RE: virus: Why people cling to faith

carlw (
Mon, 25 Jan 1999 21:05:47 -0600

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of Richard Brodie
Sent: Monday, January 25, 1999 7:43 PM
Subject: RE: virus: Why people cling to faith

>Jake MemeLab wrote:

>> The reasons driving religious thinking are many (belonging, security,
>> simplicity, and on and on).

>Same as the reasons driving scientific thinking, right?

Ummm, no. Scientific thinking follows a process, the scientific method. The scientific method simply posits a procedure which is designed to reduce errors and come up with ways to make useful predictions about the world we live in. To make any other claims about the scientific method is to claim far more for it than it claims for itself. This is a frequent error made deliberately by people who have chosen to be irrational, or made through ignorance by people too foolish or ill-educated to know better. In debate it is known as a strawman, in other words, it raises an argument against something that has not been claimed or proposed.

>> The reason permitting it is always one, not using
>>critical thinking skills. Either having a general pattern of not using
>>them, or putting them on hold for one or a few emotional exceptions.

>Do you know how arrogant and naive this sounds? I guess you do:

It does not sound arrogant or naive or both to this observer. Critical thinking is an important aspect of being rational. It is an important aspect of determining whether a proposition is useful and believable. If something is proposed, for example the idea of a god or gods, then the onus rests upon the proponent of such an idea to demonstrate the evidence leading them to propose such an hypothesis, the manner in which their theory is falsifiable, and the useful predictive capability their theory provides. In the absence of this, their theory is unsupportable and their belief is, by definition, "irrational". Once a person bases their thinking upon an "irrationality", they cannot claim to be rational and thus their arguments are not useful.

>>After more than a decade of striving to understand religious folks, I
>>put it any more charitably than that - though I spent a fair amount of
>>effort in the past trying to be more "politically correct".

>And if they spend a decade trying to understand you, would you advise them
>to give up? Get it through your head: they've got something GOOD that you
>don't got. Maybe you should learn what it is!

Leaving questions of syntax and capitalization to the more pedantic on this list, while noting that people who find the need to illigitimately capitalize words are invariably ill-educated, I fail to see any definition of the "GOOD" which is refered to here. In the absence of definition, I would suggest that this is an example of a Subverted Support (An explanation is intended to explain why some phenomenon happens. The explanation is fallacious if the phenomenon does not actually happen of if there is no evidence that it does happen) and an attempt at an ad hominem (attack on the person) against "Jake MemeLab."

>>Religion (at least as it is traditionally understood), is doomed for

>You make the common mistake of the evangelistic atheist: irrationally
>assuming that the pursuit of Truth is a more important value than the
>pursuit of happiness.

First we have the error of labelling your opponent, then you claim that people who are "evangelistic atheist(s)" make "common mistakes", then you accuse him of irrationality, and finally you you claim that the pursuit of truth and the pursuit of happiness are opposed to each other. This is such a portmanteau of debating fallacy and error that I am hard pressed to categorise it, except to suggest that the error of the "Complex Question" (Two otherwise unrelated points are conjoined and treated as a single proposition. The reader is expected to accept or reject both together, when in reality one is acceptable while the other is not. A complex question is an illegitimate use of the "and" operator.) and ad hominem is undoubtedly present.

As a final comment, it would seem that you are representing the pursuit of happiness as contrasted and opposed to the pursuit of truth. The illogic of this takes my breath away. How can any rational person claim that these are opposite? The answer is that they cannot. I believe it fair to say that any person making this kind of claim is not only irrational but makes a mockery of whatever that person professes to believe. I for one would not accept anything which said that I should ignore "truth" in preference to "happiness", as any "happiness" that may be found in accepting lies (the opposite of the "truth" posited) will eventually come up against the reality of the universe, and this will invariably create more unhappiness or irrationality than an initial acceptence of reality ("truth").

I leave you with a categorical syllogism which disproves your implied hypothesis:

I am a (long term) atheist and always seek truth. I am a happy person and I always seek happiness. (Major) The pusuit of truth and the pursuit of happiness are not opposed. (Minor) Atheists can achieve happiness.

>Richard Brodie
>Author, "Virus of the Mind: The New Science of the Meme"
>Free newsletter! Visit Meme Central at