*Your Religion is False*

by on July 19, 2009 at 4:31 am in Books, Religion | Permalink

The author is Joel Grus and the link to the book is here.  I am a pro-religion non-believer, but if you wish to hear from an anti-religion non-believer, this is the place to go.  He will tell you that your religion is false.

In addition to its humor, I prefer the content of this book to the better-known "new atheist" tracts.  Grus yields many of the strongest arguments.  For instance the biographical and sociological correlates with belief (most people choose the religion they grew up with, or encountered through a friend, etc.) suggest that, in this area, intuitions which feel "certain" simply cannot be trusted.

1 C July 19, 2009 at 5:10 am

I was formerly anti/non, but I like your easy-going style, Cowen. I switch to pro/non.

2 dearieme July 19, 2009 at 6:32 am

The funky Gibbon wrote:
The various modes of worship which prevailed in the Roman world were all considered by the people as equally true; by the philosophers as equally false; and by the magistrates as equally useful.

3 Paludicola July 19, 2009 at 7:27 am

I too could be loosely considered someone who does not believe in any religion, or anything supernatural at all, but looks favorably upon religion. I adopted the stance partly in response to how obnoxious and uncharitable the New Atheists were. I was more like them in High School, which makes me tend to regard New Atheism as puerile.

4 Christian Bjørnskov July 19, 2009 at 8:02 am

A brief comment on the pro/non, anti/non discussion. Niclas Berggren (Ratio Institute, Stockholm, Sweden) and I (Aarhus University, Denmark) are working on sorting out the association between religiosity and social trust – a rather desirable characteristic of societies: That you can trust people not to cheat you. For those of you who are pro-religion, whether you believe or not, the evidence very clearly points to a strongly negative association. Religiosity destroys trust. So it’s not surprising that certain American states display almost African trust levels – people in those states are so religious that it’s almost impossible to fathom for an average Scandinavian.

5 Jamin July 19, 2009 at 8:33 am

As St. Paul wrote, if the story of Jesus is not true, then Christians are fools who are wasting their time. In other words, religion is only worthwhile if it is true. I don’t much care what the effects of religiosity on society are. The only question that matters is if the story is true — and for the record, I believe that the story of Jesus is true, and that there is significant evidence to support that.

6 josh July 19, 2009 at 9:59 am

May I suggest “How Dawkins Got Pwned” by Mencius Moldbug (not necessarily what you think it is).

7 Bob Knaus July 19, 2009 at 10:53 am

Certain American states? African trust levels? Substitute “low IQ” for “religious” and that comment might have come from Steve Sailer 🙂

On a more serious note, I do hope Niclas and Christian are able to separate “religiosity” from “religion” as it relates to trust. A good place to start might be religious orders which explicitly base membership on trust. In the USA, examples would include Mennonites, Brethren, Hassidic Jews, etc. I don’t know whether such exist in Scandinavia, which I hear is religiouly monotonic.

Granted one can always find Bernie Madoffs preying on Orthodox Jews and Amish smuggling pot in from Canada, but I think these exceptions only reinforce the argument that religion can in fact increase trust.

8 athelas July 19, 2009 at 11:30 am

The only sure thing is that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy

9 Thomas July 19, 2009 at 12:03 pm

“for the record, I believe that the story of Jesus is true, and that there is significant evidence to support that.”

Care to share with us the “significant” evidence, Jamin?

10 Home.and.Altar July 19, 2009 at 1:38 pm

Is atheism a form of secular fundamentalism? Religious fanatic affirms with absolute certainty that their is the only true one. Atheist affirms with absolute certainty that eveyone religion is a false one.

11 a person July 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm

These comments suck. Atheism dogmatic? Please. At least try to acquaint yourself with the arguments that beat you.

12 CB July 19, 2009 at 4:43 pm

Also generally pro/non – but leaving open the idea that one should believe in the most compelling religious/moral/pragmatic argument that inspires you to try to be a better person every day.

13 another person July 19, 2009 at 5:02 pm

The false equivalency between secular fundamentalism and religious fundamentalism is laughable. If I hold up a red pen, saying that I’m certain it’s red, while you claim to be certain it’s blue, then who’s the bigger fool?

That sounds like the rationalization of a relativist. People disagree–>everyone is equally wrong?

14 Matthew C. July 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

Another person (who is, I strongly suspect, a sock-puppet for “a person”) we are talking about the nature of reality which people can and do easily disagree about, not about the color of a pen where observers will agree.

Why should I pay any more heed to a dogmatic materialist who denies the validity of any evidence against materialism, than I pay to a dogmatic young-earth creationist who denies any evidence against a 6000 year old earth? Ignorant dogmatism is ignorant dogmatism, regardless of the exact content of the dogma.

15 Richard July 19, 2009 at 6:09 pm

A very spineless self-definition, or a poor attempt to distance yourself from strident atheism perhaps. How does this pro-religion manifest itself Tyler? reluctant church donations?

16 liberalarts July 19, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Richard -don’t you figure that Tyler’s pro/nonbeliever position means that he is not opposed to others believing -and even sees benefits in their belief- but doesn’t himself believe. Not really spineless at all, I would say.

17 Joshua Blanchard July 19, 2009 at 8:04 pm

This is a bad argument for a few reasons. One reason is that had Tyler Cowen been raised in the Soviet Union, he would have different intuitions about economic matters, and possibly even certain moral matters. Does this mean his current beliefs are irrational, or worse, false? I don’t think so.

Another reason why this argument is bad is because it is very important to our rationality that we do interact with available evidence, and available evidence includes our surroundings, and our surroundings include, for example, the testimony of friends.

This argument is very similar to the argument from religious pluralism, which doesn’t get very much traction in the philosophy of religion, partially because if pluralism makes belief irrational, then most academic fields are dominated by crazies, since they disagree with each other.

18 Ricardo July 19, 2009 at 9:36 pm

At least, when I meet a Mormon, they are very nice and I can tell that they want to preach to me because they (talking about footsoldiers here, don’t know about the leadership, etc.) are genuinly concerned about the fact that, according to their belief system, I’ll wind up in Hell.

It is no coincidence that many Mormons become very successful business people. Mormon missionaries are salesmen who get their kicks from “closing the deal.” If you have ever known salesmen personally, you know exactly what I am talking about. Concern about non-believers going to hell may be in play as well but you are assuming, with evidence to the contrary, that pride does not play a role.

I think they should cut on the shrill rhetoric, get acquainted with good philosophical defenses of theism, and focus on making good arguments in favor of atheism.

Like what? I’ve had many conversations with Catholic priests and theology professors and have yet to hear a good argument or even a reference to a good argument that defends theism. This is why all of these people insist that belief in God is a matter of faith, not of reason or evidence. In the Catholic tradition, many hold that doubt is an essential component of faith. I personally doubt many things but then those beliefs get put in the category of ideas I may need to dispose of if future evidence rules them out.

19 another person July 19, 2009 at 10:55 pm

The point is that some people are wrong and some people are right. Our naivete as children gets struck down a few times and some decide this is an indication that truth is an opinion.

The other argument that peeves me is the: the onus is on … to prove … argument. There is no onus in most cases. But when everything we interact with is clear except for one thing, and further that one thing is attributed specific characteristics, beliefs, moral sentiments, powers, and oddly humanesque histories that oddly seems to ameliorate all of the discomforts humans have about the world’s injustice, seeming lack of purpose, the limitations of human knowledge, and mortality, then it’s pretty clear it’s not 50/50. Not even close. Atheists aren’t sure of their beliefs in the same way you can’t be sure you aren’t actually the tiger in the zoo you saw at the age of 3. The only legitimacy religion has is its social reaffirmation, which I would say is actually easily the strongest argument in favor. Sadly, such a long history is no proof of anything; it takes a single round of delusion to self-perpetuate. The point is, everyone has a right to know truth, and it is wrong to inculcate lies. These aren’t moral lies, value lies, social lies. They are lies about the historical unfolding of the universe.

No, I’m no one’s puppet, just an imitator.

20 Nexpider July 20, 2009 at 12:39 am

I imagine the readership of this blog are generally non-religious if not predominantly

21 Tom July 20, 2009 at 9:29 am

Christian Bjørnskov and Slocum,

Where would you leave your car unlocked, down south in the Christian belt or NYC?

22 Cyrus July 20, 2009 at 10:35 pm

Most people continue with the language they grew up with. This is not to be construed as an argument against verbal communication.

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