How do you decide which parts of your holy book(s) to accept as true and meaningful? I may bring up specific examples and ask your opinion on them regardless of your answer to this question. What I look for here is consistency. If you eat shrimp or wear cotton-polyester, I don’t expect that you will think homosexuality is a sin. If you live in this universe, I don’t expect that you will think the earth was created in less than a week or that Jonah really lived in a fish for 3 days.
This question is an important one to me, especially when talking with Christians here in the US, as the answer to it helps me to establish how to continue conversing with them. As I stated above, what I look for in an answer to it is simply consistency in whatever interpretation or system of choosing how to interpret people have settled upon. This includes logical consistency, literary consistency, historical consistency, and moral consistency.
Far too many religious people seem to interpret the Bible willy-nilly in whatever manner suits the particular point they are trying to make at the time, and this makes it difficult to effectively discuss matters pertaining to scripture. I’m pretty sure that’s the whole point of the impossible-to-pin-down interpretive standards, but I don’t think it’s something that should be put up with if we are to engage in any kind of dialogue about the merits of religion. Before talking, we must first establish exactly what it is we are talking about. Continue reading
So, I tried really hard yesterday to get some work done on my series on Questions for Religious Believers, but instead I ended up spending all day writing about penises on my Tumblr. It’s been a relatively interesting discussion, and I think it’s an important one so I’ll link it here (and update the links if/when it continues) for your reading pleasure.
Part 1 – In Which I Point Out the Obvious
Part 2 – In Which I Offer Some Fact Bombs
Part 3 – In Which I Recommend Some Resources and Get a Little Personal
Part 4 – In Which I Start to Get Testy
Part 5 – In Which I Get Increasingly Pedantic As Well As Grumpy
NEW! Part 6 – In Which I Just About Lose My Shit
Related Post 1 – In Which I Feel Validated For Spending So Much Time On All This
Related Post 2 – In Which I Give My Opinion On Ear-Piercing, Too
What verifiable evidence supports your belief in a god? Unsubstantiated “miracles” don’t count. “I just feel it in my heart” or similar nonsense is not evidence. However, I will accept “I don’t need evidence,” as a valid answer–although it will make me think you are foolish and worry about your grasp on reality.
This is the first question from my “10 Serious Questions for Religious Believers,” and it’s a big one.
Evidence of one kind or another is the basis of all knowledge, but there is good evidence and bad evidence. At least, there is universal evidence and personally specific evidence. Universal evidence is evidence that can be seen, touched, experienced, and understood by anyone. Personally specific evidence is evidence that is only convincing to the person who claims to have that evidence. Personally specific evidence is always unverifiable and unreproducible.
Richard Dawkins, in a beautifully written letter to his daughter, names three types of bad evidence, or rather non-evidence, for believing anything: Tradition, Authority, and Revelation. Tradition encompasses the things that we believe because, well, that’s what people have “always” believed. When we believe something based on authority, we believe it because it was told to us by someone important, irrespective of whether or not the claim stands on its own merits. Lastly, revelation refers to the things we believe because we think we have supernatural insight that allows us to know something we otherwise wouldn’t be able to. Continue reading
I’ve got a series of follow-up posts to my 10 Serious Questions for Religious Believers planned for the next week or so, but in the meantime I’d like to suggest everyone check out a great series of posts by Squashed in response to the discussion that has been happening about the list over on Tumblr.
Squashed also came up with his own list of questions that I have been answering on Tumblr, so you can expect some of those to be popping up over here as well at some point.
Liberalchristian (who is freaking awesome!) had some good answers as well, except for one that I touched on in this post.
I’ve been an atheist since I was around 15. I came to atheism via a Catholic upbringing, lots of reading, some dabbling in deism, a dive back into Christianity in my early 20s, and then the anti-climactic non-epiphany that was me realizing that, yep, I still can’t believe that nonsense no matter how many Rob Bell books I read.
This morning, I saw a couple of posts pop up on my Tumblr dashboard to the effect that [some or most] atheists are smug, arrogant intellectual elitists who think everyone who holds to some religion is just an idiot with no grasp of reason, rationality, or science. Also, that atheists should stop being that way, because it makes us look like assholes.
That second bit, I agree with–we should all strive to not be assholes. The first bit is, I think, for the most part untrue. Certainly, if you are a religious person, there will be some atheists who are just going to think you are a big dumb-head, and some of those atheists will be jerks about it. However, speaking from my own experience, I would like to point out that, often, what are sincere questions from atheists about religion and faith are perceived as intellectual bullying when believers feel put on the spot or when they don’t have ready answers. It’s perceived as “mean” if an atheist points out logical inconsistency or general incoherence in religious beliefs. It’s perceived as smug if we don’t swallow the same poisonous apologetics that believers do in order to maintain their faith. Continue reading