There can be no denying that the mainstream religions are inherently problematic; they have good ideas but some really, really bad ones too. Religious people, when forced to scrutinise the validity of their beliefs, employ selective thinking and listening, alongside fallacies and sophistry, and they tend to discard logical truths that are pointed out to them.
They don’t deal in logic because they simply no longer use it – that muscle has atrophied. Anyone who has a basic knowledge of how easily the human mind is fooled, or of its various cognitive biases would easily see how a subscription to religious thoughts is riddled with fallacies, rife with incoherence.
Most religious people I met have genuinely good intentions, are kind and sincere, and I don’t doubt their sincerity. I have been told that religion is a great coping mechanism and we should avoid criticising it. That’s not correct. It’s a belief system that completely dominates your behaviour, thoughts and actions. More evidence and questions should be demanded, not less.
Religion can lead people to become living bombs, start the crusades and inspire great deeds. Such a belief system must be analysed, criticised and be open to discussion. Sadly, such discussions are non-existent in Singapore’s education system. It’s ok to teach it in religious schools but you are not allowed to challenge any of its claims (which are untestable and hence absurd)
The way I look at it, both Science and Religion are in the same business of proving the reality of the world. Science makes outrageous claims that are substantiated by so much evidence that it would be silly to not treat them as facts. Not all theories in Science are solidly correct, especially String Theory, but the beauty of Science is that it wants to be wrong so that it can be better.
Science not only deals with hard evidence, it also starts with “what can prove this theory wrong?”, or also known as being testable. Most importantly, Science never claims to know absolute truths – it understands that any of its theories are subjected to the strength of the evidence presented. In that light, Evolution as it stands now, is an indisputable fact, and denying it would require breath-taking ignorance.
In short, facts in Science are established in proportion to the degree of evidence provided, and are provisional. It’s the most accurate and logical way to understand the world. In contrast, believers are not taught to approach religion in the same way – they can’t because their faith would then be dismissed in the way of the tooth fairy.
A belief is a lever that, once pulled, moves almost everything else in a person’s life. Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behaviour; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings.
Sam Harris, The End of Fath
Religious moderates assert the equal validity of all faiths, but in doing so they neglect to notice the irredeemably sectarian truth claims of each. As long as a Christian believes that only his baptised brethen will be saved on the Day of Judgement, he cannot possibly “respect” the beliefs of others.
Sam Harris, The End of Faith
The idea that any one of our religions represents the infallible word of the One True God requires an encyclopedic ignorance of history, mythology, and art even to be entertained; there is no more evidence to justify a belief in the literal evidence of Yahweh and Satan than there was to keep Zeus perched upon his mountain throne or Poseidon churning the seas.
Sam Harris, The End of Faith