Believers are confused

I've spent plenty of time in this blog going over various philosophical arguments for the existence of a god or gods, as well as talking about the historical and logical problems of religion. Quite honestly I feel like everything that needs to be said, I've said. I'm not going to devote yet another post to talking about William Lane Craig's idiotic Kalam argument, or arguing that the Bible is a lousy historical document. At this point, curious readers can just browse the archives. It's been done to death.

I say this because while that kind of stuff can be rehashed ad nauseum, I think there's another way of looking at religion to demonstrate that it's false –and that is simply to look at what theists actually believe, and how they rationalize it.

Over at Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True blog, a guest poster has rigorously dissected a Pew survey of American evangelicals. Being an evolutionary biologist, Jerry Coyne seemed most interested in the survey because of what it reveals about evangelicals' beliefs in science: a paltry 3% believe in evolution. The rest is roughly evenly split between literal creationists and ID-ists. But personally, I was more interested in the part that talked about evangelicals' perceived relationship with God. It seems that someone is getting their signals crossed:
Of particular interest in this survey is the direct connection many of the leadership of the evangelical community appear to have with God Himself.
“Nearly all the evangelical leaders surveyed (94%) say they have received a direct answer to a specific prayer request at some point in the past.”
Is God Confused?
Despite this direct line to the top, there seems to be a curious variation in what God is telling different leaders, especially when you ask evangelicals who come from North America and Europe (Global North) compared to evangelicals from the Middle East and Africa (Global South). For instance God seems very confused about alcohol.
“A majority (73%) of the leaders from the Global North consider alcohol consumption to be compatible with being a good evangelical Christian. By contrast, a similarly large majority of the leaders from the Global South (75%) say alcohol consumption is not compatible with being a good evangelical.”
And that’s not all.
Despite 84% of worldwide evangelical leaders saying that homosexuality should be discouraged, a majority of evangelical leaders (51%) from South and Central America answered that homosexuality should be accepted by society.
What’s more, there appears to be a marked difference in views on how women should be treated.
Among U.S. leaders, 44% agree women should stay at home, while 53% disagree. Leaders in Europe, however, reject the idea of women staying at home by a more than two-to-one margin, 69% to 28%.”
“European leaders (62%) and North American leaders (54%) are especially likely to reject the idea that a wife must always obey her husband. On the other hand, upwards of 60% of leaders from sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East-North Africa and the Asia-Pacific region agree that a wife must always obey her.
This reminded me of something I wrote about fairly recently: Christians' perspectives on divorce.The Barna Group, an evangelical research group, had this to say on their website about divorce:
Although Bible scholars and teachers point out that Jesus taught that divorce was a sin unless adultery was involved, few Americans buy that notion. Only one out of every seven adults (15%) strongly agreed with the statement "when a couple gets divorced without one of them having committed adultery, they are committing a sin." A similar percentage (16%) moderately agreed with the statement. The vast majority - 66% - disagreed with the statement, most of them strongly dismissing the notion.

So, an overwhelming majority of Christians nonchalantly dismiss a Biblical commandment presumably spoken from the mouth of Jesus. But that's not all. Everything above comports with legit scientific research about beliefs, which has found that people who believe they are listening to God tend to find that God reinforces previously held beliefs:
"People may use religious agents as a moral compass, forming impressions and making decisions based on what they presume God as the ultimate moral authority would believe or want," the team write. "The central feature of a compass, however, is that it points north no matter what direction a person is facing. This research suggests that, unlike an actual compass, inferences about God's beliefs may instead point people further in whatever direction they are already facing."
"The experiments in which we manipulate people's own beliefs are the most compelling evidence we have to show that people's own beliefs influence what they think God believes more substantially than it influences what they think other people believe," says Epley.

With just the tiniest bit of rational examination, it's clear as day that all of this information paints a picture that is devastating for religious beliefs. The stark contrast between what Jesus clearly states about divorce and what the vast majority of practicing Christians actually believe about divorce is proof positive that nobody really cares what the Bible says unless it's perceived as reinforcing previously held beliefs. It doesn't matter if something was commanded from the mouth of God; as soon as secular modernism has moved us beyond it, the scripture is re-interpreted as a cultural relic. That's what I've said over and over about scripture: there's no objective means of determining which interpretation is the correct one, so people simply impose their biases on it arbitrarily. The Barna study proves me right.

Then you have the fact that even though evangelicals think that God is answering their prayers, God is apparently telling everyone different things. They simply perceive God as reinforcing their own beliefs, which in turn bears out in the fact that people in different cultures report that God is telling them all different things. Now, some clever believer might come along and philosophize, But Mike, this doesn't show religion is false; how do you know that some are simply wrong, and others are right? Well see, that's just the problem: there is no objective means of determining who is wrong or right. What's more, there's a far more parsimonious explanation to all this: that all their beliefs are simply false.

After all, the confused nature of their beliefs exposes the fact that there they are irrationally founded. In science, there is a methodology by which to systematically weed out errors, biases and falsehoods. Over time, this leads to a consensus. But religious beliefs experience a diametric curve: the consensus actually lessens over time. Religion leaves us with nothing more than a bunch of people believing whatever they want and interpreting their holy book however they want, all the while claiming that they are right and everyone else is wrong. After all, they have a direct line to God! Don't they?

I cannot see how any intelligent individual could remain a believer in light of this information. However, I'm also aware that intelligent people are skilled at rationalizing irrational beliefs, so I'm sure before too long someone will light up the comments section with some cleverly worded inanity.


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