The Atheist Codger Tells All: Mutually Assured Faith
If monotheistic supernaturalists want to make a more convincing case for their beliefs than they’ve managed to muster so far, they might start by getting their story straight. The mutually exclusive nature of the claims that are set forth by the champions of the Abrahamic faiths argues very strongly against the likelihood of any of those claims being true. Needless to say, skeptics have noticed how contradictory those claims are, and are therefore unimpressed by them.
I’ll give you an example, which any listener could easily multiply manifold should you be moved to do so. Muslims believe that Mohammed was the last prophet. Mormons believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. These claims are obviously irreconcilable, as Mohammed predated Joseph Smith by well over a millennium. So those who accept one of those claims must deny the other. Herein lies the origin of the distinction between “the one true faith” and “false religions.” So which of those faiths – Mormonism and Islam – is the true one? Which of those claims is correct?
The answer of true believers of both persuasions will of course be “My claim is correct.” If pressed to provide evidence, champions of both faiths will point to the pages of their “holy books,” and will perhaps also marshal accounts of miracles and so forth to bolster their claims. The theologians of both faiths will couch their convoluted arguments in recondite, high-sounding terms, meant more to obfuscate than illuminate. Meanwhile, orthodox Christians will sadly shake their heads at the spectacle, knowing that both parties are wrong, and that their faith is in fact “the one true faith.” They will counter with their own abstruse lines of reasoning and can usually be counted on to condescend to their ill-informed brethren, just as they do to nonbelievers.
Skeptics, of course, recognize the question “Which of those claims is correct?” for the false dichotomy that it is. And they tend to see the splintering of religious sects into thousands of antagonistic, competing factions as nothing less than comical: “pre-tribulation-rapture” Christians pitted against “mid-tribulation-rapture” and “post-tribulation-rapture” Christians, Calvinists vs. Arminians, Protestants vs. Catholics, sprinklers vs. dunkers, Shia vs. Sunni, polygamist fundamentalist Mormons vs. monogamist mainstream Mormons (if “mainstream Mormon” isn’t an oxymoron), and on and on. All the Christians are reading from the same book, but no two of the thousands of Christian sects agree on what that book says. The same is true of other faiths.
Not only can we do better than this; we have done better. Surely such powerful tools as Bayes’ Theorem furnish us with a far more reliable guide to the cosmos than the Bible, the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon.
If believers want to prove us atheists wrong – if they want to demonstrate that our stubborn disbelief is a bad strategy for happiness or mental health or eternal life or a stable society or whatever it is they’re claiming, they’re welcome to try. I’d suggest that the first step to that end would be to lay down their guns for a while, get their heads together and come to some agreement on just what the supernatural realm is, how it behaves, what gods are in charge of it, and so forth. Then get back to us.
(Good luck with that.)
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