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Meditation 672
Stupidities in support of belief

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Some of the religious arguments I encounter are, to put it plainly, just stupid. That's not to say the individuals who made the arguments are stupid, but they have not thought about what they are saying. The following examples are entirely from this weekend.

Stupidity #1: You must have been hurt

Yesterday, in response to my agnostic rejection on a discussion board of the claim "All morality comes from God," I got the response: "You must have been hurt in some way by a religious person." Now what does that have to do with anything?

I will agree that for some non-believers, "being hurt by a religious person" has led them to question their religious beliefs. However, "being hurt" is not what led those non-believers to abandon religion, it is that the beliefs did not stand up under questioning.

We are all aware of some individuals who have abandoned agnosticism or atheism for religious belief. We may not understand their reasons for becoming religious. But I have never heard a non-believer say: "You must have been hurt in some way by an agnostic person" to one of those who abandoned agnosticism. It is just too ridiculous a reason.

When a believer tries to rationalize the disbelief of another by "You must have been hurt in some way by a religious person" it is suggesting that abandonment of religious faith is determined by the emotions rather than by a sincere thought process. It's just plain stupid.

Stupidity #2: We all have a god.

Someone else wrote: "we all have a god."

I responded that agnostics, atheists and followers on non-theistic religions most assuredly did not have a god, and got the response

"Sorry John, we all have a god. Perhaps not in a biblical sense, but everyone has something they devote themselves too. So yeah, you have a god. I have no idea what it is, but it's there."

This is using god in such a way that the word becomes meaningless. It is little different than saying god is synonymous with reality. (See Meditation 671) And it is positing a god fundamentally different than the Christian God the writers believe in. So we have a double stupidity - making god meaningless; and undermining the God they follow.

I don't have a god, and no amount of semantic games will cause me to do so. The argument "we all have a god" is just plain stupid.

Stupidity #3: Appeal to irrelevant authority

All right, the above two examples are from ordinary folks, not trained in theology. They are entitled to their errors. Of course they are not their errors - I have found this type of argument over and over from believers.

But what about someone with a doctorate in Theology. Surely that person would not make a stupid argument in support of a religious position.

I was reading Billy Graham's column this morning - which I do most Sundays. He was asked, somewhat appropriately for Easter Sunday: "Do you think they'll ever find Jesus' grave with his bones in it?"

Dr. Graham replied;

It might surprise you to discover that one of the gospels that tells us about the resurrection of Jesus was written by Luke, a medical doctor.

If anyone knew from experience that dead people don't come back to life it was Luke.

And yet he was absolutely convinced the words of Peter he later recorded were absolutely true: "God has raised this Jesus to life and we are all witnesses of the fact."

Was Luke a medical doctor as we understand the term? Of course not. A herbalist perhaps, a medicine man, a witch doctor. No matter how well trained he was as a physician by the standards of the day, his profession is irrelevant. He would have known little more than the average man about whether the dead could come back to life, or even whether an apparently dead person was truly dead.

As Joe Nickel wrote in an article about the fear of being buried alive:[1]

In earlier times even physicians could not always determine infallibly whether an individual was dead or instead in a comatose or cataleptic state. Actual cases of people seemingly returning to life may have inspired ancient folktales about persons being raised from the dead.

Further, Luke did not see the event. He relied on Peter's words. Peter did not witness the event. At best, Luke had a third-hand account.

So, what is Dr. Graham doing here by making so much of the fact that Luke was (supposedly) a medical doctor? He's making an appeal to authority; he is suggesting Luke is credible because he was a doctor.

Luke is not credible; he's credulous. He takes the word of someone as gospel who himself has no direct knowledge.

An appeal to authority where that authority is irrelevant is both misleading and just plain stupid.


  1. Entombed Alive! by Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer, March / April 2008