What’s a Good Reason to Reject a Belief as False?
When I wrote about demanding that one read some holy book, such as the Bible, I got a good deal of criticism for saying that I reject the Bible without having read all of it. What I meant, of course, was that I reject the foundation of the Christian religion, which I do know, and I don’t particularly care about the rest of the book as long as its teachings are irrelevant to me.
I’m not going to open that particular can of worms again. Rather, let’s take a step back and consider what a good reason to reject a belief system would look like.
Every religion is a body of different belief systems. There’s ethical teachings, mythology, cosmology, biology, philosophy, all jammed together from a time when there was no real separation between the various branches of science, the various branches of philosophy and religion. We all have some kind of attitude to these systems. And here comes the crucial point: there is no neutral belief system. Every belief system, so long as its body of beliefs is halfway coherent, will include an implicit claim to the opposite of opposing belief systems.
Consider a Christian who believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and God is the creator and ultimate moral legislator of the universe. Implicit in this person’s belief system lies the claim that Jesus is not not the Son of God, and God isn’t not the creator and ultimate moral legislator. If our hypotethical Christian is to maintain a coherent worldview, she must also deny all beliefs that contradict hers.
Flat Earthers implicitly claim that the world is not spheroid in shape. Muslims implicitly claim that Jesus is not the Son of God. So do atheists, and so on.
This is what everyone with a coherent worldview does. We reject views that contradict our views. It’s not coherent to believe that Jesus is both the Son of God and not the Son of God. Since everyone does it, and it seems impossible to form a coherent worldview that doesn’t, what’s so wrong with it? And what is it, really, that we’re doing here? What did I just point out?
It’s the fact that, despite not having read every single religious scripture in the world, despite not having read The End of Faith or The God Delusion, everyone rejects contradictory views. Even those who study religion for a living haven’t read all religious scriptures ever to have existed. Every single one of them, no matter how well-read and informed they are, have an implicit claim in their belief system to the opposite of any view contradicting their views.
It seems, then, that if we believe something, it’s not only reasonable to reject the opposite, it is the only option if we want to remain coherent and rational.
It also seems that those who said I cannot reject the Christian god without having read the entire Christian canon are hypocrites, because every single one of them rejects a whole bunch of other scriptures as false, without having read a single sentence of them.
So what is a good reason to reject a belief as untrue, or at least as unsupported and unreasonable?