Naturally Christianity comes to mind in December, since Christmas includes the word "Christ." But I view this time of year as an opportunity to remind myself, and others through this blog, of the absurdity of all religious belief.
Of course, it is only us atheists who look upon all religions as absurd. Since most people are religious, they view their faith as making good sense. It's those other religions that are absurd.
To offer a few examples:
-- Christians have no problem believing that Jesus was born of a virgin, walked on water, and came back from the dead. But the notion that an angel dictated the Koran to Mohammed -- that's absurd!
-- The India-based faith I was a member of for 35 years, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, teaches that at the time of initiation the guru places a copy of himself, the "radiant form," in the consciousness of every disciple. But the idea that peyote or mescaline can lead to spiritual visions -- that's absurd!
Many other instances of religious hypocrisy exist, of course. So many, they're uncountable.
Those who hold any form of religious or supernatural belief consider that they are on the straight road to cosmic truth, while those other believers are on a twisting path of illusion. In 2010 I wrote about this in Believers need to take the "Outsider Test for Faith."
Why and how do religious believers choose to accept a particular faith out of the many choices available to them? (4200 is one estimate)
Great question. Here's an ever better one: What makes someone confident that the religion they've chosen is true, while all the other religions are false?
John W. Loftus examines these issues in a book he edited, "The Christian Delusion." The first chapter I read was by Loftus, "The Outsider Test for Faith Revisited." He used to be a minister, until his deconversion.
I loved the chapter.
It lays out problems with religious belief that I've been aware of for a long time, but had never considered so clearly and cogently. The first version of Loftus' Outsider Test for Faith (OTF) can be read here. What I perused this morning includes some responses to objections true believers raised to OTF version 1.0.
...It's been observed that every religious believer rejects countless gods and/or other metaphysical entities, accepting just one: what he or she believes in. An atheist just goes one small step further: rejecting that one as well.
So Loftus makes the entirely reasonable argument that people should test their chosen faith in the same way they test other (rejected) religious, spiritual, mystical, or metaphysical belief systems.
...People will reject unsubstantiated claims in holy books... except the book they believe in. People will reject miracle stories... except miracles related by their own faith. People will reject the divinity of living prophets or messengers of God... except the person they accept as a genuine spiritual teacher.
Every religious believer, aside from the few who are genuinely open-minded, considers that he or she has found the One True Faith among the 4,199 or so false faiths. Yet how is this possible, logically or realistically?
It's like Garrison Keillor's Lake Woebegon, where all the children are above average.
Laurel, my wife, and I got married in 1990. Back then Laurel believed in a New Age channeler who supposedly could communicate with spiritual beings when he went into a trance state. Laurel got tape recordings of those sessions on a monthly basis.
I thought this channeler guy was ridiculous.
Meanwhile, I was an avid devotee of a guru who was considered to be God in human form, which Laurel found equally ridiculous. We had lengthy conversations where Laurel would try to convince me that her belief was valid, while I did the same about my belief.
Eventually the realization hit us that we were both right: meaning, each of our beliefs had no basis in reality. Those beliefs had given us comfort, but we gave them up in favor of truth -- which we consider means demonstrable evidence founded on facts, not a feeling that something is true.
In 2017 I wrote Jesus and Mohammed talk about truth vs. facts. That post included a right-on cartoon.
It’s no doubt a worthwhile cause to try and enlighten people of the fallacy of their beliefs and perhaps highlight the exploitation or sometimes the danger of some beliefs. But generally, the need to believe (in something) is endemic to us humans – and somewhat natural. One study found that:- “Human beings have natural tendencies to believe in God and life after death – according to a three-year international research project directed by two academics at the University of Oxford.”
Some of the reasons for belief include: - Not feeling alone; Peer and family pressure; Fear of death; Fear of freedom and responsibility along with the universal belief that supernatural agencies inhabits the world and can influence events.
Apparently, it seems then, that we are programmed to believe – which is probably why conspiracy theories abound. And we also have an ego need to believe. The ego, the mind’s self structure, has a huge agenda to survive. It has a desperate need to be right and also a need to believe it will (somehow) survive the death of the body.
Posted by: Ron E. | December 23, 2021 at 04:43 AM
The inability to understand the facts surrounding us and within us certainly qualifies each of us for a journey forward into discovery.
Especially when our own experiences cry out to us, not for excuses and lame explanations, but real intimacy, real discovery, real Knowledge.
But our ignorance also disqualifies us to judge others.
All the towering beauty of Jesus' words, and of the teachings of any Saint in any religion, moves the heart of millions of human beings and will continue to do so because these truths speak to real experiences. And those will continue because they are part of the human construction, which to science, remains a wonderful mystery.
At base, all religions are the same: Pursuit of the reality built into each of us. Hardcoded into each of us.
So any Saint who speaks to them will naturally find resonance among those who share the experience of those things.
And sound entirely ridiculous to those who have no such experience.
Seekers after inner truth and outer truth, will continue unabated, drawn forth, called forth, pushed forth by what is within them.
And that is worth celebrating.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | December 23, 2021 at 08:44 AM
"... it is only we atheists who look upon all religions as absurd. Since most people are religious, they view their faith as making good sense."
"Seekers after inner truth and outer truth, will continue unabated, drawn forth, called forth, pushed forth by what is within them.
And that is worth celebrating."
Celebrating the absurd, whether it makes good sense or not, is a worthy human endeavor. Honoring seekers is an acknowledgement of the unknown.
Posted by: E.M. | December 23, 2021 at 09:41 AM
It is pretty remarkable that your average spiritual seeker has very particular spiritual tastes.
For instance, if someone is attracted to Sant mat, they'll almost always give their total allegiance to their particular sect/guru line, and and have zero attraction or interest in all the rest.
Someone with no interest in religion might conclude that if a person is interested in gurus, then he'd be a fan of most gurus in the spiritual marketplace, or at least the gurus in very similar sects. But it definitely doesn't work that way.
I recently re-read Lord of the Air, the late Tal Brooke's memoir of his days in India as a Sai Baba devotee. (Great exer book btw). At one point the topic of Sant Mat comes up, and someone approximately says "how can you believe Charan Singh and Kirpal Singh are both "Godmen"? They hate each others guts!"
Posted by: Tendzin | December 23, 2021 at 01:18 PM
Logic. I especially like Edward Steed's take on logic and find it apropo:
Posted by: Tendzin | December 24, 2021 at 07:17 AM
"For instance, if someone is attracted to Sant mat, they'll almost always give their total allegiance to their particular sect/guru line, and and have zero attraction or interest in all the rest."
It's interesting to see how we pigeon hole others' beliefs and behavior into an unrealistic and narrow window.
For instance, the idea that gnosticism was completely rejected by the Christian Church.
Visit a Pentecostal Church any Sunday and witness folks in the throws of the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, having their own gnosis and invited to share their personal revelations with the congregation.
Or The notion that Satsangis only care about their own guru.
While it is true that each of us has a personal relationship with our teacher, it is only as a pathway to a universal relationship that goes beyond our Teacher and ourselves. There are many Satsangis who adore great teachings from religious teachers of many different beliefs, past and present.
"One Light, Many Windows"...
But as each of us sees through just one colored window we tend to view the whole world from that single place and color. Even when the people we are looking at and describing really are acting from an entirely different perspective.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | December 24, 2021 at 09:12 AM
As for Charan's thoughts about Kirpal Singh, or even Eckankar, he was once asked about others copying Sant Mat and he famously said, "At least they are getting some of the teachings and that is good."
Gurinder famously said, "Sant Mat isn't the only path."
The inner geography is the same in all human beings, but the pathway of the mind that plays a vital role and the various ways we traverse that path are as diverse as all humanity.
One light, many windows.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | December 24, 2021 at 09:21 AM
A man and his family were on a drive home to his wife's father's place for Christmas.
They were using their GPS for most of the trip, but occasionally the GPS told them to turn right on a one way street, or left where the street was closed for repair.
He began to get frustrated and worried that the GPS would take them to the wrong destination altogether. His wife reassured him that as far as general direction, they were on the right track, that the GPS seemed to be fairly, if not perfectly, accurate, though not entirely up to date.
When they got on what was to be the last long stretch of highway after a couple of hours they encountered a complete dead end as the entire highway from that point forward and for several miles, was closed down for repaving.
Now the man was beside himself. Who closes an entire highway, all lanes, for paving? You always leave one lane open. That's the way highways are paved! Clearly this was a cost cutting measure that took no account of, no sensitivity for people's lives!
So they drove south for an hour on country rodes to get to a town with a motel where they could spend the night.
And the drive was beautiful. His wife was joyful over the beauty of the snow capped trees and fields as they passed by.
The man had a couple of hours to cool down and accept the very real fact that they weren't going to get to their destination this day, and should be there tomorrow sometime, basically, another day. He did get a little testy at times, and teary at other times, and at each passage his wife was there encouraging him, until she finally got stone quiet, and when the man kept nudging her, even blaming her for the trip, "We're going to your Dad's for you, you know," she finally, and in a very even tone said slowly, and quite effectively, "Fuck..... Off. "
And, boarder crossed, the man got silent. About an hour later of silence, he noticed some nice trees and pointed them out. And of course, with an opening to share their own observations, the children got into whiny mode and needed several additional rest stops. His wife was a perfect troop leader. However, the ice cream sugar, a moment's relief, had its inevitable crash and infighting among the brood of three.
When he lay down three hours later for sleep the man thought of prayer, though it was really just a concrete sign of his complete resignation to the fact that
a. They weren't going to get to their destination today.
b. He hadn't done a stellar job as dad or father.... Although, in retrospect..
c.. His wife had.
d. They had found a nice little town with cool Christmas lights strung over the main street.
e. The chili at the dinner across the street wasn't too bad.
Posted by: Spence Tepper | December 24, 2021 at 12:25 PM
"It's interesting to see how we pigeon hole others' beliefs and behavior into an unrealistic and narrow window."
I actually didn't mean it in the way of a kind of narrow prejudice, but more in the way of the tendency for natural attraction for one guru/sect over all others. For example, one would think the average Meher Baba devotee would also be an equal fan of Yogi Bhajan or the Hare Krishnas, but it rarely works out that way. To the outside observer it would seem that all these Eastern guru were teaching the same thing, but those who are in this world tend to sharply prefer one guru and have almost no interest in the others.
Charan's comments about the wholesomeness of Eckankar have always baffled me. That's because Charan elsewhere is found telling seekers that such-and-such guru (not hard to guess who he's referring to, but the name rhymes with Purple King), is a "false master."
Posted by: Tendzin | December 24, 2021 at 01:16 PM
Let's continue debunking Gurinder Singh Dhillon and his relatives. News just in of majithia, brother in law of gurinder , locked up for charges of drug trafficing. So we have the land mafia and religious leader dhillon with the drug baron and politician, majithia. A clear link between religion, drugs, and politics to control the masses in the Punjab. Pathetic little wannabe tyrants EXPOSED
Posted by: Uchit | December 24, 2021 at 02:05 PM
@ Tendzin [...because Charan elsewhere is found telling seekers that such-and-such guru (not hard to guess who he's referring to, but the name rhymes with Purple King),
is a "false master." ]
I'm surprised by this attribution because although mystics may
speak frankly about spiritual paths, they are reluctant to discuss
specific personalities. Is the "false master" report second-hand?
Do you have any idea of its source?
Posted by: Dungeness | December 24, 2021 at 02:46 PM
As you are interested in health matters of food you might be interested in what this french researcher has to say:
His accent is "horrible" but if you use the english undertitle one can follow his scientific language.
I know, I know .... the protocol
Posted by: um | December 25, 2021 at 10:06 AM
Christmas is a good time to debunk all religious belief
But Priority should always be given to the One and Only Gurinder Singh Dhillion & Radha Soami Cult
The Hypocritical Nutcase Job Gurinder Singh Dhillion considers himself as God in human form.
That Is going on the borders of a Mentally unstable character who calls himself God.
This looney baba should be hospitalised in a mental asylum, he needs immediate attention and treatment for is mental condition.
The actions of this looney Gurinder are not even justified as standard morals of mere humans to have, let alone a God
As for Gurinder placing a copy of his radiant form in the disciple. Well we have all come to see how radiant the original copy of Gurinder Singh Dhillion is Exposed Ridiculously all over the world for his physical radiant criminal activities how God likely hey
And finally as were now beginning to hear and see more truth being exposed about Gurinder Singh Dhillions brother in law Majithia (whos on the cusp of a long jail sentence) in punjab who has been drug trafficing as a politican to the folk of punjab and ruining they're lives, it all starts to make more sense as to how a fake baba like Gurinder singh Dhillion works with his relatives for they're selfish greedy needs to live lavish lifestyles.
Well done Gurinder Singh Dhillion for single handedly exposing yourself and others you are in crime with.
Debunk Dhillion in December and start living the life you came here to desire n dream about
Posted by: Manoj | December 25, 2021 at 11:33 AM