Saturday, 26 June 2010

What's Wrong With Faith?

Can you tell red from blue?

Suppose for a moment that you have been born with some rare defect which makes it impossible (not just difficult, but impossible) for you to tell red from blue.

You have been given a piece of coloured paper to hold which you know it’s either red or blue. Your task is to discover what colour it is.

To help you, you have two people:

• You know one person will try to help you and wants you to know the true colour of the piece of paper.
• You know the other person will try to mislead you and prevent you discovering the true colour of the paper.

You do not know which is which.

What questions can you ask either of these people so you can discover the true colour of the paper in your hand?

Remember, there is no point asking them what colour the paper is because, even if you ask the person who is trying to help, you can’t tell if he has or not because you can’t check the paper in your hand.

You can’t ask either of them about the other’s motives because the person trying to mislead you could do so by telling the truth. You have no way to know this in advance, so have no basis by which to assess the truth of the answer.

Take as long as you need, then continue with the rest of this blog.

In fact, there is absolutely no way you can discover the truth. You simply do not have a framework by which to judge any of the answers so none of them will help you, no matter how earnestly they may wish to.

Conclusion: Unless you can tell red from blue you cannot discover the colour of a piece of red or blue paper, and, more importantly, you cannot use that knowledge to judge the motives of someone wishing to help and someone wishing to mislead and so discover which is which.

If you’re a Christian, Moslem or Jew you’re probably beginning to feel a little uncomfortable by now. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you’re looking for a reason to stop reading....

You see, the problem you have, if you believe in God and Satan, and you believe you only get your morals (your knowledge of right and wrong) from God through your holy book, is that you believe you have no a priori knowledge of right and wrong, so you have no independent basis for judging whether the author of the book wishes to help you discover right and wrong, or wishes to mislead you.

In short, the logic of your belief is that you cannot know for certain whether God or Satan wrote your holy book. For all you know, they might be Satan’s greatest deceit. There is absolutely no way for you to discover that, if you believe what you were led to believe by the Bible or Koran. There is nothing in your book that you can look to without the thought that, if Satan wrote it, he might be misleading you. You MUST look outside them for proof – and you have ruled that out in advance when you claimed your morals come only from your book.

The central fallacy of any book-based morality is that you cannot know the morals of the author. You can never be sure you have not been misled by him or her.

One more thing you might wish to ponder on if you’re a Christian, Moslem or Jew, assuming you’ve not tiptoed quietly away, is the fact that the Bible or Koran  (or rather it’s author(s)) has mired you firmly in this moral morass with, apparently, no way out. You are told you have to believe it to be 'saved' and avoid eternal pain and suffering, and you are told you must tell others to believe it all too, or they too will suffer eternal pain, etc.  Yet you can not be sure this is right. You MAY be ensuring your own, and those you tell to follow your holy book, to the very eternal pain and suffering you wish to avoid. 

You COULD be walking blindly into the trap Satan has carefully prepared for you.

Is that the act of someone who wants to help you and guide you through life?

There is a way out of course, if you want to take it. All you need is belief in yourself. All you need do is accept that you DO know right from wrong without the help of a book. Try this little thought experiment for yourself. Imagine someone gave you a book telling stories about a man who taught his followers to hurt children, to steal, cheat and lie, and to be nasty to old ladies. If the person who gave you the book told you it was about a good man who’s teaching you should follow, would you believe them and start lying, cheating, hurting babies, etc, or would you judge the giver and the character in the book to be bad and not worthy of your following?

Isn’t the reverse of that exactly what you did when someone gave you a copy of the Bible? If you are a Christian didn’t you in fact judge Jesus to be good and worthy of your following?  If you are Jewish, didn't you judge God, Isaiah and Moses to be good?

And if you are Moslem, didn't you judge Mohamed to be good?

Indeed you did.

You see, man judges gods and prophets and finds them to be good or bad according to innate human standards; standards which have evolved within our culture as we have evolved as a species and diversified across the earth into various different cultures each with its traditional, culturally inherited detailed morality, but almost invariably including the golden rule – do as you would be done by.


  1. In the Euthyphro, Plato presents a dilemma regarding piety: is it loved by the gods because it's pious, or is it pious because it's loved by the gods? The dilemma often gets rephrased with the word "moral" replacing "pious".

    I know for a fact that many Christians (especially the fundamentalist sort) believe that what's moral is moral because God says so. So, if God commands you to kill (as he commanded Abraham to kill Isaac, for instance), there's no higher morality to appeal to, and the right thing to do is kill.

    This mentality seems to me to reflect a morality stuck in the earliest childhood developmental stages (a la Jean Piaget or Lawrence Kohlberg). So, while I agree with your article in principle, I don't think it's as easy as telling people to believe in themselves. I don't think you can make someone to mature to a higher level of morality before they're ready for it, and indeed some people are not even capable of that level of maturity.

    I'm not saying that some people need the Bible; we have laws in place to establish right and wrong for those who aren't clear. But as long as we have preachers who make the claim that Bible is a moral guideline for life, we're going to have people who believe it.

  2. There are ways in which religion and religious moral constructs indeed do hinder moral development. The cut-and-dry moral schemes of the fundamentalist (which are generally more derived from their subculture than actual Scripture, I mean, where does Scripture forbid abortion and command the public-school teaching of creationism?) so often prevent the simple from ascending to the higher levels of moral development. In such thinking something is either good or utterly wrong and wicked. There is little room for the human experience. In dominant Christian-culture America such thinking often goes unchallenged by day-to-day experiences or moral dilemmas.

    In the above regards, religion can very often become a hindrance to one's moral development.

  3. The Bible tell us that Man is born with an inbred hatred of God. I myself can testify to that. Hence why people are not just dismissive of God. They are openly hostile. This is why the Bible speaks of the need for a "New Birth". An inner work of God to overcome our hostility. It is a correct statement in my case that once I was blind, but now I see. There is no triumphalism in this. It's just the way it is...

  4. Max Tasker. A shame you felt unable to address the logic of my argument but were reduced to quoting your favourite book of old fairy tales in lieu.

    It must be embarrassing for you having to do this all the time. Have you spoken to anyone about the problem?

  5. The fact that you not only hate God but even the very Idea of a God rather proves my point...

  6. Sad that you have to clutch at these straws and assert 'proof' without bothering to state how and why your claim proves anything. This, of course, is classic delusional reasoning. Everything supports my notion because nothing can possibly contradict it.

  7. It amazes me when people say in all sincerity that the bible gives them moral guidance. These people should be removed from the gene pool and demoted to the paddling pool.

  8. Another point to add to Max:
    Men are in fact born with an innate moral compass, but unlike your presumption, it has not arrived from nature or nurture, was placed on the heart of men by God. So to address your logically argument, the truth of the Bible is confirmed by the template placed in men. The simplest form of instructions from the Bible are summed up in the expression Love your neighbor(defined in the Bible as anyone you come across) as you love yourself. If you happen to not love yourself, you should love them like Yahweh loves you(providing life, comfort, sustenance, companionship).
    It would not be in Satan's interest for you to be selfless, kind, gentle, patient, loving, peaceful, joyous, and exercising self control...

  9. > was placed on the heart of men by God.<

    Your evidence for that biologically nonsensical claim may be seen where, please?

    >So to address your logically argument, the truth of the Bible is confirmed by the template placed in men.<

    How does a statement which reads more like a wishful assertion, and is entirely lacking in suporting evidence or deductive reasoning, confirm anything, please?


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