Posts Tagged ‘Religious Belief’

“[B]elief removes no mountains but places mountains where there are none. A hasty walk through a madhouse enlightens sufficiently on these matters. Not to a priest to be sure: for he denies by instinct that sickness is sickness and a madhouse is a madhouse.”

–Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ

Front cover of "The Anti-Christ" by Friedrich Nietzsche


Cartoon, The Egocentricity of Belief, by April Pedersem

Cartoon by Pamela Sutter, from her upcoming e-book (March 2015), May the Farce be with You.

If today persons are still to be found who do not know how indecent it is to be a ‘believer’–or in how far it is a symbol of decadence, of a broken will to live–they will know it tomorrow.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ

This quote begs the question, “Why is religious belief so indecent?” Nietzsche provides many answers  in The Anti-Christ. Here, we’ll look briefly at one: The “belief” of most religious believers is not actual belief–rather, it’s wishful thinking raised to infinity.

Let’s consider American Christians. Very few of them actually believe Christianity’s promise of eternal life. If they did, they wouldn’t be so afraid of death. The deaths of loved ones would be cause for rejoicing, because, as they so desperately wish was true, those deaths would open the portals to paradise for their loved ones. But their fear of and reactions to death betray them. They don’t really believe in “salvation” and life after death, they just very much wish those things were true.

If they really believed in the truth of Christianity, they wouldn’t be so threatened by skeptics and nonbelievers. If the evidence for their “faith” was as well established–as they claim it is–as the fact that water runs downhill or that the earth is round, they wouldn’t react so maliciously and fearfully to critics. Instead, they’d pity them in the manner that most of us pity flat-earthers. But they don’t. All too many Christians hate and fear atheists and skeptics. And that betrays that they very much want to believe the promises of Christianity, but they don’t.

And at the same time they insist on the literal, incontrovertible truth of their “beliefs,” “believers” routinely raise the most contemptible argument imaginable, Pascal’s Wager, which posits that it’s “safer” to “believe” than not to “believe.” The underlying premise of this “wager” is that there’s no difference between lip service and actual belief, or at least that an omniscient deity prefers lip service to honesty. In other words you’d better kiss ass, and honesty be damned.

This is the precise opposite of intellectual integrity. This is the precise opposite of considering all relevant evidence and arguments, evaluating them as dispassionately as you can, and accepting the conclusions whether you like them or not.

Most “believers” are so driven by fear of death that they seize on comforting illusions, insist that those illusions are true, suppress their misgivings, and do their very best to suppress anything else that calls those illusions into doubt.

It’s hard to conceive of anything more intellectually indecent.

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