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Progressive Religious Believers' Big Hypocrisy: Cherry-Picking the Parts of Religion they Like and Ditching the Rest

If you're just going to use your own conscience and your own mind to decide what's right or wrong, true or false -- why do you need God?

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See, that's the thing about "looking into your heart" to decide which of your religion's cherries are the good, tasty ones that you should gobble right up, and which are the nasty, rotten, poisoned ones you should avoid at all costs. Believers tend to conveniently overlook the fact that other believers are looking just as deeply into their hearts... and are coming up with the exact opposite answers to these questions. Some people sincerely believe that God intends marriage to be strictly between one man and one woman -- others sincerely believe that God intends marriage to be between any two people who love each other and want to make a lifetime commitment. Some people sincerely believe that God created women and men as equals, to live their lives as they best see fit -- others sincerely believe that God created women and men with radically different roles in life, and that women's divinely ordained role is to be subordinate to men. Etc. Etc. Etc.

And there's no way to find out which of them is right.

And this -- as I've said before, and will no doubt say again -- is the fundamental problem with the entire idea of religious faith: There's no reality check. The ultimate arbiter is an invisible, inaudible, intangible being, whose nature and attributes nobody can agree on, and whose ultimate decisions we have no way of knowing until after we die. And the only way to "know" what this being thinks is to either trust in the word of people who swear that they've spoken to him directly... or to close our eyes, and think really hard, and tell ourselves that the voices in our heads and the feelings in our hearts are being planted there by our invisible friend.

Now, many progressive believers will no doubt protest at this point. They'll say that yes, they settle these difficult questions of right and wrong, truth and falsehood, by following their observations and experiences and instincts, and picking the ideas that seem right to them. But don't atheists do the same thing? Atheists don't blindly follow the teachings of Saint Dawkins or Saint Hitchens -- we accept the ideas that make sense to us, and reject the ones that don't. Why are we so critical of believers when they cherry-pick their sacred texts? What's the difference?

Yeah. See, here's the thing.

There is a huge, huge difference between atheists cherry-picking the parts of a secular text that we find useful and plausible... and believers cherry- picking the parts of a religious text that they find useful and plausible.

The difference is that the atheists aren't bringing God into the equation.

When atheists have disagreements -- with each other, with the writers we admire, with ourselves in our long, dark nights of the soul-less -- we aren't telling ourselves that God is on our side. Sure, we often make decisions based on intuition and instinct and so on. We're human beings, we're wired to do that. But we acknowledge that that's what we're doing. We know, when we're examining our heart and searching our moral compass, that we're talking to our own brain -- our own flawed, human, cognitively- biased brain. We're not telling ourselves that our intuitions and instincts are really a profound moment of connection with the divine, and that the voice in our head and our heart is really the voice of God.

And that makes a big, big difference.

If you're just going to use your own conscience and your own mind to decide what's right or wrong, true or false -- why do you need God? Why do you need a holy text written hundreds or thousands of years ago by people who claim to have spoken to God? Why not cut out the middleman? Why not just acknowledge that you're using your mind and your instincts and your moral compass, as they evolved over hundreds of millions of years -- flawed and astonishing, brilliant and stupid, deluded and insightful?

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