It’s Not About Intelligence or Education At All!

People assail us here at DC all of the time because we dare to try to debunk Christianity. We threaten these believers, so like a swarm of bees when startled they attack. Since we disagree with them they have three explanations for why we no longer believe. They claim that we are either being deceived by Satan (or the Calvinist God), or that we know the truth but we just deny it, or that we are just plainly ignorant and/or stupid, or all three. That’s the sum of their explanations as to why we don’t believe. Believers in every faith must have an explanation for why others do not share their beliefs. Many of them will say similar things about Christians who don't believe as they do, too. Such charges are leveled back and forth all the time here, there, and everywhere people disagree about their faiths. In my opinion it reveals a fortress mentality, and an unwillingness to think beyond what they have come to believe for less than adequate reasons.

For anyone who wants to seriously look at the issue of the hiddenness of God (why is God purportedly hidden such that people do not all understand that he exists) and the problem of religious diversity (why is there such a diversity of religious faiths around the globe), I recommend Robert McKim’s book, Religious Ambiguity and Religious Diversity (Oxford, 2001).

Here are some quotes from his book:

“We seem to have a remarkable capacity to find arguments that support positions which we antecedently hold. Reason is, to a great extent, the slave of prior commitments.” (p. ix). This is exactly what I said elsewhere.

“The majority of people get their religious beliefs from their upbringing, and they grow up to inhabit a religious world that feels as real and solid, or almost as real and solid, as the physical world.” (p. ix),

“The fact that god is hidden (if God exists) suggests that one ought to be wary of the claims that the theistic traditions make about God: they probably are claims that exceed what may be reasonably be said with confidence.” (p. 123).

“The implication is that theists ought to be skeptical of many of the claims about God that are made by the dominant theistic traditions, including their own tradition.” (p. 124).

“We should look with skepticism on the claims of those who believe that they have a clear account of God’s nature—who carry on, in short, as if God were not hidden.” (p. 124).

“A main project in this book is to present a case for tentativeness in beliefs about religious matters.” (p. 124)

“Responsible religious belief should involve dialogue, openness, exchange, open-ended exploration, and conversation with various other bodies of discourse. Anything less is parochial and unsatisfactory.” (p. viii).

This mirrors the Outsider Test that I'm developing.

Former Christian theist turned atheist Michael Shermer has done an extensive study of why people believe in God and in “weird things” and concludes:

“Most of us most of the time come to our beliefs for a variety of reasons having little to do with empirical evidence and logical reasoning. Rather, such variables as genetic predispositions, parental predilections, sibling influences, peer pressures, educational experiences, and life impressions all shape the personality preferences and emotional inclinations that, in conjunction with numerous social and cultural influences, lead us to make certain belief choices. Rarely do any of us sit down before a table of facts, weigh them pro and con, and choose the most logical and rational belief, regardless of what we previously believed. Instead, the facts of the world come to us through the colored filters of the theories, hypotheses, hunches, biases, and prejudices we have accumulated through our lifetime. We then sort through the body of data and select those most confirming what we already believe, and ignore or rationalize away those that are disconfirming. All of us do this, of course, but smart people are better at it…” “Smart people, because they are more intelligent and better educated, are able to give intellectual reasons justifying their beliefs that they arrived at for nonintelligent reasons.”[See Michael Shermer How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (New York: W, H. Freeman and Company) 2000, and his Why People Believe Weird Things 2nd ed., (New York: Henry Holt and Company, LLC), 2002, pp. 283-284,and 299, from which the quotes were taken.

Then consider what Richard Dawkins wrote:
“Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one…. the religion we adopt is a matter of an accident of geography.” [from The Nullifidian (Dec 94).

All of which makes me ask What if I'm wrong about Christianity?