Why I Love Reason

‘Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord’ in Isaiah 1:18. For me things should make sense and when they do, it feels good to me. Puzzles were meant to fit together. Things should work out. Being reasonable is an important trait in my life. I am sure that is why I couldn’t ‘stop thinking about it’ when I stumbled onto issues with church history and religion all together. It should be no surprise that my chosen profession is engineering. Figuring things out, making stuff work is what I love to do.

This explains why for a time I loved apologetics. I got pretty good at it. I could weave a string of unfounded logic almost on demand. It was thrilling too. People would come to me at church with difficulties in their beliefs and I would set their mind at ease and help them feel better, it was a very spiritual experience for me. Some point along the way though I noticed that I often wouldn’t tell the questioner the whole story, they didn’t need to know about the polyandry, or the fraudulent bank, or the stone in a hat, they didn’t need to know about Adam-god, or blood atonement or anachronisms or fake translations and so on. Sure they had discovered something that bothered them about their faith but that didn’t mean I should give them more to worry about. Because in my mind their testimony didn’t need any more battering. They were on shaky ground as it was and their shelf didn’t need anything else on it. After all only the deepest thinkers of the highest levels of faith could handle all the knowledge that I had and still believe….

Wow, I look back at the old me and see so much arrogance it almost makes me sick. Such is apologetics, it is a world where the goal is to appear reasonable and logical without hurting the faith of the believer. A good apologist first and foremost is a great apologist to himself in much the same way the best liar believes his own lies. The trick to becoming a great apologist is learning to redefine things. If you don’t like what the word myth means, then change the definition. Claim for yourself that myth can mean reality. 1 That way when you are talking to the anti-faith heathen if he says the word you can respond using your own definition and be totally truthful…. to yourself …. sorta.

moving-the-goal-posts_dilbert_9498
After you get good at changing definitions of words try changing whatever requirements originally stated that caused the difficulty in the first place. It is called moving the goal posts. If you are good at it you can keep changing the pattern of proof until you reach something that can’t be proven either way. These tricks are all known as logical fallacies and they are how words like ‘translate’ completely change meaning and people are willing to believe convoluted 5 page explanations vs a simple ‘he was making shit up.’

When I first discovered what logical fallacies were and realized how I was using them on myself, I initially couldn’t believe it. After all it meant admitting that the person most responsible for fooling you was well… you. It is a double whammy, you are the idiot, being fooled by you the jerk. Pretty hard to accept, especially if like me you are packing a decent size ego.2

If you want to be a good apologist you should also toss out Occam’s Razor so you don’t get cut. If however you want to actually use reason rather than just sound reasonable I’d suggest this is the best razor to shave with. Because if you find yourself not looking at the simplest explanation and honestly evaluating how it fits the facts, this is a sign of cognitive dissonance and indicates your are deep into self apologetics. It’s not unusual even for highly intelligent people. On the contrary it is perfectly normal, the fact is we humans are subject to illusion no matter how smart we are.

I guess what I am trying to say is don’t be afraid of the simple explanation, even if if means you have been made a fool.

fool

Defending the truth is far easier than propping up the lie. If you love reason as much as I do, this is a road you want to take, and in case you aren’t sure that you value reason as an explanation more than magic, the Fridge has inspired the following parable. Read it. If you really do love truth more than ego, the answer is obvious. If it only angers you, then you are not yet ready to be as cool as the Fridge would have you be my friend. But don’t worry, you can always come back later. The Fridge will still keep the beverage cold for the day you decide to partake.

The parable of the flat tire

A traveller going down the road of faith gets a flat tire on her car. Stopped on the side of the road without means to lift the vehicle, she is stranded.

A believer happens by and sees her dilemma, stopping he offers to help. He explains that she just needs more faith, if she will simply drive on her problem will be solved. “All things come to those that have faith” he declares! “You just have to believe first, and if you don’t believe and die here on the side of the road, well remember I told you so” as he speeds off in his minivan.

An apologist stops by a little while later to help the frustrated traveler. “The believer sent me” he says, “said you were in a bad way.” After reviewing the situation, he begins to explain what flat tires are. “It is when a round wheel loses air, and thus can’t roll like it used to. Often times rolling is something we just expect here in life.” Pondering the tire and its lack of the round shape he pontificates, “there are reasons for flat tires in life, it is the only way we get to stop sometimes because we are moving so fast. Maybe you don’t realize it now, but one day this tire will be a good thing. You will look back on it with longing and joy. So don’t mourn the flat now. Rejoice in it for one day you will realize there are no such things as ‘flat’ tires. Only tires with air and tires without air. Flat is only an illusion that we are meant to overcome! Besides, look here at AAA, this is proof of the value of AAA, if you were to join you wouldn’t be in this predicament now. It really is your own fault you see. It is completely logical after all that if you had AAA right now that this whole issue wouldn’t have even existed. I also noticed that you have the tool to remove the tires right there in your hand. That might seem like the best course of action now, but is it really showing faith in AAA? Maybe if you waited a bit, set that wrench on a shelf and tried not to think about it help would come along.  If you have a hard time though and you just can’t see the big picture, know that many of us have studied flat tires for decades and we totally understand them. So just trust me!” He says over his shoulder as he drives off.

An atheist stops, looks at the situation and hands the lost soul a jack.

 

  1. I use this example because yesterday in a discussion an apologist redefined the meaning of myth to include having a factual basis which in turn led to the inspiration for this article. I have noticed that the Fridge works in mysterious ways providing inspiration from the most mundane experiences!
  2. Personally, I think most apologists are packing some huge egos, but then again that could just be my own confirmation bias. 🙂

5 Replies to “Why I Love Reason”

  1. 3rd paragraph of the parable, 7 line, “You will look back on it with longing and join.” Pretty sure ‘join’ should be ‘joy’.

    Thanks! Keep up the good work here.

  2. Its very hard to use reason and logic with people that are religious(regardless of the faith they believe in) because religion is an emotional issue and as human history has demonstrated time and time again when ever we use emotion to guide our actions the results are more often fatal and have far reaching effects in to the future that are at best unpredictable.However it doesn’t mean we should not try at least with our self if no one else.Thanks for your insight and your blogs they make me smile and help me to question.Now if I only knew where the white went when the snow melts,ah well another of life’s great mysteries.

  3. You are right to advise believers to discard Occam’s Razor. Some even consider it a vulgarity. If I bring it up in conversation, they get defensive very quickly.

    However, they take pause if I ask them something semantically identical like “do you really think your explanation is plain & precious? Or is it cunning & crafty?”

    While Occam’s Razor isn’t proof, repeatedly siding with the improbable is increasingly suggestive of bias.

    Any academic intuitively sees this, and wont fight such a phrase, but it just rubs the religious the wrong way. You have to translate it into their vocabulary in order to make them actually evaluate the situation.

    2 days ago I asked a mormon this, “If the church were wrong & god wanted you on another path, are you living in such a way that you would discover that? Or is pride in your chosen path more important than god’s will?”

    Some will brush it aside and say they always humbly listen, but god always affirms their prior choice (usually the ones packing a large ego). A few actually think about it, and a subset of them realize that they do not allow room for god himself to object to what they loudly proclaim to be his will.

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