Monday, January 01, 2007

Response to William Tully

William Tully

The Reverend William McD. Tully has been rector of St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church in New York City since September 1994. The first professional calling of the "On Faith" panelist was to journalism, and he worked as a copy boy and local reporter at the Los Angeles Times.

"OnFaith" carried another response by notable professionals to a particular question of whether we can have a dialogue. Richard Dawkin's piece was particularly hillarious. He spends have his essay questioning whether we can have a dialogue between Athorists and Vallhallans, and that we need to consider and be respectful to the believers in thinking that lightning is from the mighty hammer as opposed to electrical charges in the clouds, which is afterall, just a theory. I responded to this William Tully essay with a forceful statement. I don't dislike Mr. Tully at all, but I think it's time we treated the question exactly as Dawkin's has in reference to Thor. It's time for people to stand up en masse and say that we are no longer going to stand silent in the face of this horrible self-abuse of literalism. It's time to call a spade a spade. I've made a New Years resolution to do this in my private life to friends and family. Not forcefully, but just point of fact- making it known that I do not believe in these things and that I do not have, nor should I feel obliged to have, respect for these beliefs.


All religious people struggle with their faith. Otherwise they would not need such strong reinforcement from their church communities. It certainly takes faith to believe in a deistic god or pantheism. But to believe in a theistic God takes ignorance and self-deception.

I often wonder how an educated grown adult could not move from theism to at least some form of deism or pantheism like I did as I grew up and learned more about the world. Fear is certainly a component. The social glue of a religious belief is another component- strength in numbers, follow the flock wherever they go. As Sam Harris has said, religion allows people to believe by the millions what only a lunatic would believe alone. This idea can be transferred onto many sorts of organizations who ignore obvious reality in order to cohere.

Why do people uphold religious faith in the face of nature's crystal clear refutations? Faith is a unique meme in that it rewards itself for existing without merit. The religious are expected to fight a battle against their own unbelief, and they consider it courageous to continue finding reasons to believe in the face of the obvious.

You will never go to a bookstore and find a book titled "How to lose all your hopes, dreams, aspirations and desire to live in just 15 minutes a day for 30 days". Why? Surely a book like this could be created. It could be well argued, maybe even with more compelling arguments than a book of it's opposite.

But instead, we find books that encourage hope at bookstores. What point is publishing books on hopelessness, even if a case for it could be easily made? Even if it were perfectly clear that nihilism was the most coherent world-view, the bookstores would still be jammed full of books that inspired and gave hope. Exchange the word hope for "faith" and you can see that even if it were perfectly clear that faith in a theistic religion is false (which it is to any unbrainwashed observer), the bookstores would still be packed with books cavalierly refuting honesty.

My point is that there is no intellectual honesty in theistic faith, and this seems to me to be sinful, even in religious terms. Honesty would be to enter a bookstore with the attitude of "I need to learn more about my world so I can decide whether to continue believing in my faith". But for the dishonest believer in religious faith (they are all either dishonest or ignorant by definition), the attitude is "I am struggling with my faith due to the obvious contrary evidence bombarding me from every direction every time I open my eyes, therefore I need to go to the bookstore and fuel my faith, inundating my consciousness with heaps of rationalisations and fact excluding cherry picked balms of forced self-deception that make me feel safe and comfortable, then persuade as many people as I can that this circular loophole of unreason is good because humanity couldn't possibly live without it."

When I read essays like this I can't agree more with Sam Harris in saying that "God's enemies are more honest than his friends".

Dishonesty is a sin.

The religious are caught in a logical bind because it is sinfully dishonest to continue having faith in these things unless one is grossly ignorant.

Posted January 1, 2007 3:01 PM

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