Sunday, March 1, 2009

If the truth is unpleasant, does that make it false?

One of the worst arguments for religion, yet very common and persuasive, is that if a belief has unpleasant consequences, it must be false, and conversely, if a belief has good consequences, it must be true.
"Atheists have nothing on which to base their morals." How does that prove God exists?

"Evolution says we're descended from monkeys!" And I hate the fact that my great-great-grandparents were slave owners. But that doesn't make it false.

"Without Heaven and Hell, people won't be moral." Maybe so, but that doesn't mean Heaven and Hell exist.

"Religious people are more generous, and give more to charities." Maybe they're trying to buy their way into Heaven?

"Without God, my life would be meaningless." It sucks to be you, I guess.
These are all variants on a them: If we really like some idea, then it must be true, and if we really don't like an idea, then it must be false.

This specious bit of "logic" is amazingly pervasive in the discussions about religion. What's even worse, most people don't even understand the complete irrelevance of their desires when trying to learn the truth. People honestly believe that their own needs and wants are relevant.

Even worse, this illogic has become an official doctrine of Christianity:
"Divine revelation, not reason, is the source of all truth."
— Tertullian of Carthage
The path to truth truth isn't always pleasant. We have to be willing to learn things that don't agree with our wishes, our morals, or our preconceived notions:
A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections, a mere heart of stone.
— Charles Darwin
It doesn't matter whether our lives would be meaningless without God; that has no bearing on whether he exists or not. It doesn't matter what our evolutionary roots are, our goal is to discover them. It doesn't matter whether we want to live forever or not, the fact is, some day we'll die and be gone, like it or not.

When you're talking to religious people, beware of this trap. It's easy to fall into, but it's also easy to avoid if you're just aware of it.

1 comment:

  1. Very good one !
    Better to recognize our sad reality, than fool ourselves.


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