The Irrationality of Theism
What good does religious belief do for humanity? What does theism bring that a secular view cannot? It is commonly believed that it makes people happy, especially on the death bed, as well as over it. A preacher once asked me how I, as an atheist, would comfort the parents of a fallen, dead, and buried child. To see them standing over their little girl’s grave, then slowly looking up at me with tears in their eyes - looking to me for answers or comfort. He asked me how I would, as a secular humanist, console, banish the grief of, and give hope to, a dying old friend during his last moments in his dark hospital room, on his death bed.
There are many such famed arguments for theism (rhetorical ploys, appeals to emotions). Some of these arguments do give people some level of comfort to believe in deities, in Gods - especially if theism is all they’ve ever known as for standings on faith. Theists are typically raised as such from their mothers arms. If not then they are suckered in later with bribes of eternal paradise or frightened with the threats of hell. Some are lured by other lies, false or inconclusive evidence, and fail to apply proper doubt and skeptics. These beliefs become natural to us; because we are taught them in our infancy. We are taught dogma before we are able to critically examine them.
But then again, why should they doubt the existence of God? It’s easier to believe? Isn’t it more comforting to believe? Isn’t a loving God that will take care of you, even after death, what you want to be true? Maybe it is. And when a human wants something to be true they tend to not question it that much. These things can be accepted with only the slightest of evidence or none at all. Some believe emotion can be a substitute for evidence. However, if it’s something people don’t want to be true, such as death being the very end with no afterlife, they will doubt it until it is raw. Unpleasant things will not be so willingly believed, real or not. Proven or not.
Whether you want it to be true or not isn’t always the answer given by the theist, even if it is the reality of why they believe. Commonly you will hear that it is a faith issue. For some reason faith is held as a virtue not only by the pastors, but by God himself. For some reason God is glorified by blind faith. This so-called all-intelligent, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving God actually wants his greatest creations to surrender their very minds to him without proper evidence of his existence. That is what God calls glory. That is what the church calls glory. They actually consider it a virtue. And it is, by its own merit, the opposite of reason and the abstinence of rationality.
People of the religious creeds of the world separate their worlds of reason and faith -faith for their doctrine, reason for everything else. Why is it that all of God’s great reality relies on thinking and evidence, where as he, himself, is somehow above that? Being the intelligent, loving God that he is, why doesn’t he hold reason highest of all? He expects the ultimate, final form of stupidity from his greatest of subjects. And they do it. They surrender their minds to what could not exist. In every other aspect of their lives they can be helpful, loving, intelligent people but where religions black, cold hand reaches, and it does indeed reach far into the deeply faithful’s lives, it continues to sever the ties of reason and put on a highest pedestal sheer idiocy. Where this hand reaches, reason vanishes.
After all, reason must vanish. All lights must be put out for someone to believe something is there when it isn’t. If the light of reason were to be left on all would see the reality and there would no longer be religion. So how does religion continue? It preaches faith. From the cradle to the grave, it preaches faith. It turns out the light wherever it can. The religion that exposes faith as what it really is, stupidity, does not last long.
Faith is considered a virtue by the majority of human kind. This isn’t so much our fault, evolution works in baby steps. Human beings are intelligent, but not that intelligent yet. We’re getting there, however. Religion is fading. The age of reason is blooming and the light of truth is growing. The murderous cold hands of the church are retreating. Their Gods shrink with them. And as losers usually do, they are getting angry. I wonder, and worry, how this cornered beast may lash out.
When cornered the theist usually changes his mind. Suddenly he claims reason is why he is religious. With sincere curiosity the atheist will ask for reasoning. After all, a loving God may be what the atheist wishes to be true as well. The theist may have some strange news objects found in deserts, tombs found empty, witness testaments, and so forth. Such reasoning and evidence is fine, and I suggest the atheist to encourage it. However these claims are typically and unfortunately riddled with observers bias, logical fallacies, and inconclusive sources. For example the empty tomb argument is odd. They must prove Jesus body was put in there, they must prove that it was the correct tomb that it was returned to, they must prove it wasn’t stolen, and then they must prove that all the claims are not lies, and the witnesses are not liars. Even then, all they would prove is that it was found empty which would be nothing more than a mystery. Supplying he must have risen from the dead as an explanation would require even further evidence.
What if the theist is correct? Another favorite argument is Pascal's Wager. If the theist is wrong then all believers and non believers simply die and receive the same fate. However, if the theist is correct then when the believer dies he gets heaven and when the non believer dies he gets hell. Pascal’s Wager then states that the logical choice must be belief, because you have nothing to lose only to gain. The theist will warn and threaten the atheist: We believers better be wrong for your sake.
The unfortunate truth is that the theist does have something to lose by believing. By their own merit faith is the surrender of the mind. They believe they know the answer to some of the greatest questions that can be asked whereas the skeptic is ever searching, thinking, and pondering. The skeptic will make discoveries and the theist will not. The skeptic will think and the theist will not. The skeptic will be mentally free and the theist will not. Pascal has a hidden cost. You must gamble with your mind. The catch is you lose it not matter what you gamble your mind with faith and it will snatch it away. It isn’t a wager, it’s a price.
What is the theist purchasing? What could be more valuable than the ability to use the human mind to wonder the greatest of mysteries? Heaven is what they think they are buying. Eternal paradise. Their fellowmen have bribed them without giving them the money. They have taken advantage of the young and the foolish. The pastors of the past had acquired themselves serfs. This isn’t the goal of the pastors of the present (usually) for it is just the stupidity of it all that has been kept alive. They bribe their fellowmen thinking it is with wisdom of their ancestors when it is actually with the greed of their ancestors, the lust of power of their ancestors, and the stupidity of the serfs.
But if the theist is right, made up fantasy or not, isn’t it still at least a chance at heaven? Isn’t that what they are purchasing by forfeiting their reason to the ever hungry fiend of faith? Not at all. We do not know a thing about the after life. It is just as likely God saves all atheists and damns all theists as it is the other way around. If there is a God, a creator of a universe filled with reason - then I would actually expect it to be more likely for this God to prefer the atheist, the rational, over the faithful and willing fools. But if there is such a rational God I doubt he’d damn even the theist. No rational God would be as childish as to invent a hell.
What good is Pascal’s Wager then? You are purchasing, if anything, a greater chance at hell for the definite cost of your mind. Are you willing to pay?
Don’t pay. If you want to believe in God, don’t let it be out of fear. Don’t give in to bribe either. Hold reason high. I admit the human reason isn’t much as of today. It isn’t strong enough to do anything instantly. Reason takes time at everything. Reason is also very fragile. Emotion, desire, rage, and lies can trash it to death. It is a weak thing to rely on. But it is the only thing to rely on. Reason does not stand the chance we wish it would, but it is the only thing that stands at all. Don’t give it up for anything. Not for fear or hope, not for love or hate, not for house or horse. No matter how beautiful it may be, nothing is as beautiful, nothing as wondrous, nothing as miraculous as the human mind. There is no God, heaven, hell or world worth the price of reason. If there is a God who disagrees with that, then he is no God of mine.
Theism enjoys a myth of a devil. A demon that comes and tricks you into turning from God, giving up a magical center-core for some tempting prize, and then ruins the rest of your life, and even after. There is a devil, I’ll give the theist that much. However the irony of it is religion is that very devil. Heaven is the prize it temps you with. Reason is the God it turns you from. And that magical center of yours, that soul of yours, that up-most important thing you can ever possess - is your mind. Religion is tempting. What can be more temping than eternal paradise in a heaven? Now, without any evidence that it will be delivered, will you make that deal with Pascal? What is your reason worth to you? What is the ability to wonder the greatest mysteries of the universe worth to you? There is a devil who seeks your very soul. He doesn’t live in casinos. He is clever. What he seeks to take from the foolish is much more valuable than money.
Perhaps God does exist and he is exactly as the Bible portrays him. And when you die, if you are an atheist, you will be damned to hell. Would it pay to be an atheist then? As a further and final refute to Pascal’s bullshit, I say yes it does pay to be an atheist then. If there is a God who will damn a human being who has the courage and intelligence to think and doubt then he, most definitely, is no God of mine. It is no God of any thinking man. Heaven will be a place of fools and cowards. Hell will be the land of the intelligent and the brave. Where would you rather go? Will you live among the chosen of the most evil spirit in existence, or will you burn among all with all the very best of his creations? Define torture to me. Is it fire or is it mental slavery? I suppose reality is training and breeding ground for the slave, heaven is the work field, and hell is the rejection. Do you still love this God? Sorry, I was born with a shred of courage and love for freedom. I don’t love this God. I hate this God. I love courage, freedom, and reason. I have a severe disdain for the opposites of it fear, servitude, and faith (stupidity). As Luigi Cascioli said on the show, Faith is the truth of imbeciles. So why believe? Unless suffering is something that is okay with you, fear is your friend, servitude your joy and stupidity the outcome of your mind, why do you believe? Relax; God wouldn’t bless so many of us with intelligence if he meant us to be serfs. If there is a God, he wouldn’t mean for us to be creatures of faith.
Religion and theism are looking rather irrational, and they will remain so until God is proven. It is a negative thing to be a theist all around. Good cannot be the result of stupidity. Putting on a blind fold is not a logical or helpful choice. However there is still the argument that it comforts you. If the blindfold was off you would see that a God is not proven and that it is likely that death is the end of ends. That isn’t very comforting, is it? So wearing the blindfold does one thing well, it comforts the living and especially the dieing. Or, does it?
The theist knows they do not know the answer to the God or afterlife questions. So when they claim they know God, or his will, or when they speak in his name, they are lying. To not know God and to say you do is meeting the definition of lying. Even though they are ignorant of whether or not there is actually a God, they are lying because they say they actually know there is one, when they do not. It is possible someone out there definitely does know the answer, and I urge them to come forward with their reasoning and evidence, but until then we do not know. The lying theists, who do not know the truth, one way or the other, claim to. Lying is a sin, so to be the best Christian you cannot be a Christian at all. But, how, then, are they comforted? Pretending to know the answer isn’t making it any more likely. How does it comfort them? It doesn’t. They’re lying about that too. Not just to those around them, but to themselves. They want to trick their own minds. If you chant it enough you’ll believe it. If you go to church enough with so many other people who believe it, you’ll further convince yourself, won’t you? You’ll throw dirt over reason, trying to hide it from yourself. There will be a constant inner struggle for the rest of your life. Are you comforted in knowing you are lying to yourself?
So the child is born. Soon he is old enough to start making out what his parents are saying. They tell him about God, the afterlife, heaven and hell, morality and sin, Jesus and Satan. The child trusts his parents. After all, the child that doesn’t trust his parents blindly usually doesn’t live very long. Children can’t be skeptical yet, they’re too young. Cars will hit them and snakes will bite them. But other than all the important things the child learns, the child hears from his parents lip’s a lie. The lie the parents tell themselves. They want it to be true so desperately they need more people around to join in their faith to help validate it. Hearing them tell their children about God and explain him away is an attempt at the parent to comfort him/herself. The child believes. At the formidable years of childhood, the child listens to this hogwash.
Then this child gets older. Skepticism peeks out. As the knowledge of our world increases the doubt does as well. Soon the Easter bunny and Santa Claus vanish from the child’s belief system. Most likely, however, the growing intelligence won’t break the chains of the religious belief. But it will try.
As the boy follows his parents through the store, battles will begin to wage inside of his skull. Is there really a God and a heaven? But such thoughts are scary to the child. As a matter of fact, not many thoughts scare people more than the thought of death being the very end. There is nothing more frightening, other than hell, which will also play a part. Asking that very question, even only inside of his own head, the boy will tremble with fear. After all, God is all powerful and he can hear your thoughts - your doubts. Do you want to go to hell forever when you die, child? How dare you question! With horror and frustration the lad struggles not to think those doubting words again. But how can you not think those words? In order to know which words not to think, you’ll have to think them, won’t you? Just say it! Just say it! Scream it! I doubt God! No, no, you can’t say it. God is right there, waiting to throw the ultimate horror at you. Don’t say it, don’t think it. And so the child chants inside of his own head, after all it is the only chance he has not to think those words. I love God, I love Jesus, I love God, I love Jesus, I love God, I love Jesus, I love God, I love Jesus - Sooner or later the child will forget the subject and think about something else. Until later when the whole thing happens again. This happened to many of us at the Rational Response Squad when we were young. This is what our childhood was. For the most part we kept it to ourselves, after all why would our parents lie to us? They love us, they wouldn’t do that. Or would they? Maybe they’ve been lied to by their parents and they just don’t have the guts to admit it. It’s hard to admit that your parents didn’t care enough about you to teach you only what they knew existed in reality. Its hard to admit your parents don’t have enough care for you to teach you only what they could philosophically defend.
So the child grows older - into a teenager. He’ll learn some arguments for God’s existence and attach to them with hardly any questioning. He’ll see that show on television where scientists use that machine to get readings from that woman’s head when she claims she is hearing God’s voice. He’ll tell himself, the next time you worry whether or not God exists, just remember that show. They wouldn’t be lying. That was conclusive. That made sense.
Maybe the child may hear the fallacious watchmaker argument. However when you learn and study evolution you realize there are explanations for how things can become so complex, and no god is utilized in the process. Natural selection will ultimately create something complex that works - no intelligent design necessary. If an animal is born with slightly worse genetics, that animal won’t likely live long enough to pass them onto the next generation, whereas the animal with slightly superior genetics will have a better chance of passing those on. So by dieing or living, reality, without the slightest intelligence, choosing better genetic plans and codes that get passed on, slowly advanced, to what is considered today to be the most complex known thing in the universe - the human mind.
The watchmaker argument states that when you find a watch on the ground, with all its complex working parts, you assume it was created by someone with intelligence, and that you can make the same conclusion if you look at something as complex as an animal. Therefore there must be an intelligent creator of all life, right? Well, the problem with this argument is that even if you found that watch and assumed it was created by an intelligent creator, you’d be wrong. And as such, you’d be wrong if you found an animal and assumed it had an intelligent creator.
Find a watch. Go searching for the watchmaker. See what you find. Someone merely composed the parts of the watch together using plans that were also pieced together throughout the centuries of humanity. Go looking deeper and deeper. Find the watch maker. Where do those parts come from, where are the initial plans? You’ll find there are hundreds, thousands, millions of humans involved over the ages in advancing to the current watch design. You’ll go all the way back to the sundial, discovered because of the way of sun and shadow. Natural phenomena is the watchmaker. Humans used that natural phenomena and then worked together over the ages to evolve their watch design. Human thinking, itself, evolved using natural phenomena. Life challenged itself, killed off the weak and left the strong to get stronger. It was a process of many intelligences, many forces, all with their own processes into becoming. Its funny how the watchmaker argument in this sense is actually more proof of evolution than a god. You just have to question; don’t accept anything with blind faith, one of the dirtiest and disgusting phrases I know.
What about the natural forces? They are complex, surely a God created them? Perhaps someday well be able to dissect the laws of physics the way we can a watch or the origins of species. But until we can, let us not pretend to know an answer, let alone be satisfied with it. Guessing is not truth. Just because it is the only thing you can think doesn’t mean it is correct. The correct answer is the truth. I don’t know. The atheist will say this. The theist will not. The theist will lie. The theist will pretend to know, and stop looking for the truth.
And without much regard for intelligence, the teenager will hold this argument high and try to use it against the occasional doubt that pops into his mind. If he does not become intelligent and brave then he will never be free from the falsehood. And I must stress that courage must match the intelligence. All the intelligence in the universe won’t get further than the lack of it, unless it is carried forth without fear and prejudice. Fear is the problem the intelligent theist must overcome.
Most do not. The teenager will become a man. He may go to a church and preach his convictions with other fools to empower his cowardice and stupidity. He may decide that God is more important than man and love the unproven deity over his own neighbor. His own freedoms will be sacrificed for nothing and he will attempt remove those same freedoms from his fellowmen in the name of what he doesn’t even know to exist. If he is truly faithful he knows a little suffering here on earth won’t compare to what will happen to those poor heretics in the hereafter. His nation he will try to drag back to God. Wars will be fought. Lives will be lost. Towers will be flown into all for the same kind of faith. If you live it, and live it with so many others, it must be true. That’ll silence the doubt. That’ll quench your fear and cowardice. If it is blood that satisfies terror-of-death’s thirst, then it must be blood.
But things aren’t always to such an extreme. Man kind is evolving. Those who are religious are not as much as they were in the older days. Sure, they still seek to take away harmless human rights for the sake of what they don’t know to even exist. Sure, they sacrifice what they know to exist for what they don’t know to exist. Sure, it affects many aspects of their already too short lives. But at least they are not burning anyone anymore (for the most part). This is allowing more atheists to exist. And they are now increasing in number. People are starting to love people instead of Gods. Of course there are still extremists out there, but they are diminishing.
The man will live his life out, wasting much of it for literally nothing at all. He may have children. He will kneel before them and read to them from the good book to be sure their minds and lives are as infected as his. Then some day he will find himself on his death bed, surrounded by his family. Words of the afterlife will be shared. God and his glory will be passed around as everyone in the room, for the last time together, continues the lie they so desperately must keep. And with this struggle, this falsehood, this lie in his mind, this man’s brain will die off. Desperate, pathetic, irrationality is the last thing his head will hold. And that will be the end. His last moments nothing more than given up. Given up for absolutely nothing, like most of his life was.
His family will mourn, but keep the lie alive in their hearts and mouths. The lie they told themselves for so long, for their whole lives to help them in their time of grief will be told again in this final act. Stealing the reality away from this last moment he has on Earth is that metaphorical devil I spoke of. Instead of embracing all of the good times shared together, holding what we know to be true in highest regard, the usual theist will ponder the better place that he will be going to. In this final act, reason will get shoved under a blanket again so this one last lie can be muttered. And they’re gone, forever. All the minutes lost talking about unproven lies will never come back, nor will all the years lost talking about them and God before hand. The devil has taken his dues.
Nothing could add to the horror of hell except the presence of its creator, as Robert G. Ingersoll once said. But the true horror is what happens in reality due to religion. Countless men and women have died or have had their lives thrashed and minds lost thanks to faith. And due to the fact I love the human mind more than anything else in existence, I greatly detest religion for what it does to it. While I have life, as long as I draw breath, I shall deny with all my strength, and hate with every drop of my blood, this infinite lie. So be it.
I was once asked by a preacher how I would comfort parents as they stood over the grave of their dead little girl. What I would say to them when they look up at me with their watery eyes. Would I lie to them? The fact that a reality is unpleasant doesn't give us a justification to create fantasies about it. If I greatly desire a parachute to be on my back as I fall from a sky scraper when there is one, it doesn’t justify me actually believing there is. We should hold to beliefs for reasons, not for the comfort it allegedly brings. We all have to die some day. Maybe there is an afterlife but believing in it is foolish, pathetic, unjustified, and a waste of thinking. Hoping for it is all we can do. Lying about it will not respect the parents or their daughter. We should speak of the good times. We should love what we knew about her – not the unknown fantasies she might now belong to.
I was once asked by a preacher how I would comfort an old dying friend as he lay in his death bed, in a dark hospital room with only me beside him. How could I ever comfort a man when he is at the scariest moment of his entire life? I’m not sure. It would be a hard thing for me to speak at all. But I am sure as hell of one thing. I won’t waste my last chance. There is no lie grand enough to trade a moment of honesty and love for. It’s up to you to embrace reality, and not the irrationality of theism whenever possible. We can no longer allow what we don’t know to be true, steal away from us the only life we’re sure we get.
Samuel Thomas Poling: Blog 99, The Irrationality of Theism
Edited and Adapted for the Rational Response Squad by Brian Sapient
Atheist Books, purchases on Amazon support the Rational Response Squad server.