Reasons for my de-conversion (1 of 4)
I have recently been asked by several individuals to detail the reasons behind my de-conversion from Christianity to my current position of agnosticism. As a preface to this, I’d like to state my general disposition towards Christianity.
I spent over 25 years as a Christian, and for most of those years I was quite happy. I forged many significant relationships, and learned much while within a Christian community. I do not feel, as do some non-believers who have never been on the inside, that Christians are, as a whole, evil people intent on forcing their agenda on others. I do, however, believe that most Christians are uninterested in an honest inquiry into what is true due to vested interests of various emotions. I will detail these emotions later.
First, I must comment on what I feel is the greatest overlooked truth when considering knowledge and belief; human minds are not well-equipped to assess what is true. This is in stark contrast to the tacit Christian notion that all truths that matter are immediately accessible to nearly every human without much cognitive effort. Let me elaborate.
Religious sects all around the world subscribe to a set of beliefs that set them apart from other sects. They then claim that these “truths” within their faith are either accessible through common sense, common rationality, or divine revelation. This forces them to conclude that persons in all other sects are self-delusional, and rebelling against the truth that is apparent either through reason or divine revelation. It is assumed that these persons feel some sort of guilt stemming from their rebellion or rejection of truth.
However, this assumption is testable. If Christians were to befriend Muslims, they would discover that this is not true. The Muslims do not possess this sense of guilt, and instead possess the same deep confidence in the tenets of their faith as do Christians. Persons who have spent time among persons of another faith normally do not find people who are evil, bitter and guilty, but rather persons who possess a faith that constructs a society of familial and social warmth without the guilt stemming from rejecting the “true” god.
So there exists this game played among religious sects in which they refuse to examine the minds of others, and instead assume that they know better. They assume this because their respective religious texts have told them it is true. This is just one of many assumptions that I’ll discuss later that religionists accept on blind faith.
When someone discovers that this assumption of guilt and general malevolence in others is false, there is only one other conclusion; the human capacity to assess what is true and false is dysfunctional and deficient. The human mind has no natural ability to correctly assess truths that extend very far outside our local daily lives. What is intuitive does not well-correlate with what is true.
This can be very easily seen in the way humans assess risks. We fear flying, but have no problem with a cholesterol-laden diet that is far more likely to kill. We have to ponder carefully even the simplest of syllogisms, and are often still in error.
However, most religions, including Christianity affirm the notion that we are fully capable of assessing intuitively, or with souls that directly interface with some spiritual realm, which god if any is real without considerable training in critical thinking. This is simply not true. Our own ability is essentially identical to the ability of persons belonging to sects that we claim are clearly wrong. There is no evil rebellion against the truth of god, only a lamentable cognitive inadequacy of humans.
To claim otherwise as a mature adult who should have by now identified this inherent flaw in faith-based assertions is to reveal one’s own xenophobic inexperience and arrogance. This arrogance is a hallmark of extant religions. Human cognition is inherently weak. This notion is not very palatable to many since it implies that truth is best assessed by those who have been trained in reasoning. Nonetheless, it is demonstrably true.
Because successful religions must appeal to the masses, these religions all possess scriptures that invert this notion. The wise become foolish, and the foolish wise. This is one of the most powerful lies of religion; you can intuit truth. This unduly credits human cognition with enormous power. Human cognition is never questioned when assessing truth.
Coupled with this is an over-reliance on the emotion of confidence. We “feel” that something is true, and therefore it is true. The hidden assumption here is that this sense of confidence is god-given. God gives us this confidence to bear witness that we are sons of god. Once again, many Christians arrogantly assume that this same emotion of confidence cannot exist in the hearts of Muslims, and that they are knowingly in rebellion to the truth. After all, that’s what the bible tells us, does it not?
This now brings us to faith. Faith is not a virtue. The concept of faith as something noble is incoherent. Christians decry the faith of Muslims, but praise their own. However, the emotions are identical. Much like the concept of intercessory prayer, the concept of faith is defined differently even by persons within the same congregation and morphs evasively whenever it is questioned.
I’ve even corresponded with a quite notable apologist on the definition of faith never to receive a clear answer. Yet, it is positioned as the cornerstone of many religions. When asking 50 Christians “where does evidence end, and faith begin?” there will be 50 answers. So also with their interpretations of Hebrews 11:1. It is a stop-gap that allows the “faithful” to smugly fall back on when the evidence for their faith thins under scrutiny.
Faith has no virtue. Holding a belief in Santa as a little child is cute as best, and becomes pitiful if held past adolescence. Yet, such faith is encouraged in respect to the local god. And children with their under-developed rationality end up accepting the god of their parents with nearly no exceptions. If there were a god giving special revelation to the “foolish”, this would not be true. A number of children in Saudi Arabia would reject the god of their parents to accept the “true” god of Christianity on account of special revelation. This does not happen.
– Phil Stilwell