[FoRK] RE: reas. conv. 12/4: Beyond Faith

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Tue Dec 5 06:34:01 PST 2006

Russell Turpin wrote:
> In responding to Dr. Ernie Prabhakar, who wrote:
>>> d) Revelation, as its own prior, is only accessible to the given 
>>> sect that believes in it..
> I said:
>> Yep. It is inherently irrational.
> Lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear that it is the traditional
> Christian and Islamic notion of "revelation as passed down" that is
> inherently irrational. No one can know that Mohammed's spoutings
> actually came from the angel Gabriel. Joseph Smith's golden plates
> are not up for examination. No one knows who wrote the gospel of Mark,
> or more importantly, the source material behind it, and there is no
> reason to think some god was guiding the author's hand.
> Obviously, a god COULD reveal himself in all sorts of ways that would
> make his presence known. He could, if he wished, speak from a burning
> bush in everyone's backyard. He could prove his power to see the
> future by telling each of us the last digit of the next day's closing
> Dow Jones average. (The LAST digit, because it is both the least
> predictable and completely irrelevant to investment decisions.) The
> problem with revelation as the Abrahamic religions conceive it is not
> that communication from a god is inherently impossible, but that
> these religions present it in a way that cannot be tested, and that
> therefore must also be believed as a matter of faith. It is always to
> prophets or to apostles or to unknown scripture writers, and the very
> creation of the religion involves a guarding and closing of that
> revelation, to make it a matter of faith. That was the case with
> Christianity, with Islam, with Mormonism, and even with Scientology.
> It is now a well-established epistemological deceit. I use that last
> word purposely. A god like the Christian god who wants his presence
> known can presence known. If he simultaneously provides revelation
> that he wants us to believe, but only through select channels that
> guard his own presence against test, that is nothing more than a call
> for his followers to practice intellectual dishonesty.
And a dead giveaway that it's just more "religion as usual", no 
different than the mythology of the Greeks, etc.
At least the more "natural" gods seemed to their adherents to be doing 
things like getting them pregnant or making their fields grow.  Back 
when probability and other math were far in the future, it would be easy 
to see circumstances that reinforced random beliefs just enough for them 
to spread.

Modern understanding wipes all of this away, or should at least.  Those 
that survived are pared down to be completely untestable by promising, 
essentially, nothing.  They "won" because the more ambitious have all 
been disappointments and couldn't compete.

There is a connection I think between belief and the urge to gamble.  
Except for those who are rationally cruising the odds, gamblers often 
have irrational belief that they can wish their success.


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