I think one of the most frustrating things about religion for me is that fact that it is protected by its own set of cognitive rules. If people were to apply the same loose standards of evidence and reason to other areas in their life (admittedly some do) things would unravel very quickly. I know intelligent people who are otherwise skeptical in their lives. They don’t believe in quack medicine, they question media reports of current events and use fairly strict codes before they believe something as fact. Some of them are scientists who understand and accept Occam’s Razor while others are journalists, trained to question and seek sufficient information before telling a story. And yet, these same people have no trouble accepting that a man, born of a virgin birth, thousands of years ago was the literal son of God, a God who makes contradictory and sometimes duplicitous statements, performed miracles and spoke to donkeys, died and was risen from the dead only to disappear again in order to ascend to his rightly place next to his ethereal father in heaven. Wow.
The excuse for this ability to remove an otherwise functioning brain and put it on a shelf is called faith. How do you justify such mental gymnastics (and ironically, complete disrespect for our supposed “god given faculties”) with one little word? What kind of God would require that of you? I can understand believing in something – a higher power or supernatural force. There is no real reason not to believe in something like that. But there is plenty of evidence to suggest that an omnipotent, omniscient God is an imagined father figure for an otherwise small and lonely planet.
It is often argued that god cannot be proved or disproved and in some ways this is true. What we rely on however is the things that make up a faith…the documents, the claims, the books, the church. If these things fail to hold water, it is a fair assumption that the god they claim to represent can be dismissed. In the real world this approach is used all the time. In a court of law it is often impossible to prove that someone did or did not do something. What you rely on instead is the evidence. The videotapes, the fingerprints, the probabilities and then, based on that, you decide. If the evidence is found to be lacking then people intuitively understand that the person cannot be found guilty. Why can’t we apply the same reasonable approach to claims of a religious nature?