Questionable Motives

May 26, 2010

How can you turn a functional and healthy brain into mush?

Filed under: belief,commentary,Criticism,failed logic,Faith,Ignorance,Truth — tildeb @ 1:06 pm

Simple: add religion, wait for its incoherencies to ferment, and then do what Andrew Pessin did – submit a radical idea to the Huffington Post for publication to show what it can do. Here is the excerpted central thesis with a bit of bold added by me. Follow along if you can:

To believe of each and every sentence that it is true is to believe, in effect, that not one of the sentences is false; but to believe that there is at least one error in the work is to believe that at least one of the sentences is false, and thus to contradict the first belief.

And yet both beliefs can seem so plausible! Indeed — and here’s the key — even after we become aware of the implicit contradiction, both the contradictory beliefs remain quite appealing in their own right.

Thus the paradox.

What I suggest instead is that we simply acknowledge the paradox: that is, recognize that both contradictory propositions are, in their own right, extremely plausible. In the preface case this actually seems quite easy to do. My ultimate hope, then, is that world peace will break out when enough people simply acknowledge the paradox as well and begin applying it more generally.

Why is that?

Because acknowledging the paradox allows you simultaneously to say two things.

Choose some important, life-governing, very controversial thing you happen to believe in with great fervor: the existence of God (or perhaps atheism) {Arrrggghhh!!}, the truth of Christianity (or Islam or Hinduism, etc.), absolute morality (or relativism), etc. Focusing on religion as our example, you can now say, first, that you believe, with certainty, on the basis of reason and evidence and testimony, in the truth of, say, the various individual tenets of your version of Christianity, and thus believe, with equal certainty, in all the things entailed by that belief: that, say, all other competing religions and doctrines are simply false.

But then you can say, second, something else: that you may be wrong.

Got it? You can simultaneously be certain that Christianity is true and everything conflicting with it is false, and yet acknowledge that you may be wrong without taking away your certainty. You can thus keep your certainties without having to claim that you are, in fact, and grossly implausibly, infallible. It’s what everyone (other than bakers) has yearned for since time immemorial: the proverbial cake, both eaten yet had!

Yup, to make something true and be justifiably certain it is true, all you need to do is  just assert it, or its opposite, and add some certainty! See how simple that is? That’s religious belief in a nutshell.

More and more, I am beginning to see that religious belief turns the brain into a digestive tract where theological questions go in, are processed, and waste comes out. Christianity is the most popular local end product.


  1. Wow….true genius in this article…LOL! Just because you don’t believe it to be true means it’s not? You continue on with your belief that people believe in religion because they aren’t intelligent enough. Yet through out history, the most intelligent men have studied Christianity and it’s roots and have proven it to be the truth. You continue to deny it because you aren’t interested in doing all of the work to prove yourself wrong. Hmmmmm….

    Comment by 4amzgkids — May 30, 2010 @ 9:07 am | Reply

    • Doesn’t speak very well historically of men, does it? Thank goodness the other half of the population is beginning to affect history.

      Comment by tildeb — May 30, 2010 @ 3:56 pm | Reply

  2. Lots of people in history were religious, but lets have a look at what happened to those who were ‘too’ smart:

    This might give you some insight into why it was compelling to be religious.

    Imagine living in a world where if you ‘say publicly’ that you do not believe in a part of the bible or the whole story book at all – that you will be burnt alive. Do you not think that ‘threat’ just might make you bring up your kids to be a faithful to the church and its teachings – even if it means snuffing out the truth?

    Religion knows nothing of the meaning of truth, because its foundations are based on thousands of direct and conscious acts of the most horrible types of gratuitous painful deaths and violence against anyone that suggested that they might be wrong; and all those who would not conform to their narrow minded beliefs in the supernatural. Where no direct action was taken by the Church (i.e. they got someone else to do their dirty murders), they heavily influenced the outcome – because they heavily influenced society.

    So yeah, people will deny the truth and believe in unicorns, fairies, that humans have four eyes, or anything so long as they are not persecuted burnt alive at the stake – can you blame them? Does it mean that religion is true?

    Religious faith is foundered on that principle above anything else – that is the reason the religion has spread, and that’s is the evidence that the religious put forward for religion being right. It has nothing to do with the truth and everything to do with fear – fear of the church and fear of an (imaginary) god.

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — May 30, 2010 @ 4:09 pm | Reply

    • And that is still the case for many millions of people to this day. Until the yoke of religion is secondary to human and civil rights and the dignity of personhood, our battle is not won.

      Comment by tildeb — May 30, 2010 @ 8:01 pm | Reply

  3. Quite why anyone would be afraid of something they have never seen or heard is another matter. Perhaps this is what distinguishes rational humans from those who are not.

    Reminds me of Lord of the Flies by William Golding…

    Comment by misunderstoodranter — May 31, 2010 @ 4:55 am | Reply

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