The religious mind: origins of Christianity as an enemy of reason

"So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence"
Bertrand Russell
Whatever they would pretend to think in theory, the practical situation is that, very often and especially when some connection with religious issues is at stakes, religious people hate intelligence and intelligent people. They systematically mistake intelligence with pride (except for their own theologians, of course) and condemn it as a mortal sin, while they (or some of them, or somehow) systematically consider themselves infinitely higher than anyone who thinks different than them, no matter the difference of intelligence. They practice their own totally unjustified pride (the pride of being the kings of stupidity and humility) and condemn any others claims of knowledge no matter how justified.

Now, we mentioned above the direct observation of how terrible are humans at democracy: that they naturally develop wrong views (and especially paranoid views) in political issues, at least in the USA today despite all the wonderful available means for spreading and debating information, while most people went to school where they learned to read, write and other things; while there is internet, and people live in one of the most peaceful and prosperous contexts that ever happened.
Given such observations, and the proliferation of creeds and myths at that time (see below), can anyone offer any argument of why the f**k should we expect the first Christian communities 19 centuries ago, to have been significantly wiser, more objective and reliable than this about what could have happened to some Jesus that lived some decades before in a country they didn't visit, given the a troubled political context (oppression of Israel by the Roman empire...), and while this Jesus was not mentioned by any historian outside their own community of devout believers ?
What's special with the Christian God ? That he is a God of Love ? That was not even new, as there already were Venus (in Roman mythology) and Aphrodite (in the Greek one). But Christians arguing this are missing the fact that once more closely examined, their God is absolutely not a God of Love, by the way He sends to hell all those who have the honesty to not believe in Him without evidence. (see an analysis of the Christian God's characters)

No, in fact, one of the special features of both Christian and Hebrew conceptions of God as opposed to other myths of that time, that (among other causes) contributes to their better success, was their intolerance and sectarianism, and that they had a more well-defined credo. Christians were especially paranoid against any differing creeds from their own, which they condemned as either idolatry or heresy, following the recommendations of Jesus (such as "He that is not with me is against me", one of the main principles of paranoia).

They were more or less ready to ignore the evidence (anyway hard to get) for keeping the belief that Jesus revelation was the only source of truth.
For example, consider:

Christianity vs science

The Greeks started developing science, including a heliocentric model.
Then Christians came and absurdly gave themselves the credit for the scientific accomplishments of ancient Greeks.

"Justin had, like others, the idea that the Greek philosophers had derived, if not borrowed, the most essential elements of truth found in their teaching from the Hebrew Bible. Thus he does not scruple to declare that Socrates and Heraclitus were Christians (Apol., i. 46, ii. 10). His aim, of course, is to emphasize the absolute significance of Christ, so that all that ever existed of virtue and truth may be referred to him" (Wikipedia)

while they later altogether destroyed much of the existing knowledge outside their own sources and ignored their own responsibility in doing so:

"The Athenian schools of philosophy were closed down by the Christian emperor Justinian in 529 CE. After that followed the Dark Ages in Christian Europe, in which works of the ancient Greeks were lost, and from which it took Europe a thousand years to recover. Fraudulently, no blame is attached to Christianity for this. "

(Again, remember about Hypatia)

In all the Middle Ages, the Church controlled the educational institutions, not letting people be educated by Christianity and not tolerating the intellectual productions of non-Christians, to give themselves credit for all cultural and intellectual productions. Giving no credit to a Pagan heliocentrist author of the 5th century.
Still today, Christians keep mocking anyone who dares to draw the attention to the evidence of all the bad things done by Christians and churches in history, under the excuse that, by definition, anything wrong should not be counted as Christian but as due to human sin and revolt against God (after having presented things the other way round), because Jesus is love, oh yeah.
They regularly claim Christianity to be science-friendly just because it happened to be dominating at the time and place where science emerged, as if this coexistence meant causality (when and only they like to believe and claim it so in order to present Christianity as the source of all good), but without caring to check any detail.
Meanwhile, allied with colonialist practices, Christian missionaries they kept destroying the ancestral cultures and knowledge of other peoples in the rest of the world, by telling these people that their rituals and practices were bad and should be abandoned.

And still recently, some Catholic officials consider that the Inquisition had a more scientific attitude than Galileo at the time of his trial (the Spanish Jesuit Juan Bertran in a colloquium on Galileo in 1991, while the general conclusion from the Church commission reexamining the file of the trial was rather unclear, according to Ciel&Espace magazine, that had a reliable source for this report but lost it after). Yeah, the Church has definitely always been on the side of science (as they imagine it)...

Let us check the contents of the intended speech of the Pope Benedict XVI for January 2008 at La Sapienza University, that was cancelled because of a petition against him (based on his quotation of Feyerabend who had considered Bellarmin more scientific than Galileo, but which Ratzinger did not himself approve - anyway the Catholics make the serious mistake to quote worthless opinions of modern philosophers, failing to notice that the opinions of most modern philosophers have no sort of significance or credibility in the scientific community). Putting aside all the wooden language, here are some of its significant claims:
« He sees a criterion of this reasonableness [of religious doctrines on ethical reasoning] in, among other things, the fact that that such doctrines are derived from a responsible and well grounded tradition, in which over a long span of time sufficiently strong arguments have been developed in support of the respective doctrines. It seems important to me that this statement recognises that experience and demonstration over the course of generations, the historical backdrop of human wisdom, are also a sign of their reasonableness and their lasting significance. In the face of an a-historical form of reason that seeks to construct itself in an exclusively a-historical rationality, the wisdom of humanity as such—the wisdom of the great religious traditions—should be viewed as a reality that cannot be cast with impunity into the trash bin of the history of ideas.
(...)
The pope speaks as the representative of a believing community, in which throughout the centuries of its existence a specific life wisdom has matured; he speaks as the representative of a community that holds within itself a treasury of ethical understanding and experience, which is important for all of humanity. In this sense, he speaks as the representative of a form of ethical reasoning.
»

Is he serious ? What sort of idiot ignoring the historic reality is he trying to convince with such lies ? The Catholic Church has a long tradition of mass murdering everybody who does not agree with them, which was the drive of the development and stabilization of their moral reasoning. Still nowadays the Catholic morality system is quite foolish and wrong, with their wrong management of "charity" by Mother Teresa, their traditional homophobia, their unbalanced system of values obsessed with faithfulness in marriage but doing noting (except prayers) for the good unhappy singles; their approving good intelligent men and beautiful girls to commit joining their orders and having no descent, degrading the genetic heritage of the human species; their short-sightedness in charitable works with no political and economic understanding and perspective (well it may be seen as wise and fortunate that they don't raise their methodological foolishness into political and economical mismanagement but...); their way to condemn and forbid contraception and sterilization (but also artificial insemination), remaining blind to the overpopulation problem, thus sacralizing the blind forces of nature and forbidding people from questioning and correcting them, disregarding the disasters this may sometimes lead to... I do not care here to reach any sort exhaustivity in the list of flaws in the Catholic morality system; others have already worked on it. According to Bertrand Russell, "the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world. "
So, the fact of inheriting from a long tradition of believing nonsense, acting foolishly and spreading wrong values, does not make Christianity a respectable source of ethical reasoning. Fortunately, the experience of reality, education and better information, is progressively providing humanity more evidence, wisdom and experience of the fact that the Christian ethical heritage is so wrong and only worthy of being cast into the trash bin of the history of ideas.
Let's continue with his speech:
« Indeed History has shown that many of the things that theologians have said in the course of time or that Church authorities have put in practice have been proven false and today they confuse us. But it is equally true that the history of the saints and the history of the humanism that has developed on the basis of the Christian faith are proof of the truth of this faith in its essential core, making it something that public reason needs. Of course, much of what theology and faith say can only be appropriated from within the faith and thus cannot be seen as a need for those to whom this faith remains inaccessible. It is true however that the message of the Christian faith is never only a "comprehensive religious doctrine" in Rawls’ terms, but that it is instead a force that purifies reason itself, further helping the latter to be itself. »

He does not fear to contradict himself, with a first sentence refuting the conclusion of the pseudo-argument coming next. Then, the latter (and that wrongly called "proof") are just blind faith articles not supported by anything, nor that even cares to check itself in front of effective observations (especially the presence of saints and humanism developed in other religions with cores incompatible with the Christian one, in other parts of the world out of the reach of the extermination by the Inquisition), and are anyway of no weight as compared to other natural conditions of rationality: intelligence and study...

«On the basis of its origins the Christian message should always encourage the search of the truth and thus be a force against the pressures exerted by power and interests.»
As usual, of 2 things one: either someone cares to seek the truth unbiased by power and interest, or does not; but the Pope's call for this is just wishful thinking that does not help. The same call could be done by anone else as well (as easily and as inefficiently), with no need of Christian faith or any other mythological belief whatsoever.
But... what about the Christian tradition of polluting and distorting reason and truth for the instrumental power of converting people, and the self-interest of keeping faith, based on the assumption that this is God's will that we should follow to please Him and for our own salvation ?

« The danger faced by the Western world, just to mention the latter, is that mankind, given its great knowledge and power, might give up on the question of the truth»
Uh, why would a greater knowledge and power would lead to such a consequence ? Why would wealth and comfort with high living standards make it harder to focus on unbiased truth and knowledge than would misery, discomfort and emergency ? and why call it a "danger" as if was awaiting us like a black hole awaiting humanity to collectively fall in there with no possible return (just like the Church traditionally frightens people with images of hell to convert people) ?

«a danger that philosophy, feeling incapable of fulfilling its task, might degenerate into positivism, a danger that theology and the message it has for reason might be confined to the private sphere of a group more or less big.»
What positivism ? If it is about coming to the side of reason and the methods of scientific knowledge and progress, this would precisely be the way for philosophy to fulfill its task. And the more the foolish and sterile nonsense will be confined, the better it will be.
« If however reason, concerned about its supposed purity, fails to hear the great message that comes from the Christian faith and the understanding it brings, it will dry up like a tree with roots cut off from the water that gives it life. (...) [the Pope] must again and always invite reason to seek out truth, goodness and God, and on this path urge it to see the useful lights that emerged during the history of the Christian faith and perceive Jesus Christ as the light that illuminates history and helps find the way towards the future.»

This claim is but an article of blind faith, a damn lie contrary to the evidence of facts (which the Pope visibly has no fucking care of), and a false advertising (ridiculing any claim of Christianity to be a religion of humility, and to have anything to do with the truth). I understand that such creeds might be inseparable from the core of Christian faith, as they are more or less equivalent to John 15, so that it would be nearly impossible for a Christian to stop believing this lie and still stay Christian. However, this claim by the Pope precisely is an illustration of the fact that Christian faith leads people to believe lies and to violate the rules of reason.

So, even if the initial argument for refusing the Pope to make its speech may have been technically incorrect, the examination of the contents of the intended speech finally confirms that it has nothing to do in a place of knowledge and reason.

Many historical examples can be given, but it is not even necessary to refer to history, because debates are still ongoing, and many living cases can be observed and understood of how Christians think and behave, how twisted is their reasoning and how they reach and keep conclusions disconnected from reality and sane reasoning, so that similar behavior from their "spiritual fathers" is largely sufficient to explain how Christianity could start based on fraud or delusion in the first place.

For example, we can see today that even quite intelligent people prefer to deny the evidence of facts in order to keep their faith: "Creationists aren't stupid":
"my friend the Young Earth Creationist is one of the smartest people I know (...) Lots of the leaders of the creationist movement have advanced degrees, up to and including Ph.D.s. It takes a lot of work and at least minimal intelligence to achieve that academic level. (...) No, these people aren't stupid. They're wrong on the facts, they're willfully blind to dissenting information in many cases, they are as capable of lying and distortion and mistaken ideas as anyone, but they're not necessarily idiots (...) The thought that someone who's as smart as you could come to a conclusion that's so clearly wrong is frightening. (...) In some respects the greatest strengths of a smart person become subverted, "turned to the Dark Side" as it were, marshaled to protect an idea that should have been shot down by them at the very beginning. But the very fact of their intelligence is wh
He has looked at all the evidence, and has decided that the Bible is more reliable than any scientific evidence that could ever be found. He decided this because the consequences to his faith if that is not true would be catastrophic, and he is unwilling to have his faith destroyed. He has no use for Christians who do not believe Genesis is literal truth, because in his mind the logical and theological difficulties posed thereby far outweigh the difficulties posed by science to the young earth theory.
He's looked at the evidence, weighed the damage each position would take on his faith, and has decided to go with the explanation that poses the least risk to his religious beliefs.
"

Similarly, from that site:

"But what's really going on is that these Christian defenders have become experts at deceiving themselves first. They are therefore deceiving others because they are deceiving themselves."

As Richard Feynman warned:

Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.

Religion as a meme

More precisely, the point is not that they would have any bad intention of deceiving themselves (on the contrary they are still quite sincere in themselves, and dedicated to trust and serve their God), but that they have been misled to undertake this quest for methodological self-delusion by the Christian doctrine, without being aware that this is what they were doing.
Still, such an accusation is very serious and very paradoxical (as it is so contrary to the idea that religious people have of their own faith), so that it cannot be made lightly.

So I'm not making it lightly. Like many other people (and independently of them), I have myself a long experience, first with Christian faith for nearly a decade, then, after my deconversion, with attempts at discussions with Christians from diverse origins (evangelic, baptist, pentecostal, catholic, orthodox...). Thus, I'm not trying to build up any easy excuse to dismiss other views which I would not properly understand. Rather, it is a remarkably faithful and explanatory synthetic expression of the main trends and characters emerging from a huge an long accumulation of detailed observations and verifications of how Christian faith works, and what makes it resist so strongly, out of a first-hand and extensive experience I got of it while I initially did all my best to try defending it.
All this remarkable set of understandings fell on me quite unexpectedly soon after my deconversion, as an wonderfully more coherent and solid understanding of life, than any impression of understanding I ever had when I was Christian. Such a discovery cannot be a mere fancy. However, to get it, quite a deal of intelligence (which I had separately trained on other issues) was involved in this process, first in the background of my mind behind my faith, progressively eroding its foundations until its collapse, then in a fully conscious way thereafter. You know, as scientific understanding can be described: the ability to understand some complex realities as clearly and reliably as other people (less clever or with less training) understand simpler ones. Because, while much clearer in some ways, this understanding of the falsity of Christianity is also more complex and paradoxical in some other ways, than Christian faith itself.

One of the main paradoxical aspects, a trend underlying most specific observations necessary to explain the situation, is an expanding discrepancy produced by the Christian doctrine, between the deepest characters of Christians in themselves (pure, sincere, well-intended, caring for the truth...) and the real global effect of how they behave and think in practice (their wrong attitudes, terribly disconnected from reality, from any reasonable chance of detecting and correcting their own mistakes, and of understanding people of different opinions), while one of their very deep creeds is that no such a discrepancy is possible or even thinkable. In a few words (and ironically as they were supposedly uttered by Jesus on the cross), they don't know what they are doing.

This can be rather well described metaphorically by the Chinese Room thought experiment (that was initially developed as a thought experiment about artificial intelligence under the hypothesis that it can pass the Turing Test) :

"if a machine can convincingly simulate an intelligent conversation, does it necessarily understand ? In the experiment, Searle imagines himself in a room acting as a computer by manually executing a program that convincingly simulates the behavior of a native Chinese speaker. People outside the room slide Chinese characters under the door and Searle, to whom "Chinese writing is just so many meaningless squiggles", is able to create sensible replies, in Chinese, by following the instructions of the program; that is, by moving papers around. The question arises whether Searle can be said to understand Chinese"

Here, the role of the program manual is played by the Bible, or more generally by all implicit or explicit elements of religious teachings that religious people happened to receive. It does not assume AI to pass the Turing test, as this program's purpose is not to emulate human intelligence, but on the contrary, to emulate stupidity, produce intellectual blindness and dishonesty, and practice mental manipulation - while remaining very far away from any awareness of the fact that the rules they are following and worshiping as God's thoughts and ways, are the very methods of blindness, dishonesty and mental manipulation (just like they cannot notice that their description of God's characters is the very definition of madness).

They religiously follow these instructions with all their heart, as they imagine that this is the way God wants them to think and act. And they notice that, in "mysterious" ways, "it works": their faith articles seem to be confirmed in their life, by means they don't really understand. This happens because these instructions are not just random instructions, they have special "miraculous" properties that make them resist to many experiences of life and discussions.
What they did not get, though, is that the remarkable properties of their doctrine, that makes it resist, are of a sort largely disconnected from the question of its truth, but are rather about leading its followers to obsessively root this doctrine in themselves, and disabling them from most chances or abilities they might otherwise naturally have, to notice its falsity and to consequently reject it.
In short, the Christian doctrine is largely unfalsifiable. Not that it would not say anything about observables, but the few claims somehow observable it may contain are either never seriously tested (for whatever excuse), or even when contrary evidences exist, they have little chance to change the believers'minds anyway.

In practice, this makes any attempt at serious debate with Christians quite distasteful, or even mentally toxic. In a way or another, such attempts usually deviate far away from any sane reason (chances of genuine progression). Somehow, most Christians lost the sense of reason (disregarding whether they officially follow or reject reason). Instead of genuine arguments, they either use lots of fallacies or come down to personal attacks (usually under the disguise of the highest love of the universe, of course, such as "I will pray for you so that Jesus reveals Himself to you"). And of course, they systematically manage to make their opponents feel guilty for the failure of the discussion (or at least spread a heavy impression in this way, so that non-Christians need quite a solid roots in evidences for not being destabilized).

But this is "not their fault", and the irrationality at stakes is not something that Christians have "in themselves". Somehow, and from their own viewpoint, their behavior is quite rational. Every single reaction they have, is a reaction that is "rationally justified" relatively to the context of the rest of their thoughts and experiences. The situation can be metaphorically described as a mental labyrinth they would be lost in. Every single step they make in this labyrinth is "justified" by the necessity of following a wall or choosing the way which looks better; but without both a global map of the labyrinth and a genuine global analysis of its properties, they have no clue which destination their way is really heading them to. And remaining blind to its global properties, is something they are proud of, by pretending that keeping one's mind simple would be wiser than developing any global theoretical analysis.
Indeed, a crucial aspect of their doctrine, is the praise of mental simplicity: it is a complex arbitrary doctrine which takes time and mental effort to "learn" and follow, but condemns complex thinking. It leads them to follow complex strategical behavior, but to deny the existence and to scorn and reject all attempt to understand the real features and consequences of the mental strategy they are following. They claim to have a spiritual experience of relationship with God, but that this and their faith, are "not a matter of argument". The problem is: if their "life with God" was really not a matter of argument and of mental processes, they should not have the indecency of so deeply (though unconsciously) rooting their persuading power on their systematic exploitation and worsening of the weaknesses (fallibility) of human reasoning, as they are actually doing (unwillingly, as a collateral damage of their holy trust to God, probably).

Let us explain and refute their "argument" how they praise simple thinking (while ignoring the complexity of their own doctrine). They argue that human errors are a fruit of the activity of the human mind. Based on this, they accuse their own intellectual activity of being generally guilty of any error they might make, and assume that the solution to stop making errors, would be to stop thinking altogether.
However, in doing so they fail to understand the real structure of truth and error, how can errors be avoided. The truth can be approached by checking, strengthening and correcting thoughts, not by stopping them.

Let us explain this by comparison with computer science. Errors in thoughts are like bugs or viruses, that make a computer work badly. So, if your computer has bugs and you switch it off, of course errors will stop occurring; but desirable workings will stop too. Then if you restart your computer, it is possible that some errors that had been produced during some process will be deleted and some clean new approach will come. However, if the errors were in the program, or have been added to a new version of a program; or if a virus came to install itself into the operating system of your computer, then switching off your computer will not help: anyway the error or virus will reoccur as soon as the computer will be on and using the piece of program involved. In order to really get rid of this, you would need some other special program with the special ability to tell the difference between the virus and the operating system, to be able to only delete the former and restore a correct version of the latter; or if it is a bug, you may need a skilled programmer to examine the program, understand what it meant to do, and rewrite the defective piece of code so as to obtain a properly working program instead of the defective one. But if you don't have any developed skill, then you have no way to tell where the error comes from and how to correct it.

All you might possibly do is to get some patch or program from an external source that will make the needed correction in your computer. But this can help only if this external source is safe. On the other hand, if you have no clue how to know whether some chosen external source is trustworthy or not, then this "help" offer might as well be a trick to make you install a new virus to your computer. Then your last chance to tell what source is right, would be by trying, if only you have the resources and abilities to correctly proceed such a thing.

But the malicious scenario is the one occurring with Christianity: it tells you to shut down your own discernment, and to trust with blind faith, follow and reshape your mind after, a new doctrine arbitrarily given to you, in such a way to make it very hard to get rid of it later even though no evidence ever supports it.

Now, how could a doctrine with such "miraculously awful" properties have appeared in the first place ?
If it ever was a fruit of consciously deliberate design, either by a supernatural revelation or any guru, then the source of such a revelation could definitely not be divine (as a decent God would never have made up such a bad joke that would mislead us so deeply), but might rather have been diabolical, and anyway bad intended.
However, no such an explanation is necessary, as a much more plausible natural explanation is available, whose expected outcome fits rather well with observation: meme theory. This is the equivalent of the Darwinist understanding of viruses, with doctrines in the role of viruses, and minds in the role of hosts.

Just like some evolved viruses, religions like Christianity developed the skill to attack their host's immune response (ability and willingness to question their faith) in addition to incentives at keeping and spreading it.
Some may object that such a Darwinist explanation of Christianity requires a time period for the progressive development of what would be explained in this way, while the Christian revelation was a unique event.
But, let's check things in details:

The origins of Christianity

One of the usual Christian apologetic arguments, is to challenge others to explain the creation and widespread success of Christianity without God's intervention. They think, why would the first Christians report the story of Jesus in the way they did, and then why would so many people believe in it in the way they do, if it was false ?

In fact, many people, especially ex-Christians, already explained these things a lot of times, but... most Christians still have no clue about this, mostly because... they are not interested. They prefer to lazily believe that it is an open challenge they have put and that nobody can answer it, disregarding how many million people already did it.

To this "challenge" the answer is simple: there is just no surprise. The natural forces of human thought and culture as we know them, largely suffice to explain it all. Okay, this answer needs a few developments to clarify some details.

First, let us recall previous remarks about general features of reality, psychology and the supernatural, that can generally contribute to Christian beliefs without being any genuine evidence for them:
This made it natural that some creeds developed, but does not specify which one - in fact, determinations of creeds are not very specific indeed, as many sorts of creeds developed in parallel, both inside and outside Christianity, but there are some trends partially determining the contents of creeds, as we shall explain.

At the time of the beginnings of Christianity, there were many competing religions and sects. There were already before and after, and there are still now (again, we still have the living case of India full of incarnated gods). (But that time was especially favorable, because of the horrors taking place under the Roman empire, and the Essenes have announced the coming of the Messiah following a biblical prophecy, thus stimulating the raise of many Messiahs). So, why did so many people believe in other things, if not because they were also true ??
Did they worship other Gods and spread other faiths just for joking ?

Finally, one of the creeds had to take over the religious space. But if people had it so wrong when joining other faiths, why should we suddenly trust them unquestionably just because they reached a consensus ? (They did not reach their consensus easily, by the way: a lot of artificial standardization work had to be operated at a sort of political level.)
If Christians believe there would be a problem for Christianity to be believed unless it was true, then how doesn't this argument put themselves in trouble in the face of the existence of any other similarly implausible belief at all ?

But the fact is that Christianity did progressively emerge and evolve along centuries from a preexisting mixture of mythologies: the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Enoch... if the people of that time were not gullible, why did those stories had any success at all ?

Origins of the monastic and other aspects of Christianity can be found in the Essene.

A version of the Beatitudes can be found before the supposed time of Jesus among the Dead Sea Scrolls. More similitudes can be found between those manuscripts from just before the supposed time of Jesus life, and the New testaments, such as in the vocabulary.
The philosophical work of Philon of Alexandria born 25 BC could also contribute to the mixing of philosophical and religious sources, from which Christianity emerged - but he made no mention of Jesus either.
Menahem, another Messiah, was also reported as suffering and resurrected before Jesus.

As explained in the Argument from locality:

«A religion which strongly reflects the beliefs of its time is more likely to be a product of its time than of revelation. If a given religion was purely the invention of human beings, we would expect that that religion would bear similarities to its culture of origin. On the other hand, a transcendent or all-knowing deity, or even one that was merely far wiser than human beings, would not be limited by what was known or believed at the time he dispensed a revelation, but could provide new information of which people were not previously aware and which did not correspond to any concepts in their experience. However, when we examine religions, we find that the former and not the latter situation invariably applies.

Christianity, again, is a perfect example of this. The theology of this religion blends apocalyptic fears, Jewish monotheistic ideals, Greek ethical philosophy, and the worship practices and beliefs of the mystery cults at precisely the time when those things were mixing at a cosmopolitan crossroads of the Roman Empire. Granted, God could decide to reveal his wisdom to humanity at a time and place when it would exactly resemble a syncretistic fusion of the prevailing theologies of the day. However, all else being equal, the principle of Occam's Razor should lead us to conclude that it is nothing more than that. Positing a deity is an extra assumption that is not necessary and gives no additional explanatory power to any attempt to explain the origins of the Christian religion.

Another way in which this aspect of the Argument from Locality applies is in regard to those religious tenets which state beliefs and approve practices that were widely agreed upon at the time, but that today are recognized to be false or morally wrong. One particularly glaring example is the way the Christian and Jewish scriptures both implicitly and explicitly approve of the practices of human slavery and the institutional inequality of women. Likewise, these writings show no special insight into the workings of the universe other than what was widely known to the people of their time, and make many mistakes common to those who lived in that era - for example, the belief that mental illness and physical disability were caused by demon possession. Again, under the Argument from Locality this is exactly what we should expect: these religions, being the product of those time periods, cannot be expected to show knowledge advanced beyond what the people of those periods possessed.
(...)
Believers may argue why God set up the world in just the one way we would expect it to be if he did not exist, but for a freethinker, the conclusion is obvious.»


In the second century, Celsus criticized Christians for being a lawless infamous movement, revolted against institutions, proud of their bad reputation (= the very definition of paranoia), that created their texts as absurd myths and modified them in response to criticisms.

We won't enter here in much historical details on the emergence of Christianity (moreover, this couldn't be so fair as the Church had the power to rewrite history), but just make a few remarks.

Christian apologists told stories of massive martyrdom, that were probably made up, to try to convince people of the truth of Christianity, because, well, it would be hard to imagine people dying for a lie. But as usual, the truth does not matter: what matters is to tell these stories and other stories because it helps people to believe, and as "Jesus is the truth", whatever helps to believe in Jesus can be hold as truth.

There was no point to persecute people for their faith, as Romans were quite tolerant (unlike Christians) but even if many Christians were killed, so what ? If Christianity was really a mental and social plague (as it has long been so, and is somehow still now) then it can be understandable and not so wrong to kill them. Churches did massively kill heretics and members of other creeds.

Even if being killed for one's faith was evidence of truth, then every other faith except the Christian one should be considered right for that reason. Still now we have a famous example of a very pious, calm and thoughtful man who dedicated his life and took the risk to die for following what he saw as God's will - and he was indeed finally martyred for his faith : Osama bin Laden. If the Christian apologetic argument (which has indeed been an important pillar of the world's christianization, even if now forgotten) that (martyrdom = theological infallibility) was true, then we should conclude that bin Laden was indeed theologically right. But if we admit that this is a wrong argument, then it appears that the historical success of Christianity was based on fallacy and no truth.

How Christianity and other spiritualities oppose reason

We said, the real question of how some doctrine relates to reason, is not about whether members believe that their position agrees with reason, or believe that they have arguments or evidence on their side (anyway, any belief has to somehow see itself as rational in order to resist) but about how rational their thought really is:

Spiritualities often claim to agree with science as they accept the discoveries of science ( that the Earth is round and orbits the Sun in one year, etc).
They may even argue for their agreement with science, by the presence of scientists among them.
But a good scientist in one field can eventually remain clueless in another field. So in particular someone can as well be a scientist in one field and believe nonsense in religious issues, for lack of the chance to get aware of the relevant information or arguments, and/or train one's use of reason to a sufficient extent.

Others just despise science and reason, identified with many evils in the world. Or when science contradicts their dogmas, they may dismiss it as not being science, or as an illegitimate attempt by scientists to apply the scientific method in areas where it should not apply; and will offer instead their own "science" and/or put forward "higher" ways to the truth (by seemingly logical spiritual teachings pseudo-arguing for the existence of such "higher ways"; or, in the case of Darwinism, their "creation science").

But both seemingly opposite attitudes have in common their deep opposition to science: in the way of thinking.

First, many spiritual people who claim to accept science in its own field, don't understand deeply enough what are the possible accomplishments of reason. In their view, reason looks like something "well-known" and "limited", with no more potential but with its complete set of possible outcomes that could be checked from their favorite ancient archives of preachers and apologists of the past, or any official source. This view may naively seem quite plausible, however it is radically refuted by history, which showed that the real dramatic breakthroughs have come from science very efficiently in a rather short period of time, long after millenia when billions of people wastefully dedicated their life to religions (as well Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism), that had dismissed that way as limited and claimed to be themselves the way infinitely beyond it (remember : insanity is to continuously repeat the same thing and expect it to bring a different result).
They seem to often miss the fact that reason is a lively and very demanding discipline, where few skilled people can still discover things that millions of "ordinary people" could miss. They think that either their own reason is more reliable (who wouldn't have this impression ?), or more in agreement with God, or that they have a better method than reason for seeking the truth.

Their thoughts and teachings, which seem logical to them (and thus undeniable), are in fact only pseudo-logical and completely flawed, and turn out to be worthless and misleading. It feels and tastes like logic but it turns out to have no logical value if analyzed in a more mature, rational, scientific way. It only seems logical in the eyes of the ignorant, unscientific people (people who did not have the chance to think scientifically with the proper arguments in the issue involved, even if they may be scientists in some subject).

And, just like every science is a very hard rational work, it may also also be a very hard rational work to explain what is fallacious in many spiritual teachings; and psychological obstacles are so strong. Every time an argument or evidence is raised to show the absurdity of a spiritual claim, spiritual people will have in mind other pseudo-arguments for dismissing it. They have in mind so many "arguments" for them while ignoring the extent of opposite arguments and refutations (it even often happens that spiritual people are basing every sentence they spell, on many hard, deeply wrong but strongly believed hidden assumptions, in such a way it is even hopeless to ever try pointing out what are these false hidden assumptions and how it can even be conceivable to disagree with them), so that opposite views seem absurd to them, they will dismiss rationalists as morons, and assume that science would be but a religion among others.
The problem is, for each pseudo-argument they would raise, or wrong hidden assumption they base their replies on, it would take a huge lot of work to explain their mistake, because... spiritual people have so big troubles to understand things properly, making it necessary to re-explain every basic deduction or consideration from the start (including much of the "primary school" evidences that rational peope see as obvious and common sense, that they wouldn't like to bother re-explaining). Usually, the discussion never goes nearly far and deep enough for leading to any worthy result. This why, usually, rational people have not the patience explaining things in the necessary extents, and do not waste more time in such a debate which they see as flawed, absurdly tedious, unfair and hopeless; especially when facing people who are not interested to understand whatever explanation that is adressed to them; who won't have the patience to carefully read an understand it all, because they also have faith that "arguments don't matter" (as if there could be anything else than arguments to discuss and seek the truth), and that their divine mission is not to understand another viewpoint but to pray and obey God in order to convert as many people as they can.

Somehow, it is right for rational people to refuse playing in this mess that many "spiritual people" call a "try of dialogue" but is not really worth of being called so: these tries of debates, in the way these "spiritual people" want to lead them, are in fact no truly meaningful debates but only playfields where these "spiritual people" spend a happy time scorning and turning to ridicule any decent truth, any sane reason; praising others as having a "good heart" only if they naively hear and trust their favorite doctrine and finally convert, but will accuse them of being heard-hearted and close-minded otherwise - but will usually not admit any symmetry of roles here, and will instead mock, condemn as an act of intolerance or an horrible sin against God, any attempt by people of other viewpoints to try explaining themselves and criticize one's preaches - even sometimes condemning as a worse sin the fact of having solid evidence for disagreeing (being ready to justify one's view), rather than just admitting one's own view to be futile arbitrary choice.
Meanwhile, Christians view themselves as the champions of humility... because their definition of humility consists in trusting the Bible, no matter any contrary evidence (more precisely, their definition of humility consists in avoiding at all cost, the pride of considering themselves able to discover any truth which was not written there).
Such conditions of "debate" are quite despairing.

So they somehow rely on a sort of arguments, but only those that seem to agree with their views (no matter how fallacious they are, anyway they are good whenever they "give the right conclusion"), but will blindly dismiss any opposite argument which they assume to be fallacious just because it is "against God" (more precisely against what they assume to be the divine revelation), thus identified with human error, according to their definitions.

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