Six Arguments Against Religion III: Think For Yourself

The Master is content to serve as an example, not impose her will. Sharp but not cutting, pointed but not piercing, straightforward but flexible, brilliant but not blinding. Tao Te Ching 58

In the previous two parts of this series, I’ve tackled two arguments against religion — that it gives a poor return on investment, and that it encourages hypocrisy. In this part I look at another argument: that religion encourages too much reliance on doctrine, rather than experimentation or thinking for yourself.

If you’re depending on clergy, or any Wisdom Handed Down From On High, to save your soul, I have to agree:  this is actually a huge, huge problem. Too many people simply believe what they’re told — by people who have a vested interest in controlling them, in maintaining positions of power, in keeping people ignorant of the real facts and subservient. They want mindless obedience; they deliberately sow confusion; they undermine your belief in your ability to think independently. They don’t want you to question the beliefs you grew up with, or the decisions of those in power, the marching orders you’re given.

Wait, are we still just talking about religion?

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Six Arguments Against Religion II: Hypocrisy

Last week, I laid out the first of six arguments about religion — arguments that I have found interesting and worth exploring in depth. The first argument was that if you chose the wrong religion, you’d waste years of your life. The second argument is that religious beliefs are frequently inconsistent.

astrologyAncientAndModern

Christianity, for example, has a huge body of scripture written over the course of 3,000 years, and things don’t always square up. The Old Testament says “An eye for an eye,” and the New Testament says “turn the other cheek”; Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers” and “I bring not peace but a sword” (is the Son of God himself not blessed? Or can some warmakers be blessed too? Or did Jesus mean something else entirely?); etc. There are various ways in which these conflicts can be resolved, but sometimes the logic gets quite pretzeled.

One of the nastiest puzzles of this sort in Christianity is the problem of evil. How can evil exist when God is omnipotent and good? Why doesn’t God just wipe out the evil? A few years ago, when I was teetering on the edge of atheism and agnosticism, I dove deep into the Catholic Encyclopedia online to figure out the answer to this one. Here was the answer, as far as I could make out:

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Six Arguments Against Religion I: A Poor Return on Investment

After my “Evil Christianity” post a few weeks back, I’ve continued to think about issues of religion and belief. While my own ideas haven’t changed much, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss matters online and offline with a number of friends, both pro- and anti-religion. These six arguments against religion are ones I’ve personally found the most intriguing and compelling.

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On Astrology, Ancient and Modern

Spinning their eternal solitary dance in the endless void, the burning stars fall forever around the galaxy, dropping, as they go, a few precious photons into our eyes. Each tiny light-droplet is thousands, or millions, or billions of years old; and it has traveled almost six trillion miles in each of those years. Today an astronomer can catch such a precious photon on glass, place it under a microscope, and know how old its parent star is, how large, what elements are burning in its core, how fast and how hot it is burning, and how many years remain before the star collapses into ash, or explodes into a galaxy-blinding supernova.

Long ago, our ancestors looked at the stars and learned different things. They learned about themselves.

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