Is one arrogant if they point out the irrationality in believing in leprechauns? What about God?
A query to the rationalist community: Don’t you just love it how religious people believe that their beliefs are somehow special? And that to point out the irrationality in believing them and to refer to the beliefs as having all the tell-tale signs of a fairy tale until proven otherwise is arrogant?
I have this friend who accuses me of arrogance and compares me to history’s greatest tyrants. It seems that he views religious beliefs as special. And that anyone who takes a stance of agnostic atheism, who refuses to dignify a set of beliefs until given evidence for such beliefs, and who is not reluctant to speak up about how those beliefs have not been bolstered by any evidence to suggest that they are special is ignorant, arrogant and comparable to Stalin. I’m sorry that my dogmas are rationality, intellectual honesty, and freedom to criticize ideas no matter who holds them and no matter how special these people think these beliefs are.
My friend also criticizes me for having not read the religious texts of these books, as if that makes some sort of monumental difference here. While I am currently reading the Bible, it remains true that I have yet to read the grand majority of it, nor have I read any of the Koran. But why is this relevant? While I haven’t read these texts, I’ve researched and debated quite thoroughly on the validity on these belief systems. I have read many claims, talked to many people, and have done a lot of thinking. To this point, these belief systems are still completely unrespectable when it comes to objective truth value. They may contain some valuable ideas, but as far as the claim that they come from a supposed God, they are intellectually unmeritorious. He claims that these books have to be experienced. That you come to believe them by reading them, not by looking for scientific proof for them. I’m sorry, but I am going to give a bit more credibility to honest, rational, internally-critical, and rigorous analysis of the universe (i.e., science) than I am to a potential good feeling I get from a book. It’s not like Muslims are the only people that feel something special when they read the Koran (my friend is a non-literalist Muslim). Christians get this, too, as do Mormons, Hindus, and on and on. My friend counters this by saying that each of these religions tap on an incomplete picture of God. While it may be the case that none are completely correct, many may be partially correct. Well how do we know where the correct parts are? And how do we know that included in the correct parts is God? Perhaps the correct parts are only correct in a metaphorical sense. Perhaps God is a metaphor for such notions as the connection among all people, or that which is meaningful, important, and good.
The world, in my opinion, would be a much better place if people would stop investing themselves so much in their beliefs. Beliefs are external to ourselves and they could be wrong. To the degree that we connect our identity to a vulnerable belief (thereby internalizing it), we sow the seeds for personal vulnerability and consequently, social conflict. The world would be a better place if people dedicated themselves to mindfulness, discovery, and wisdom, rather than being right right now.
In a subsequent comment, my “friend” said that I am not arrogant because I criticize, I am arrogant because I think my atheist beliefs make me better than others. Hogwash. I believe that holding the agnostic atheist position based on careful thought is a demonstration of being informed, honest, and rational. What does it mean to be superior to others? Do I think that I deserve to live more than them, or deserve greater rewards than them? No. I do think that I am more informed, honest and/or rational than believers in this domain (i.e., theism), and the evidence is quite clearly on my side. But that’s it.