Religion and Rationality
Excerpt from Book: “How Life Really Works” -Gregory Spohr
The conflict between rationality and emotionality is at the base of the conflict between science and religion. These two concepts are mutually exclusive and contradictory. It is impossible to reconcile faith-based religious belief systems with the fact-based system of science. In analyzing data input, a religious person is satisfied with a low level of coincidence or probability between events, whereas a scientist uses a system tscienhat seeks to correlate events with a high degree of probability and predictability.
Physiologically, man is a mammal and genetically almost indistinguishable from many other mammals such as apes. The only distinguishing factor that sets man aside from the rest of the animal world is his superior ability to use his mental facilities, particularly his intelligence and rationality.
Even a primitive form of life, such as an amoeba, must have the ability to distinguish between life enhancing and life threatening environmental influences. An amoeba must be able to perceive a life-threatening event as an unpleasant emotion, as pain. All survival mechanisms revolve around the emotion of pain. In order to survive we must perceive a threat to our survival as pain. Subsequently we must perceive the elimination of pain as a pleasurable emotion.
This pain/pleasure mechanism is at the root of all of our emotions, our feelings. Our emotions originated with the very beginnings of what we call life because they made life possible. Emotions are deeply rooted in our primitive survival instincts. Emotions provide for all innate psychological motivations of man.
The evolutionary development of their rational mind provided humans with the ability to control their emotions with a thin veneer of rationality. Intelligence and rationality are the tools we use to enhance our pleasant emotions, our happiness.
All religions rely on our emotional responses rather than our rational mind. Religion meets a very basic and primitive psychological need of man. Life in previous millennia was extremely harsh, hazardous and dangerous to man. Man was under constant attack, not only by carnivores and by his fellow man, but he felt completely powerless when confronted by forces of nature such as earthquakes, thunderstorms, volcanoes, floods and droughts. Above all, man feared the ultimate disaster: Death.
All religions provide for a superior being or beings that purportedly can protect humans from the hostile forces of nature over which humans have little control. In order to perfect this delusion, man imbued his gods with the ability to assure immortality for man, because death is the ultimate and final threat to survival. Thus, the fiction developed that man could be immortal with the help of this superior being called God.
The hidden drawback in this proposition has always been the irrefutable fact that all benefits, including life after death, are payable only in a life after death. Fortunately, for religions, life after death is a life from which no one has returned to issue confirming reports. By providing for a life after death, man tries to convince himself that there is a more glorious part of his life than the misery of his earthly existence.
The promise of life after death is an attempt to give purpose to man’s life where otherwise no purpose is evident. Man cannot face the reality of his absolute and total extinction upon his death. The need for immortality is part of the survival instinct of man. By creating the delusion of achieving immortality through religion, man creates a purpose for his existence that seemingly negates death. In return for this delusion, he must endure his slavery to the illusory concept of an imaginary god and his disciples on earth.
The religious approach to solving threats posed by the environment starkly conflicts with reality and rationality. Any results allegedly obtained by placing faith in the power of supernatural beings are, at best, the result of coincidence. There is not, and there never has been, any objective evidence whatsoever that a god or gods exist, that prayers to any god are effective or that there is a life after death.
The futile attempt to achieve our objectives in life by using religion and prayer, results in the inefficient use of our limited physiological and psychological resources. Any alleged results of religious methodology are unpredictable or counterproductive because religious dogma provides a smoke screen to hide the nature of Objective Reality. Adherence to religious beliefs and practices will always be unproductive because a religious belief system detracts man from seeking alignment with the reality of his environment.
In defense of religion, people may ask why they should not indulge in religion. If they seem to find solace and comfort in the concept of a god, what harm can it do? Similar to medical quackery that prevents people from seeking scientifically validated treatments for their physiological problems, religion interferes with man’s ability to deal with reality in a rational, scientific and effective manner.
Religion is a psychological expedient that religious persons rely on in order to avoid having to deal with Objective Reality in a truthful and effective manner. There is no difference between a mind-distorting drug like alcohol or cocaine and the distortions of reality created by religion or mysticism. Mind distorting drugs, including religion, always result in our misalignment with Objective Reality and the inevitable misallocation of our limited resources.
Does God exist?
The nature of religion requires the invention of one or more fictitious, superior beings. A god is only of value to us, as individuals, if he has unlimited powers. This being must be all-knowing, omniscient, and capable of doing anything he wishes to do, he must be omnipotent. If he does not have these attributes, he cannot be a god and is of no value to mere mortals.
Who wants to pray to a god for the reversal of the laws of the universe, if this god has only limited control over events in the universe? To be of any value to us, any god must be infallible, omniscient and omnipotent. However, the idea of an omnipotent god poses a number of inherent contradictions:
When a religious person prays to a god in order to obtain certain benefits to which he would not otherwise be entitled, he proceeds on the assumption that he is dealing with a benign god. After all, man creates gods with the idea of enhancing man’s lot in this world. Therefore, the only god worth having is a benign god. Nobody wants to confront an all-powerful but vicious god. Nobody needs a god whose actions, in response to a prayer, are completely random or who imposes misery and ill fortune on the supplicant.
A god must be a personal god who will deal with us as individuals. A god cannot be a nebulous creature who has created the universe and man and who then exhibited an aura of benign neglect. In order to be of any value, a god must be accessible to any person who believes in him and must be capable of responding to the needs of his subjects.
We insist that our god must be all-powerful and that he must be benign towards man. However, if he is truly omnipotent and if he is the cause of everything that happens in the universe, he is also responsible for anything that happens in the universe. Why does this allegedly benign god kill millions and millions of men, women and children in the most atrocious and painful manner in wars or disasters?
Our god is obviously responsible for these disasters because, if he were omnipotent he could easily deflect them. If he is omnipotent but chooses not to ameliorate the agony of his subjects, he is obviously not benign. Rational persons find it difficult to reconcile and accept as true such obviously contradictory concepts. This argument is only one of the innumerable contradictions inherent in all religions.
Humorously inclined persons sometimes respond to the alleged omnipotence of god with the Rock Lifting Paradox: Can god make a rock so heavy that he cannot lift it? Another obvious problem regarding the existence of god revolves around the question: Who made god and why has nobody ever been able to take a photograph of him/her/it? In any discussion of the existence of god, some people argue that nobody can prove that god does not exist. This is a fallacious argument because it is logically impossible to prove that something does not exist. The burden of proof is always on the person making a claim. Anyone who makes a claim that something exists is obligated to provide objective evidence for his claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Merely to say that something exists, does not make it exist. Merely to say that god exists, does not make him exist. If any object or event does not manifest itself objectively to humans in any way whatsoever, it obviously does not exist for purposes of human beings. God has never manifested himself objectively in any way whatsoever. Therefore, god does not exist. There are no gods.
However, the religious person rejects the need for objective evidence. A scientist has to submit objective evidence to prove that his theory is correct. If a theologian wants us to accept his claim for the existence of a god, it is incumbent on him to provide objective evidence for the existence of god. No priest has ever provided a shred of objective evidence that god exists. Therefore, statements made by priests do not reflect the truth.
Religious persons do not ask a theologian or priest to provide objective evidence for his claim that god exists. In religion, faith has replaced objective evidence in the verification of truth. Faith is the belief that something is true, in disregard of all known objective evidence. Scientists do not need to have faith; they establish truth by insisting on objective evidence.
The more objective evidence is accessible to us, and the more closely this information reflects Objective Reality, the more precisely we will perceive Objective Reality and the truth.
The concept of truth is the essence of scientific inquiry. Future events are inherently unpredictable with consistency and accuracy. As opposed to belief-systems that rely merely on unconfirmed beliefs in predicting the future, science is the most accurate predictor of future events.
Prayers, incantations and other appeals to non-existing ghosts are ineffective in achieving results because they ignore Evidentiary Truth and, instead, rely on irrationality.
Human beings utilize extensive psychological filters that further distort or reduce the fractional data that are available to the mind. Our mind tries to protect illusions deeply imbedded in our psyche by discarding any sensory input that might endanger carefully nurtured, comfortable distortions of the truth.