in, say, gang activity, we will hold you responsible for actions resulting from its practice. Same goes for fascism, stalinism, or any other ideology. So it seems to me that a theist should do a good bit of thinking on their beliefs, and do an accurate and responsible accounting of their faith's effect on other people. You aren't just killing people all over the world, you're wishing the worst possible divine punishment on them as well -- I think we can all agree this has to stop.

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