Saturday, 22 December 2012

Believing In Belief

From what we read on Twitter and other social media like Reddit, it's only too obvious that most theists, especially Muslims and Christian, don't really believe what they claim to believe but actually believe in other people believing.

I accept that this is not a scientific sample and that they rarely appear to be very bright but it's also obvious that they don't believe in any god that resembles the one they purport to believe in as this random sample of Twitter tweets shows.

On the left is just a small sample of their contribution to rational debate.

The logic in the first cluster appears to be, "If I shout abuse and obscenities that will teach Atheists a lesson and then they'll believe in Allah and start doing what I tell them. Of course I don't need to behave decently or in a civilised manner because I know there isn't really a god watching me who will punish me for my wrong-doings, but it's important for people to think there is or they won't do what I say". The intent is clearly to use a god as a weapon.

@Scotsmanmatt is a notorious sophist who seems to pride himself on trying to get away with lies and avoiding answering questions. Here he rather too transparently misrepresents Stephen Hawking whilst simultaneously and ludicrously posing as an expert who understands cosmology better then Hawking does.

The following exchange illustrates a typically dishonest exchange. A Christian who had been trying to use the Kalam Cosmological Argument yet again, despite having had it refuted numerous times in the previous weeks is asked a simple question. He goes straight into avoidance mode and tries to change the subject, showing he knows full well the weakness and dishonesty of his argument:

It's a similar psychology behind Pascal's Gambit (or Wager as it's more often known). Pascal's Gambit argues that there is nothing to be lost by believing in God and everything to gain if it turns out to be true, so you might as well avoid the risk and believe.

The intellectual dishonesty of this flagrant denial of reason, and the crass stupidity of trying to fool a supposedly omniscient god by a pretence of belief where there is none, shows those who advocate it to others can't possibly themselves believe in a god of truth and honesty who would, if he existed, value personal integrity above all else. They see no risk at all in urging belief in a god who would need to be stupid and/or appreciate intellectual dishonesty for the gambit to succeed.

Clearly, they don't believe in the god they want you to believe in. They may fool themselves that they believe in it but their actions say otherwise. Okay, I'll grant that some of our Twitter apologists have themselves been fooled by these tactics and lack the wit to to realise they've been duped, but the fact remains that their behaviour is nothing like it should be if they really believe what they claim, as these tweets show.

A couple of other ploys employed by apologists for religion, in addition to the common tactics of lies and deception, are threats and condescension.

Threats are usually threats about what their god will do to you if you don't believe in it, like a playground bully who threatens you with his big brother or his dad, if you don't give him your dinner money. The god is presented, apparently with no concern at all for what it might think, as a nasty vindictive little bully, exactly like the person trying to do the bullying in fact.

Condescension, which is an almost universal feature of religious apologists, usually takes the form of telling you you have no morals and don't know right from wrong if you don't subscribe to their particular brand of superstitions. There is no worry about what this god might think of it being blatantly used to put other people down and to elevate oneself above others in order to feel superior.

In both these cases the god they are trying to foist on you is merely a convenience - a concept to be used against others and to try to control other people. There is no concern about what it might think because it doesn't exist. It's important for the control to work for other people to believe in it, however, so the end fully justifies the means.

The example by 'Matthew Bell' aka @Scotsmanmatt is an example of a Christian trying to get away with three lies simultaneously: first, there is the lie about Hawking's actual argument, either intentionally or through ignorance (where the lie is the pretence of knowledge), secondly the smugly self-satisfied dishonest pretence that he knows better than Stephen Hawking, from his position of ignorance and thirdly that somehow his religion offers a rational explanation - which involves magic.

Matthew quite clearly doesn't believe a god of truth and honesty is watching him. His objective here is to use his pretence of religiosity to justify his pretence of intellectual superiority and unsurpassed scientific prowess which can dismiss the likes of Stephen Hawking with the wave of a hand.

The last example is typical again. This Creationist Christian specialises in assertion then avoidance when questioned. Despite having had his favourite argument, the Kalam Cosmological Argument, refuted numerous times, he trots it out once again, presumably hoping no one will be around to refute it this time. Then, when asked a fundamental question which explores the basic premise of the argument, he demonstrates that he knows it's flawed by immediately going into evasion and avoidance mode, and tries to change the subject. There is no attempt to engage in debate or to support his argument.

Once again, there is no recognition of a god who values intellectual honesty and truth watching here. There is only an attempt to pose as an expert and to show off skill at sophistry and avoidance - something which is clearly rehearsed for the occasion.

Christian: One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor.

Ambrose Bierce
None of these people believe in the god they claim to believe in. What they believe in is you believing in that god because that makes it easier to control you in the mistaken belief that you need to be controlled because without the fear of a god you can't be trusted. This argument doesn't apply to them, of course. Point out to them that needing a book to look up right and wrong in is symptomatic of psychopathy - the character flaw they assume you have, and they take offence. Everyone else is a psychopath but how dare you suggest they might be?

In fairness, I should point out that these three are just a more-or-less random sample of countless others who swarm the social media daily. They just happened to be around.

They believe not in gods but in believing in gods - for other people, that is.

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  1. In general I've found it to be very true that religious people don't really hold to any kind of coherent belief system. They simply believe a jumble of all the stuff that the rest of the group seems to believe.

    The sad truth is that, for every person who seeks after truth and reality, there are 99 who simply want comfort and conformity.

    I do have fond memories of my long ago days back at the University at Berkeley. I would have fascinating debates with a guy I knew who was a graduate student at the Jesuit seminary nearby. One thing I do like about Catholicism is that they actually have an intellectual tradition of trying to work out some kind of pseudo-rational house of cards to explain all their mumbo-jumbo. You can actually discuss their beliefs without them becoming angry and defensive. Although they still tend to close their minds to the fact that arguments which seemed to make sense in 1200 make no sense at all in the year 2000.

    But, with the christians I know now, it's pure mumbo-jumbo without even a semblance of the pseudo-rational. No discussion possible.

  2. "Condescension" - you're the expert on that one Rosa. It's fine, I don't expect you to publish this post. You're scared of everyone who disagrees with you. You love your "yes men" followers and I'm sure your blog-for-cash earns you lots (and I'm aware I'm ironically up-leveraging your monetization!). But face it: you're not 4 REAL are you? I don't believe in any gods but I don't PREACH about it. Don't you see the irony in preaching your pious single-minded view? The answer is no. Bet you're laughing at my use of the word pious, because ordinarily - according to hallowed Google (via - it means "devoutly religious"... well you are blindly devout to the cause of atheism. That in itself is fine, but seriously it's the 2nd meaning of pious I refer to your works: "a hypocritical display of virtue". I'm sure you'll twist this observation into another one of your one-sided, ignorant blog posts. BUT IT'S SO EASY TO KNOCK RELIGION and ATHEISM IS VERY FASHIONABLE. I hope you value your £100 a month or whatever you get from your ads on this site, but by hiding behind your cloak and never revealing yourself, you'll always be known as a stooge by those of us in the know about your worktime postings. NHS worker? Bullshit.

    1. Something seems to have upset you. Did you recognise yourself in this blog?

      That's understandable. It can't be very pleasant knowing the hypocrisy you've been thinking you were getting away with all this time has been known about all along, or seeing it being used to illustrate the dishonesty of the phoney 'faith' you hide behind to justify your otherwise unacceptable behaviour.

      Thanks for showing what religious people are really hiding under that cloak of pompous piety.

      I can see why you want to remain anonymous. Cowards usually prefer to hide.

    2. I, for one, am very happy that people like Rosa invest the huge amount of work it must take to keep a website like this active.

      Millions of people are indoctrinated at a young age into some religious group or another. They are often born into a community that actively discourages any alternate point of view or the open pursuit of knowledge.

      One of the greatest things about the internet is that these people can now find a variety of voices speaking on religious issues if they want to. People can come here, read the arguments and opinions, accept them or reject them or just move on. But it's wonderful that it's all here and available to anybody.

      Mr. Anonymous, you are correct about one thing; it IS so easy to knock religion. Religion is an easy target because it simply doesn't make any sense. Feel free to go create a blog of your own where you can explain why we should believe in the irrational. The more voices the better.

  3. First of all it wasn't even the Kalem Arguement but the Cosmological Arguement. Pay more attention next time. And I'll answer your question here if it'll make you happier. First of all I didn't assigned 'my God' and second of all if you are asking what made or who made God, you have use a little sense and a little logic here. Suppose there is no 'God' as you say. Our universe cannot be eternal because if it is eternal than how in the world would scientist come to the conclusion that our universe is running out of usable energy? If it is running out of usable energy (The Second Law), than it had to start somewhere. Now Dr. Lawrence Krauss says "nothing is something" and that "nothing" is "energy within empty space." That's all great, I totally believe it, however that energy has to come from somewhere, something or someone obviously smarter than that energy. Our Laws of Physics are so well established that I believe there has to be a God to make these perfect Laws of Physics exist the way they exist. Nothing happens without a cause (Law of Causility).

    1. Er... the Kalâm Cosmological Argument is the Cosmological Argument.

      You're really not very good at this, are you. That's maybe why you are making such a fool of yourself on Twitter and becoming such a figure of fun there.

      It might help if you firstly risked Atheism and learned some science, then, if you still want a career trying to fool people into falling for some infantile Bronze Age superstition or other, you learned a little about Apologetics.

      It won't increase the respect people have for you because you will still need your present level of disregard for truth, honesty and personal integrity to make it as a Christian Apologist, but at least you won't look quite so much like a semi-literate ignoramus suffering from Dunning-Kruger Syndrome.

      "Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge" - Charles Darwin

  4. I'm not a scientist, I'm not a debater. Nor a so called apologist if you want to call it that. But a few years I became an atheist because I believed the bible wasn't historically reliable. Wasn't till 3 years ago that I returned to my faith in which I have plenty of reasons why to believe that God does exist. When men close doors down on you because of your past, when your family is all messed up on drugs, and all you grow up with is nothing but gang violence (I'm from Chicago, right in the heart of the Latin Kings neighborhood), when there's no hope left, God says "I don't care what you have done in your past, I don't care how messed up your family is, I don't care what the world says about you or how they label you, I don't care about any criminal record, I your Lord, your God will see you through."

    What no psychologist, what no prison system, what no medicine, or any other type of government program did, God did. The Marine Corps told me once that not even McDonald's would hire me. Guess what they were right, they looked at my record and I couldn't even flip burgers. But once I learned to submit to Christ McDonald's still didn't hire me, but the police department has. This is the God I serve. And this Jesus Christ loves you to. God bless.

    1. >But a few years I became an atheist<

      Now I know you're a liar, not that there was much doubt before.

      As an atheist you would know that there is no evidence for any god so you would have no way to know which god to assign whatever you imagine to be evidence to. Had you managed somehow to examine all the possible candidate gods to eliminate all the others and arrive at just one, you would no doubt tell everyone and would be on your way to a Nobel Prize. Not surprisingly, the one you have arbitrarily latched on to is the one you were brought up to believe in. See As A Former Atheist. Don't Give Me That Crap.

      I don't know who you're hoping to fool with this pretence. Yourself, maybe? Does it give you some sort of self-affirmation to think you are tricking stupid and gullible people?

  5. So much hate in this blog, truly sad. I will be praying for you.

    1. You forgot to say where exactly the hate is. Perhaps you couldn't find it.

      Hint: It won't magically appear there just to give you and excuse to feel better about yourself by condescending to others and displaying your moral bankruptcy with passive-aggressive threats.

      The threat of non-consensual prayer is the same as for rape - power without responsibility - but at least we can see what you are using piety as an excuse for and can understand now why you needed to remain anonymous.

      Understanding Religion - I'll Pray For You!

      What a nasty little thing the Christian religion has become in the hands of people like you.

  6. Colin Connaughton11 February 2014 at 06:15

    This article agrees very well with my own experience and understanding.

    When I was a young teen, I was persecuted for being sceptical, and it was obvious to me that the people persecuting me did not really believe what they wanted me to believe, or pretend to believe (as they were doing). I wondered why they would do that and I believe that it was a 'Pascal's Gambit' - they wanted to have a belief system where they could get a reward even if the belief system wasn't true or if they didn't really believe in it.

    How could they get such a reward? By being able to say to God (if they ever met up with him), 'I followed the rules of the church which I believed was the right church. I believed it because everyone else did. So I should go to Heaven even if the church is false.' In other words, they wanted an excuse to pretend to believe and the excuse would be that everyone else (including me) believed, or seemed to believe, in it.

    So, I thought, 'But God would have to be an idiot to fall for that load of rubbish'.

    It's all a lot of nonsense really which almost makes me embarrassed to try to describe it.

    1. Absolutely. Pascal's Gambit is a transparent attempt to fool a god whilst pretending that god is omniscient and omnipotent. No god worthy of worship would fall for it.

      But I think many people think everyone else should believe even if they don't really believe themselves, because that places them under some sort of control. Basically, imposing your beliefs on someone else is a control technique.


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