Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Faith Is A Road That Leads Anywhere You Want

From Atheism Is the True Embrace of Reality, via Jerry Coyne:
Just about all the Christians I came into contact with “knew” there was a god, too. They, too, spent time in meditative prayer with him on a daily basis. And as a result, they, too, “knew” what God was like. So what did that knowledge tell us about him? How reliable were these personal relationships when it came to establishing the truth about God?

Some of us, on the basis of our relationship with God, knew him to be loving, compassionate, generous, always reaching out to us, pitying our mistakes rather than condemning them. Others, on the basis of their relationship with God, knew him to be angry, jealous, punitive.

Some of us knew that God had more important things to worry about than our sex lives; others knew that human sexual impurity was deeply offensive to him.

Some of us knew that God wanted us to respond to other people’s shortcomings with tolerance and forbearance and humility; others knew that he wanted sin to be made an example of, to be held up and publicly rebuked.

Some of us knew that God was offended by conspicuous consumption when so many people had nothing; others knew that God showered wealth along with other good things on those of whom he approved.

Some of us knew that God saw all religions as different expressions of people’s yearning for him; others knew that traditional, orthodox Christianity was the only route to him.

Some of us knew that the devil was just a myth to explain the existence of evil; others knew that the devil was very real and a genuine threat to our souls.

Some of us knew that there was no way God could ever allow such a thing as hell; others knew that hell was very much a part of God’s ordained order.

We all knew we were right, and we all based that knowledge on the personal relationship we had with him. How could any of us possibly be wrong?

I've said it before and I'll say it again--faith is not a path to truth. It is unable to discern truth from falsehood, and one reaches the conclusion one wants to. Faith leads to conclusions which are mutually incompatible. The people listed above literally cannot all be correct. (However, it is logically possible that they are all wrong.)

Neuroscientists have done studies which identify the regions of the brain which model the morality of others, and which model one's own morality. When contemplating God's desires and values, the regions of the brain which are active are invariably one's own. No religious person has ever conceived of a God who disagreed with themselves on any major point. They may conceive god as the highest, unattainable standard and experience guilt thereby, but that cognitive dissonance does not obviate the reality that it's really their own standards they're failing to live up to.

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