"One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.”

I had started in September with what I call the Argument From Ignorance, Part I of which can be found here. This is Part II, the final part. Sorry it took me so long.

We are all prone to believing lies. We all believe what we want to believe. We believe what we prefer to believe. We defend lies. We are all ignorant about most things. We lie to ourselves. And we lie to others. All of us. We must candidly all admit we just don't know what we claim to know given our failings as human beings. It’s the human condition.

Don’t believe me? Then I challenge Christians to look into psychological studies and brain research to see such things as how the brain is woefully inadequate to be objective about the facts. We skew the evidence in favor of conclusions we want to be true all of the time. Dan Dennett summed up the results: "One of the surprising discoveries of modern psychology is how easy it is to be ignorant of your own ignorance.” [“Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” page 31]

Read through these links to learn why:

Who's Ignorant?

Some Thoughts on Science and Religion

Revealing the Reasoning of the Believer.

Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science.

A Review of Valerie Tarico's Book.

There are many books dealing with this topic too, as seen here.

Let me illustrate from personal experiences. As a teen I found an interesting book by Frank Edwards on UFO’s. I read it and then several like it. So I became convinced there were UFO’s because what a person reads or experiences shapes what he thinks. Later, having graduated from Great Lakes Christian College, I was a conservative in every respect. But I had not yet studied the Biblical feminist arguments. A graduate from Emmanuel School of Religion presented the case and recommended some books which convinced me of that position even though I was a conservative in every other area. It was because of his influence and the books I first read on the topic that convinced me of that non-conservative position which was inconsistent with everything else I believed.

How does this relate to our debates? What is the argument from ignorance?

Since it is so patently obvious and non-controversial based upon scientific studies of the human brain and psychology that human beings are ignorant about their own ignorance then we should not believe what we prefer to believe without plenty of scientific empirical evidence for it. This leads intellectually honest people to skepticism about that which they want to believe. Period. All of us.

Since we are so prone to believing based upon hunches and guesses and ignorance we should do what prosecutors do when deciding whether or not to prosecute a person for a crime. Prosecutors cannot decide this on hunches and guesses. They need evidence; hard evidence. And when it comes to circumstantial evidence they need a lot of it. Notice here I’m not suggesting what a jury must do in deciding the case, for they must decide whether or not the person did the crime. My standards are more relaxed than that. It’s whether there is enough evidence to move forward with prosecution itself. Prosecutors must think they have a case.

In my opinion one of the biggest lies of all is Christianity. It's a self-delusional one that Christians refuse to admit is a lie just like the story of the Emperor with no clothes. The people all pretended he had clothes on despite what was obvious to them all.

So while I don’t think subjectivism is the case I do think we are all far less objective then anyone wants to admit.

So I’m not claiming we do not strive for objectivity. I’m claiming emphatically that we human beings all fail in being objective when there isn’t a mutually agreed upon reliable test to adjudicate our differences. We’re all woefully inadequate at being objective. Dismally inadequate. That's why science is the best antidote to wishful thinking.

My main thrust is that believers cannot be sure they are right. After all, they are making affirmative knowledge claims about God, the Bible, Jesus, the church, and so forth. I deny these claims. That's basically all I do. When someone claims they saw something, anything, I have a right to question whether the person saw this. Usually I don't question most claims if they are what we would expect to find in the natural world, since such claims told by a sincere, honest person, with no axe to grind, are so to speak, on the boards. But the number and range of the affirmative claims by Christians is vast, many of which must be right for their faith to be probably true.

Debates take place between us about many issues from the nature of Biblical slavery to the resurrection. Just looking at how confident Christians are in these debates is amazing to me. There are plenty of other reasonable conclusions someone can come to about such issues, but no, they act like answer men--they have the right answers that any reasonable person should see as the truth about them, even people in the past! They ignore for the most part the fact that many other professing Christians, the only kind we see, disagree with these conclusions.

Christianity, the kind I criticize here, claims that God will judge us based on what we believe. We must believe certain things to be saved. If we don't, then to hell we go. And so in the Bible are many warnings not to be led astray by false teachers. My point is that we are all easily led astray. We know this from psychological studies and brain science. Again, we know this. This science cannot be disputed. So I find it incomprehensible to think human beings will be judged by the content of what they believe. And I find it likewise ignorant for someone to claim s/he knows the truth; the whole truth with a kind of certainty believers express. That's literally impossible. Doubt and skepticism about that which we claim to affirm is clearly required of beliefs which have no mutually agreed upon scientific test for them, which again, is the best method we have for sorting out that which we can know with any degree of assurance.

Isn’t it obvious to any well-traveled, well-read, highly educated, and any deep thinker today, that this universe is religiously ambiguous capable of being rationally understood in a number of different and even mutually exclusive ways? If you think otherwise you have not done much traveling outside your small world, nor read very many diverse books, nor gained any advanced degrees, nor do you think very well. There is a great amount of religious diversity on every continent and each religious sect has its defenders who can and do defend what they believe very intelligently.

This is a fact. It is obvious and non-controversial. Let me say it again but as a statement instead of a question. It should be obvious to any well-traveled, well-read, highly educated, and any deep thinker today that this universe is religiously ambiguous capable of being rationally understood in a number of different and even mutually exclusive ways.

If you think differently you live in a proverbial cave. The default position which is the intellectually honest position, is therefore, is agnosticism.

And agnosticism isn't much different than atheism, since an atheist is a non-theist and by extension, a non-believer. Agnostics are non-believers just like atheists. But the fact is that Christians are non-believers too. They do not believe in other gods or goddesses. I merely reject one more religion than they do FOR THE SAME REASONS!

This is a re-posted, edited version of the argument.