I'm defining religionists as theists who think a particular body of scripture is authoritative communication from God.
I'm not a religionist. But I was one once - actually twice, interrupted by a nine year period of jumbled atheism / pantheism / existentialism / humanism / nihilism / whatthefuckism. I understand religionists, and hope to explain them to the rest of you. I won't try to talk about all religionists, because the group is too diverse, so I'll narrow it down to sincere monotheists, the only subset in which I have had personal experience.
If you wonder why any rational thinker would willingly join a set of people who are so opposed to what we would call normal thinking, the core answer is that (consciously or not) they believe it holds the only alternative to nihilism - a term which must be defined before proceeding.NIHILISM:
a. for knowledge (epistemological nihilism)
b. for ethical values (axiological nihilism)
a. knowledge doesn't exist
b. ethical values don't exist
a. knowledge doesn't matter
b. ethical values don't matter
The definition that turns rational minds into religionist minds is #1.
If no objective basis exists for knowledge, then what we call knowledge is just another neural response that causes organisms to be more likely to survive and procreate. Truth cannot be "known" in the sense that a reliable connection exists between truth and what is thought to be truth. Under such conditions it is equally meaningless to say God exists as to say God doesn't exist, or even to say God may exist. It is meaningless to say A = B. It is meaningless to say anything, or to think anything is true. Such activities merely cause an organism to survive longer as an organism, and that's the end of it.
If no objective basis exists for ethical values, then what we call ethical values are just statements of personal preference. Humanism is just a preference for what benefits humans. Without an objective basis, every human can make up his own ethics. If I make up an ethical system in which I have the right to rape, kill, or enslave you, what can you say to me? That I am wrong? There is no right and wrong. There's only you and me and we just disagree.
|I know many of you atheists are familiar with this line of reasoning, and remain unconvinced by it. All I can say is that TAG and its conjoined twin the Argument From Reason have proven the existence of a personal Supreme Being to my satisfaction. If they don't do it for you, there's nothing more I can say. This is the point beyond which further argument degenerates to a pissing contest.|
Unfortunately, the only basis for connecting objective truth to brain cells is a Supreme Mind in which objectivity resides. And this Mind must have both sufficient power to connect truth to brain cells and the desire to do so. As for values, no values exist apart from an evaluator. Objective values require an objective evaluator, which can only be the Supreme Evaluator. If I think I know anything, then I am forced to know that all necessary preconditions for the existence of knowledge are true. If I think torturing babies is objectively evil, then I am forced to acknowledge the existence of a Supreme Evaluator.
Nevertheless, I am no longer a religionist, because religionists take it way too far. First, there is no way to know if the Supreme Being is identical to the Being who created this universe, secondly no way to know if the Being who created this universe is identical to the creator of mankind, thirdly no way to know if the Being who created mankind is identical to an assumed God to whom mankind is accountable. These Beings, if plural, may not even like each other.
I will not try to list all the loose connections, but it is also presumptuous to assign unnecessary attributes to any of these Beings, such as omnipotence, omniscience, benevolence, much less omni-benevolence. Ascribing the term "perfect" to Him/Them is also ridiculous. Perfect means complete or pure or conformity to a given standard. You might as well say X is a perfect X when there is only one X and it's the standard of perfection.
Even if there is a God to whom mankind is accountable, He may have never revealed anything to, or communicated with any human being. Yet He may still rightly judge them based on their adherence to the ethical code He programmed into them. Deism is a logical possibility.
Nevertheless, we live in a world that contains scripture - supposed records of interactions between us and a Guy who will judge us and then reward or punish us. Of course, all bodies of scripture can't be true because they are mutually exclusive - unless you abandon logic and go pantheist. And one individual body of scripture may be true - or at least essentially true in its message. Other people's testimony remains evidence, even though it's not proof. Therefore it is not unreasonable for a rational person to choose to bet on a certain body of scripture as being legitimate, at least in its message, even though parts of it contain highly improbable if not impossible assertions.
Next, please remember that children, and unintelligent people cannot deal with complicated logical structures. If they can't figure out a rational reason to prefer life over death, then faith offers the only alternative to despair and possibly suicide. If we brilliant sons of bitches kick that out from under them without offering something in its place, we become assholes - possibly even evil. Religion, with all of its simplistic bullshit, is necessary for their sakes.
I'm not saying don't argue with intelligent adult religionists. By all means point out their copouts - if they're worth your time. But don't fight copout with counter-copout. Don't claim to know what you don't know. That's faith - the same shit you despise in your opponents. And that is why the theistic debate has rarely risen above dogmatic drivel for all the millennia in which it has existed.