Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Leonidas and religion (Pt. III)

So I joined a great group on Facebook for atheists that's just started up yesterday. Lovely people there, and it didn't take much at all to start a multitude of debates among us atheists. One such debate reminded me of a common theme in religious arguments.

One tactic I see all the time from some Christians, and often some of the loveliest Christians I know, is to put forth an explanation that doesn't have any real evidence, but merely fits. For example, someone asks why we can't see God, and they say "God hides away from us in shame because of our sins." There's no real evidence to support that, but it fits, so, it works fine. Or, another more famous example: why is there suffering in the world? There are so many answers to this, few of them very valid, but even those which constitute respectable arguments are again examples of best-fit explanations such as "We need bad to be able to recognise good." True as that is, where is it coming from?

The rhetoric is almost always circular, it seems. Sometimes it's as obvious as "The Bible is true because God wrote it, and God is real because it says in the Bible." But sometimes it's more subtle, or sometimes the circle is larger. Why is it "wrong to be gay"? "Because it says so in the Bible". But it also says to love thy neighbour in the Bible. "Yes, but if someone sins, they need to repent and change their ways." But who says it's a sin? "The Bible." And why is the Bible real? "Because God wrote it." And how do you know God is real? "Well..."

Often it's really difficult to argue against these kind of arguments, because they themselves are hardly built upon anything in the first place. Best-fit explanations are difficult to refute because on their own, they sound pretty convincing, and could even be true, but when they're in context, and when we're looking at the basis for the explanation... then it all falls apart.

This is the difficulty in dealing, sometimes, with religious arguments. Circles define them.


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