Ayaan Hirsi Ali at her best!
Ayaan Hirsi Ali at her best!
I find something repulsive in the idea of vicarious redemption. I would not throw my numberless sins onto a scapegoat and expect them to pass from me; we rightly sneer at the barbaric societies that practice this unpleasantness in its literal form. There’s no moral value in the vicarious gesture anyway. As Thomas Pain pointed out, you may if you wish take on another man’s debt, or even offer to take his place in prison. That would be self-sacrificing. But you may not assume his actual crimes as if they were your own; for one thing you did not commit them and might have died rather than do so; for another this impossible action would rob him of individual responsibility. So the whole apparatus of absolution and forgiveness strikes me as positively immoral, while the concept of revealed truth degrades the whole concept of the free intelligence by purportedly relieving us of the hard task of working out ethical principles ourselves.
– Christopher Hitchens, Letters to a Young Contrarian, p34
This argument occurred to me last night and it isn’t well fleshed out — it’s merely a skeleton of an idea. It is a reason why religion doesn’t make sense which I have never heard — though, no doubt, someone has come up with this idea or something very similar.
So, this is where you come in. Since this idea is not completely formed, I’d like some criticism or additions to the idea to make it more understandable and sensible. Or, reassurance that it already makes sense 🙂
So here it is:
I’ve often heard the same response from a believer, when someone says, “Isn’t it a coincidence that most people believe in the same God as their parents?” The response: “You don’t realize that a lot of people actually change their religions as they come to understand the world better.”
Ok, leaving aside the questionable reference to “a lot of people,” this statement still seems to actually be evidence against God, not for God.
Why? Because if there were an absolutely correct religion, why would finding that religion be up to the capricious nature of humans?
There are many much less important things in the world that are not left to capricious thinking. We all know that humans normally have two arms. We all know that eating certain things can kill us. There is no wiggle room on these mundane things. If someone isn’t born with two arms we consider that a genetic or developmental error. If someone thinks that eating cyanide is healthy, that is a judgement error.
Yet, if someone changes their mind from believing that Christianity is the one true religion to believing that Hinduism is the one true religion — or, more importantly vice versa, which thereby nullifies the possibility of either change being correct — it is not considered an error.
Again, I’m not sure if this is a fully formed argument or if I’m just restating an argument made by someone else in different words. Any criticism appreciated 🙂
It seems to me there are a number of problems with the concept of omniscience.
The most glaring problem is that God has an enemy (how anthropomorphic is that?): the Devil. If God possessed omniscience, this would render any opponent impotent, wouldn’t it?
If God knows everything, he would know every possible way to avoid any attack by the Devil. He would also know every counterattack against and vulnerability of the Devil. Moreover, he would also know every plan the Devil would or could conceive of. Just thinking about how to destroy God would be a fruitless and incriminating task. This doesn’t seem like a fair fight.
So, either God is not omniscient or the Devil doesn’t exist. Or of course, it’s all nonsense.
I always thought that the idea of evidence was pretty simple. I also thought that belief in God was not based on evidence, but on faith, since there is no evidence for God. However, in recent conversations with believers, it seems that they have a different view on what constitutes evidence. Without stating specifically what “evidence” is, so as to not stifle any possible comments by believers, I’m curious what evidence believers have for their belief in God.
And, by the way, I’m getting a little tired of people quoting wikipedia or a dictionary when I discuss a topic like this. Yes, I am tech-savvy enough to log on to dictionary.com or wikipedia.org and surf the web (as the youngsters say). I don’t care about dictionary definitions here, I’m interested in what believers naturally believe is evidence for God.
Often during an argument about the validity of evolution, one who doesn’t believe in evolution will assert something along the lines of: “If evolution is true, then how could something as perfect as the human eye be created? The answer, of course, is that were were created perfectly in God’s image; we did not evolve from animals.”
Here, I will admit, is a clever piece of rhetoric, though wrong nonetheless. The reason that it is clever is that it plays to our pride. Who would argue that we humans aren’t perfect? Well, I would.
Consider the human body carefully. Every individual part can not only break down, but can cause the death of the individual! If you can’t imagine how this is possible, let me remind you of the six-letter word “cancer.” Even the most unimportant parts of your body, let’s say a toe, can be stricken by cancer, and you can die. If you don’t believe this, look up the reason for Bob Marley’s death. If you don’t want to spend the time opening this, in short, his religious beliefs dictated that his body must be one, and amputation is not an option. Mr. Marley contracted cancer on a toe, and refused to amputate. The rest is biology.
So, any part of our body can have a problem — one of the manifold problems possible — and that problem can cause a termination of our whole life, not just a problem with that part in particular.
Let’s consider an unarguably intelligently designed device as a comparison: a car. If you were going to buy a car and the dealer told you that if you get a tiny bit of rust on any part of this car, the whole car would eventually be destroyed by this bit of rust, would you want to buy this car? On a car, if you get some rust on your bumper, and you don’t treat the rust, the worst that will happen is that the bumper will eventually rust off — the rest of the car will be fine.
So, a machine that is intelligently designed by a mere human is superior in this fundamental way to a human who was designed by an omnipotent being. Wow, we humans are smarter than God then. That’s nice to know.
Also, you should consider the frequency of problems or injuries among humans. Evolution explains that our ancestors have only been walking upright for a relatively short time, on the evolutionary scale. Accordingly, this drastic shift in positioning of the anatomy should, considering evolution’s short adaptation time, cause numerous problems, probably for at least a few million years. As we might expect, humans have notoriously problematic spines. Spines that had many, many, many millions of years to evolve for horizontal usage are known to cause aches, pain, and even excruciating pain due to disc herniation from normal wear and tear. I know from personal experience how terrible this can be, I’ve had an artificial disc placed in between two cervical vertebrae to solve a disc herniation. If you’re wondering about the pain, it can be almost immobilizing and the pain can occur anywhere the impacted nerve leads to (in my case, down my left arm). Many also lose sensation in their extremities and possibly power. I lost sensation however, I never lost arm strength.
I have heard different percentages, however, it seems that by the time people reach 80, almost everyone will have a mild to severe herniated disc. Considering how debilitating this common injury is, I have no idea how a Creationist would explain this fundamental design problem. Maybe God likes it when we are in intense pain.
So, unless our “Intelligent Designer” is far less intelligent than us humans, it seems that the concept of Intelligent Design should at least be rechristened “A Little Dumb Design”.
Previously, I wrote a blog entry about an unfair “out” that believers have when they explain how something happened: “God did it.”
However, that is not the only trick up the believer’s sleeve. There is also the situation in which something does happen, but which an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God would not want to happen. Polio, floods, wars, drug wars, genocides, rapes, slavery, psychopathy, psychopathic killers, torture, child molestation, other religions existing, atheism, errors or contradictions in the Bible/Koran/Torah/etc., animal cruelty: the list goes on.
Why would God allow these things to exist? They do not help the case for religion in the slightest. However, a quick rejoinder solves all this: “God works in mysterious ways.”
Ah, yes! The “get out of jail free card” of religion. It works for anything that conflicts with one’s particular religious beliefs.
This is, however, not as great a solution as one might think. Why? Consider this.
After 9/11, many people might have said, “How could Osama Bin Laden have planned such a terrible act?”
Well, the answer would be simple, wouldn’t it? “Osama Bin Laden works in mysterious ways!”
“Oh, no! No, no, no! This cannot be applied to anything other than God, that’s not fair!” one might say.
Well, that’s partially correct, at least. It isn’t fair because it isn’t a fair argument.
It is an unfalsifiable statement. Although unfalsifiable sounds great (as in, “Wow! It can’t be falsified! It must be true!); unfalsifiability is not a measure of a statement’s strength, it’s actually a demonstration of it’s weakness, for precisely the same reason why it can be used to legitimize Bin Laden, or any other terrible act, for that matter. It can be applied to anything and still work. If something is true, it needs to have a method for testing it’s truth — an unfalsifiable statement cannot be tested and is therefore not a fair statement, logically.
If religious people can use “God works in mysterious ways,” then everyone can use “x works in mysterious ways” to prove anything. This is obviously not an effective way at getting to the truth in any matter, so the only other option is for nobody to use this manner of arguing. God does not work in mysterious ways: unfalsifiable statements work in mysterious ways.
I wrote a blog post about this a while back here.
I didn’t know Hitchens debated Tariq Ramadan on this subject before I wrote this post. The real irony is that one poster, musingsaudi, who I debated back and forth with on this subject, suggested I read Tariq Ramadan in order to understand this subject better.
What a perfect surprise to see Hitchens spank the same guy on the same subject!
I’m not going to analyze the video for you, but it starts with a great intro by Hitchens, after which Tariq Ramadan immediately denies the claim that Islam is a religion of peace! I’m not kidding. He hedges and says it depends on the reader and it therefore can be a religion of peace or violence! This is in his INTRO! I don’t think I need to dig any deeper into this guy’s analysis of Islam after seeing this video.
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