Progressive Religious Believers' Big Hypocrisy: Cherry-Picking the Parts of Religion they Like and Ditching the Rest
Continued from previous page
So here's the problem with these two approaches.
The problem with the scholarship thing -- apart from the fact that scholars don't agree at all on which parts of sacred texts are historically accurate and which parts aren't -- is that it's still assuming the existence of a supernatural god, with no good evidence to support that assumption, and plenty of evidence to contradict it. Even if you could get excellent historical corroboration for the assertion that -- to give just one example -- a real religious teacher named something like Jesus existed in or near Judea at around 0-33 C.E. (a notion that is seriously in doubt), and that he really said some of the things attributed to him in the New Testament and probably didn't say some of the other things... so what? Without excellent historical corroboration for the assertion that this Jesus fellow really was the perfect and divine son of God, and that he performed miracles and returned from the dead and can somehow magically cure us of the bad things we've done as long as we believe he's real... what difference does it make whether there was a real person who said these things? The ideas are either good or they aren't.
The only thing that would make these ideas at all special, at all different from any other collection of ideas, would be if they had emanated directly from the mouth of God. And the whole point of this progressive, non-fundamentalist approach to religion is that it rejects the claim that religious texts emanated directly from the mouth of God. If you don't think the Bible or Koran or whatever is divinely inspired... then why do you treat it as special? Regardless of which bits scholars think may or may not have been spoken by the "real" Jesus or the "real" Muhammad or whoever... why do you treat it any differently from any other piece of human writing, parts of which you agree with and parts of which you don't?
And the problem with "looking into your heart" to decide what God really is and isn't saying, and which parts of your holy text are and are not divinely inspired... well, I would hope that the problem with that would be obvious. But experience has taught me that it's anything but -- so I'm going to spell it out.
The problem with "looking into your heart" to find out what is and is not literally true about the external, non-subjective world is that our hearts and minds are deeply flawed. Our minds and our instincts are wired by evolution with a whole passel of cognitive biases. And these biases slant us in the direction of believing whatever religion we already believe -- and they slant us in the direction of believing in religion in the first place. Among other things, we're wired by evolution to see intention where no intention exists... and to see patterns where no patterns exist... and to believe what we already believe or what we most want to believe... and to believe what other people around us believe... and to cling more tightly to beliefs that we've committed time and resources to... and to believe what we were taught as children... and so on, and so on, and so on.
That's the whole point of the scientific method -- as applied to questions of history, as well as to questions of physics and biology and so on. We know that our minds are biased. That's why we check the things we think are true, using rigorous standards of testing and evidence. That's why we don't "look into our hearts" to decide which drugs to use to treat HIV, or who really wrote Shakespeare's plays, or whether the earth orbits the sun. We can look into our hearts to decide subjective questions of what's personally true for us -- where we should live, what job we should take, who do we love, etc. But when it comes to questions of what's actually true in the external, non-subjective world (such as whether God exists and what he thinks and wants)... if we look in our hearts to answer those questions, then how do we know that what's in our heart is right, and what's in our neighbor's heart is wrong?