My thoughts on the book, 50 Voices of Disbelief, Why We Are Athiests, edited by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk. Written as I read them in no particular order. The page number of the essay is provided at the top of each entry.
p. 41 Adele Mercier “Religious Belief and Self-Deception”
I didn’t particularly enjoy this essay, although it had a few good points. Much of it was spent discussing how we think about our own beliefs. It included a lot of statements like, “knowing that I know” and “believing that one believes”. Interesting if you are interested in epistemology. She does apply all this in ways that make you say “hmm”, for example when she says,
“…whatever they may think or say about what they believe, most people believe that life ends at death”
This is one of those odd things about religion. So much is made about how great the after life is, but no one seems to want to hasten their way there. Suicide could get you to the wrong place, but heroic measures to add a few years to the end of a long and good life just don’t seem to be in tune with an eternity in heaven. Adele spends some time discussing this and gets a bit crass at times, so I’ll skip on.
She compares this idea of believing that you believe to membership in a country club. It is more about social status, not one’s golf game. What matters is that others believe you believe, not what the beliefs are. As she says,
“This is shown by the fact that people spend a lot of more time defending and justifying their right to religion than defining and justifying their purported beliefs.”
Consider also wars with religious roots. However they might be justified or whatever has come out of them, they have always been out of step with the beliefs of the religion they claim to be defending.
I happened to be reading Garrison’s Keillor’s “Homegrown Democrat” at the same time I was reading this essay, and I think Keillor puts this much better:
Everyone has to look in his own heart and ask, “Do I really believe or do I not.” Jews do it in the Fall, Christians in the Spring during Lent. Most people do not believe. They’ve tried to believe and they wish they did and they are sorry they don’t because they like to be around people who do so they come to church and enjoy the music and the décor and the hallowedness of it all, but the faith is not in them. They don’t need to tell me about it, they only need to answer to God on this, and he will understand. If they do not believe, He already knew that. The tragedy is when people who don’t believe are so tortured by their unbelief that they set out to scourge their fellow unbelievers”.