Questionable Motives

December 18, 2009

Why is the certainty of religious faith an indication of a closed mind?

In  1944 John Wisdom, an aptly named British philosopher, wrote a parable about a garden. It took up just a few paragraphs of an intricate essay in a professional journal, but it seeded a controversy that ran for a good few years before subsiding into the mulch of abandoned philosophical debates. The essay was about religion: the parable raised the question of what meaning, if any, could be given to the idea that the world is watched over by a loving God. Sixty-five years later, Wisdom’s tale is ripe for retelling because religious apologists have argued themselves into a frightful muddle. A slew of books aimed at rebutting the so-called “New Atheists”—Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris—has unintentionally given new life to an old controversy about the meaningfulness of statements about God.

The parable went like this. “Two people return to their long neglected garden and find, among the weeds, that a few of the old plants are surprisingly vigorous. One says to the other, ‘It must be that a gardener has been coming and doing something about these weeds.’ The other disagrees…They pitch their tents and set a watch. No gardener is ever seen. The believer wonders if there is an invisible gardener, so they patrol with bloodhounds but the bloodhounds never give a cry. Yet the believer…insists that the gardener is invisible, has no scent and gives no sound. The sceptic doesn’t agree, and asks how a so-called invisible, intangible, elusive gardener differs from an imaginary gardener, or even no gardener at all.”

Read the rest of the article here.

Which raises the interesting question every believer in god needs to answer if he or she ise to have any intellectual integrity whatsoever:

What would have to occur or to have occurred to constitute for you a disproof of the love of, or of the existence of, God?

If one can answer this question with a substantive response, then one’s faith is at best agnostic.

If the answer is ‘Nothing’ – a revelation as to the certainty of one’s beliefs – then one’s mind is already sealed shut. What is true no longer matters. And if what is true doesn’t matter, then the mind’s imaginings are closed to any kind of honest evaluation. And  a closed mind is never one worth advertising as morally superior, nor one on which we should lend any weight or authority towards input on public policy; instead, those who actively promote the closing of minds should be ridiculed as anti-intellectual and whatever emerges from their imaginings considered trivial.



  1. Are you American? Do you realize the most intelligent people in history were religious? Believed in God! So who is close minded here? Wow!

    Comment by 4amzgkids — December 22, 2009 @ 10:06 pm | Reply

  2. Note that this post is about certainty. You will also note that most founders of the American Constitution were more aptly described as deists. Certainty in faith rarely asserts itself for deists: most deists I have read accept that there must be some kind of creator god because of the marvels of the universe including life. I don’t begrudge anyone that marveling, but sincerely hope that if we could bring so many big-brained people into today’s knowledge, I suspect many would in some part replace their religious beliefs with evolutionary and astronomical knowledge. This is pure speculation on my part, but I would hope for as much because inquiring minds usually allow some room for self-doubt, which negates the notion of these now dead people maintaining any kind of religious certainty. It’s intellectually dishonest.

    Comment by tildeb — December 23, 2009 @ 2:51 am | Reply

  3. Really – deists? Where did you learn that? So when they came over to Jamestown – they were deists and not Christians? Research please.

    Comment by 4amzgkids — December 23, 2009 @ 4:06 am | Reply

    • The reason I bring that up is because the country was Christian from the beginning right up through the constitution and onward.

      Comment by 4amzgkids — December 23, 2009 @ 4:08 am | Reply

    • The country was new and born in revolution based on enlightenment values rather than christian dogma. It makes no historical sense to insist that because someone claimed affiliation with, say, Presbyterianism, that therefore the new constitutional document was therefore Presbyterian. It makes as little sense to say that because many of the founders claimed affiliation with some form of christianity that therefore the new constitutional document was therefore christian. Because the document was a radical departure from autocratic rule, it makes historical sense that the framers based the power of the document not from the top down but from the bottom up… that the constitution was owned by the people, from the people, and for the people.

      As far as the actual breakdown of religious affiliations, you can check wiki as easily as I. For your convenience, it is here:

      In addition, I have just finished reading several essays by Jefferson and Franklin who undoubtedly were not what you would call christian by today’s standards. I would classify them as deists because of their very strong positions of principle against organized religions. And even some of the strongest supporters of organized religions were enlightened enough to directly support no religious test for the holding of public office – something the framers of North Carolina’s state constitution failed to grasp. If this fact alone doesn’t persuade you that the intention of the framers of the US Constitution was to create a secular state that would have allegiance to NO form – specific or generic – of religious belief, then your powers of deduction from historical accounts will never yield any other answer than the ones you have already pre-selected to support your opinion.

      Comment by tildeb — December 23, 2009 @ 5:14 am | Reply

  4. Please visit

    Comment by 4amzgkids — December 23, 2009 @ 4:11 am | Reply

    • Do you understand why the faith of people involved in creating the US constitution does not reveal the religious nature of the country? Do you understand why this site is so misleading?

      Comment by tildeb — December 23, 2009 @ 4:00 pm | Reply

      • Oh my goodness….Did you read the information? Did you read the bios on the founding fathers? They were Christians – Christians believe Jesus is their Lord and Savior. The constitution was founded under GOD…They were not against organized religion – they were a part of them. Maybe you read they were against Occults? I point you to what you should read and you get something else out of it which is confusing to me. As for Wiki – be very careful….people have the ability to go in and change that information so it can be very misleading. It can be changed by you or I, etc….Our country was born on religious values – freedom of religion – please check that as well. Thank you and Merry Christmas – may God bless you with faith, love and happiness in the coming years!

        Comment by 4amzgkids — December 23, 2009 @ 4:29 pm

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