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Unless You Believe, It Won't Make Sense

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

Recently, I re-read an old article on Ex-Christian.net. One of the responses to that article, by a Christian named Bob, caught my eye and started me thinking - always a dangerous thing for Christians, but, of course, we atheists are intellectually fearless. Bob’s major point was that unless we truly believe, god and his works won’t make sense. Here is what he wrote:
“People on this site are railing about how religions make people feel imprisoned and God doesn't answer prayers. But none of you seem to remember that unless you TRULY BELIEVE, God and his works won't make sense. That's the key. So you will always "not get it." You are defeated before you even start. Sad, but it is something that non-believers just can't seem to grasp. And then you judge us without understanding that fundamental concept.”

So, Bob says god and his works won’t make sense to me unless I truly believe what I’ve been told about god. True, I added that part about being told, but let’s face it, that’s how we all learned about this god; someone told us. Thus, Bob concludes that I should not discount that message I was told just because it didn’t make sense. This is a familiar refrain among Christians.

It occurs to me that maybe Bob’s onto something here. Maybe if I just believed in those dozens of Hindu gods and their works, then it would all make sense to me. After all, the Hindus certainly appear to be convinced. I’m betting the Muslims got to the same place with Islam, too, by simply believing what they were told about Allah and his works. Once they believed, it all made sense.

It occurs to me that all cults must function this way. From the outside, Jim Jones’ cult, the Heaven’s Gate cult, the Hare Krishna, Scientology, and the cargo cults all appear ridiculous. But, if you can get over that first hump and get inside, then they all make sense, otherwise none of them would ever have sustained a following.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems to me that, if Bob is correct, then there is really no way to tell a false god or religion from a true one from inside the belief system. Once we believe, he says, then it will all make sense. But, clearly, this works for all religions as they all make sense from the inside, so that has to be the worst possible vantage point to make a judgment on any of them.

Also, just because one’s religion “makes sense” to him, that doesn’t prove it’s true or is based on facts, because the guy in the next religion over finds his religion makes sense to him, too. That a religion, any religion, makes sense to someone proves nothing; they all make sense to someone, or they wouldn’t exist!

Here’s where I disagree with Bob. I think that if a god or religion makes no sense from outside the belief system, that is a genuine, useful clue. Consider for a moment that since, for each of us, Bob included, all gods and religions make no sense unless we are on the inside, then, clearly, the default position for all gods and regions is, “Makes no sense.”

Furthermore, we know that, whatever the religion, everyone on the inside is going to have some very strange, even absurd beliefs. For example, the Hindu really believes that Ganesh (Hindu god with the body of a man and the head of an elephant) makes sense. To the fully-practicing Cherokee, the rain dance makes sense. To the Christian fundamentalist, it makes sense that we should all have to pay for Eve’s mistake. To the committed Catholic, the body of Christ really is in the consecrated cracker. And, the fact that these insiders can’t provide reasonable explanations or hard evidence for those beliefs is another very useful piece of information on which to base a judgment. Frankly, it seems obvious to me that a god or religion can ONLY be rationally judged from the outside.

Has Bob even considered that since (in his view) no religion will make sense until he buys into it, that he would likely be a Hindu if that‘s the religion he had heard about first? Could it be that Bob’s religion was really the result of chance? He argues, after all, “that unless you TRULY BELIEVE, God and his works won't make sense.” So, it follows that Bob didn’t choose his religion because it made sense to him - he is saying that it didn’t make sense to him until he believed it. Obviously, Bob didn’t actually choose a religion, he was led into it. We might even say that the religion chose him.

Now, Bob claims that I will always “not get it,” that I’m defeated before I even start, and that I’m dealing with something I “just can’t seem to grasp.” Well, Bob, I get what you’re saying, I really do, but you’re the one who is missing the obvious. I mean, of course your religion only makes sense from the inside, they all work that way - and only that way. No sale here, Bob, maybe you should go peddle your theory where people are accustomed to believing whatever they’re told, like inside a church, maybe?

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