One topic I would like surrounds religion’s truth and usefulness. I myself am an atheist, or more specifically an anti-theist. While impossible to fully rule out a Deistic being entirely, I do find the claims of the theistic stripe to be… lacking.
In this post I’d like to walk the reader though one of the biggest reasons why I find religion to be false. In this case, religion refers to the theism of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. I find pantheism, deism, mysticism and other such belief systems unlikely as well, but would like to focus this article on theism.
When constructing a narrative monotheism, one fact has stuck in my mind: believers are on every side of every debate in history, but all claim to speak to the same deity (remember, I am referring to the Abrahamic religions here). Regardless of issue, up until (and sometimes long after) an issue is generally settled by society, religious leaders will give you different answers as do sacred texts.
This trend is most evident in two books: “Christianity: the First 3000 Years,” by Diarmaid MacCulloch and “A History of God” by Karen Armstrong. In, “Christianity” I was struck by the obscure and arcane debates of early Christianity. In “History” I was shocked at how theologians and religious thinkers remade god every generation and turned him into whatever they needed him to be.
Regardless of issue, we find believers on every side. Slavery, an issue that is largely (and thankfully) settled today was no exception. Depending on your church you might have heard sermons explaining how slavery was an abomination or god’s will. When we check the bible we come no closer to an answer as passages support both views. On settled matters like this, believers tend to change their historical narratives, erasing the view that lost.
We see this trend play out today with issues like gay marriage. Is gay marriage supported or denounced by god? It depends on what church leader you ask or what part of the bible you read. The overwhelming majority of church leaders do not support gay marriage, but as society becomes more accepting that too is shifting.
This brings me to my final point: religion is confirmation bias as a philosophy. Confirmation bias happens when people have pre-existing beliefs and seek evidence to support that belief while ignoring evidence to the contrary. No matter your pre-existing beliefs, if you look hard enough you can find a church to reinforce them. Gay marriage good? There’s a church for that. Gay marriage bad? Same. Kill infidels? Different leaders in Islam have different answers. Driving on the Sabbath? Same for Judaism. We see this play out for every issue religion has attempted to address.
Were all believers to receive the same answers from god I might be more apt to think god actually exists. Since so many believers are receiving so many answers from god I can only draw three conclusions. God could simply be inept and capricious, unable to keep anything straight. It could be that there are many, many, gods and they are just messing with all of you. It could also be that there is no god, and answers are simply generated by your brain, like any other idea, to be debated in the public sphere like anything else. The third is by far more probable in my mind.
Where do you come down in this debate? I’d love to hear from you.