Rational Thought and religion

OK, so most of this post is copied verbatim from an email I wrote in response to a friend of mine. Basically, her initial argument was that people cannot argue completely rationally because we are essentially emotional beings. I hope she forgives me for posting my response here, and also for the tiny quote I pull from the end of her email for the rest of my rant. (That’s the part where she sparked the “faith” nerve, and I went off on that for a while.)

I don’t know if it’s just right now, or what, (and maybe I’ll look back at this tomorrow and shake my head), but I feel that what I wrote in response was some of the clearest prose on how I feel about this stuff that I’ve ever written. I’m not going to allow comments on this post because, in general, these subjects really piss me off, and I want to minimize the “fury” factor.

These are not very popular opinions. You have been warned.

Thinking “rationally” is a human invention. It is something scientists and people who believe in science strive towards. Yes, we are all emotional beings. Emotions play a part in rational thinking in that they are one more form of circumstantial evidence. This does not mean we aren’t able to weigh that evidence just as we would weigh some other sort of more empirical evidence. (To use an analogy, just because I have had a hallucination does not mean that everything I see is wrong. It does, however, mean that I should question what I see before I accept it as factual data.)

> this is the main difference between our opinions, and why we will never
> agree; I have faith that God has the ultimate say in what happens.

I seriously believe that “faith” is one of the cruelest and saddest concepts ever brought into human thought. In this one sentence, you have proven yourself as despicable as the Taliban who instigate Jihad for the sake of their religion. It is a simple matter to extrapolate the concept of an all-powerful god into all kinds of fucked up and seriously demented conclusions. It is my belief that, yes, that basic concept is “just as bad” (even though it does not inherently advocate murder or genocide) simply because of the damage it has done historically, and the damage it continues to do today.

I do not wish to argue with you on this. I’m sick of arguing religion’s tyrannical nature to complacent individuals who find solace in its oppression. So please, if you’re going to use god as an argument, do it elsewhere. This is not me saying “please don’t respond.” It’s me saying “please don’t talk anymore about religion, I want to continue to like you.”

In retrospect, perhaps I was a bit harsh. Lets hope she forgives me for saying sheÂ’s as bad as the Taliban (obviously not the case.) While I was writing this, Laura looked over my shoulder and made the argument that “faith” is something we need to survive. “Faith” that weÂ’re going to wake up after going to sleep, “faith” that what we eat wonÂ’t poison us, etcÂ… Well, IÂ’m going to argue a fine semantic point here, and say that I would call those statements assumptions rather than faith. I am going by the definition of faith as a “Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.” (Dictionary.com baby.) I would argue that definition is also pretty synonymous with the more religious: “theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will”. To me, the latter is an extrapolation of the former, and therein lies most of my “beef” with the word faith.