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?

7 comments:

Robert O'Brien said...

Mr. Loftus:

You might be interested in Curt van den Heuvel's The Believer and the Apostate

Daniel said...

Odd that you'd recommend that article. I share his prediction on the effect of the unprecedented access to information concerning the weaknesses of each faith now available to believers via the internet -- that it will continue to make unbelievers of believers, and liberals and moderates of conservatives, as well.

With all of the above in mind, it is quite significant to note that the number of inactive members, or outright apostates, seems to be directly related to the amount of information that is available to the believer. During the Dark Ages, for example, literacy was restricted to the clergy, thus ensuring that the believer had little or no access to competing ideas. The believer was thus completely dependent on the Priest for an exposition of the Truth. This system allowed the Church to brand heretics as not only enemies to the faith, but in fact as enemies of society at large. Punishment of heresy was commensurate with this concept.

comanpalabritas said...

Regarding the Michael Sherber quote...

He is exactly right. life conditions, upbringing, genetics, culture, etc all contribute to shaping our reality, shaping our minds, and making us people that will eventually be open or close minded to certain ideas. Exactly.

You see, God is soverign. and in ephesians 1:4 there is the begining of the case of predestination. how does predestination happen? through culture, upbringing, genetics, etc.. when i first realized this it made me rather sad to accept that maybe people that i deeply cared for would NEVER be open to God and would NEVER understand it. at the same time however, it made me realize that the fact that I had come to an understanding, or rather to have the faith (which the bible says is a GIFT) to believe was a product not of my human wisdom, nor of my intelligent choice, not of my superior moral values, not of my actions, not of anything but of the Grace of God. His mercy. and there was nothing i could have done to achieve this.

there are other verses that talk about predestination if you are interested, just reply.

so this brings us to the question: so why evangelize? because we are the means for those who will be open to hear and for those who will have the gift of believing to truly believe. and the next question? if God is love then why would he 'save' some and not others?

The central part of God's plan is not mankind. We are so selfish we think it's just about us. but it's not. It's about Him redeeming His creation, coming back for what was lost. It's about making Jesus Christ the KING of everything, of His kingdom. and salvation is just a means of doing this. just a means. and we begin by making Him king of our own lives. we enter His kingdom and His domain. and then lives start changing, if we are truly transformed by the word.

so anyway, dude i dont know if you believe in your heart and i would not argue against you as other christians would, because i know God is sovereign and one day ALL knees will bow before Him (and thats the point, God just wants all the worship thats all.. cause He-s God , and this is not about us, it's about Him). ALL knees. including yours. now whether you will believe or not, thats not really anyone's concern, because ultimately, God will take all the glory for absolutely everything.. because yeah, things are orchestrated as Michael Sherber put it... arranged.

so from this, God will recieve the Glory somehow.

all im trying to say. is that this is bigger than what we could all imagine. even Christians.

see ya.

Daniel said...

at the same time however, it made me realize that the fact that I had come to an understanding, or rather to have the faith (which the bible says is a GIFT) to believe was a product not of my human wisdom, nor of my intelligent choice, not of my superior moral values, not of my actions, not of anything but of the Grace of God. His mercy. and there was nothing i could have done to achieve this.

And your God chooses not to have infinite mercy and grace...because...?

You worship an unbelievable God, friend.

The central part of God's plan is not mankind. We are so selfish we think it's just about us. but it's not. It's about Him redeeming His creation, coming back for what was lost.

Some sovereign God, you worship there, that loses control of its own creations.

(and thats the point, God just wants all the worship thats all.. cause He-s God , and this is not about us, it's about Him)

But I thought selflessness and love were virtues? Those don't apply to Gawd?

Joseph said...

He is exactly right. life conditions, upbringing, genetics, culture, etc all contribute to shaping our reality, shaping our minds, and making us people that will eventually be open or close minded to certain ideas. Exactly.

Interesting; a theist who is also a cultural constructionist. Have you considered that God exists only as a cultural construct?

so this brings us to the question: so why evangelize? because we are the means for those who will be open to hear and for those who will have the gift of believing to truly believe.

Essentially, some people are incapable of believing because they are deffective in some way (or not necessarily deffective, but lacking the "gift" - same thing really). Bigotry aside, you basically made this up, and there's no reason to suppose your hypothesis is correct. In fact, there are many people who exercise profound faith, but are non-believers in regards to your particular belief system. And different belief systems are geographically/culturally isolated. If a devout muslim had been born in a christian family, he'd likely be a devout christian. In short, the hypothesis about faith in christianity being some sort of talent makes no sense.

blondlieut said...

I thought the object of faith in Islam and Christianity was the same thing-- God. The object of faith in Christianity is not Christianity itself, is it? What am I missing?

Or is the Religious Right so in love with itself that I'm just blissfully unaware of what goes on there?

Do enlighten me (you'll allow me enlightenment even as you debunk salvation, I hope)


Richard Hurst
www.hos3.com/hos3

blondlieut said...

well, of course our human *ideas* about God are cultural constructs, but that's separate from the metaphysical question about what-causes-things-to-be.


-R