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Everybody is Wrong about God

This book stresses that any reason or excuse to believe in God is invalid and false.  He wants the word atheist to go.  Lindsay would do well to think about tackling mathematics rather than philosophy for though the book is creative and makes original points it is philosophically thin.

Let us quote from him and then assess!

Lindsay: It seems that ‘God’ is an abstract mental construction that people employ to help them meet or ignore various psychological and social needs.” So he concludes that “contrary to the title of Dawkins’ famous book, believers aren't exactly delusional when talking about and believing in ‘God’. Every time someone says that he believes in God, he’s saying that he has physiological or social needs that he doesn’t know how to meet.”

Comment: It is patronising to tell people who say they believe in God as a real being and person that they do not. Only they can or might know if they do. 

Believers will find it insulting to be told that they only believe in God because they think they are helpless!

Many within a religion encourage this "religion is a painkiller for getting through something - a crutch" despite it clearly leading to religious people being treated as weaklings by those who consider themselves strong and crutch-free.  That is how fascism can start off!  Liberal societies may present themselves as "respecting" people of faith but is that patronising outlook really respect?  No!

Belief in a real God is compatible with how people interpret that God to suit themselves.  Don't husband and wives make assumptions up to a point about each other?

If you mistake real things such as the need for comfort and guidance for God then you are in fact deluded.  To have a deep relationship with somebody who is not there or not real is rank delusion.  And the link between God and comfort is a common one but a very strange one for nothing guarantees having an easy life.  The comfort has a bad side.  The believer risks feeling far worse.  If nothing is looking after you and you think it should or is and are wrong then that is self-abuse.  The comfort only works in so far as you think the bad things will not be so bad.  But when they are happening it is a different story. It could be that believers want not comfort but false comfort.  And that is what is happening!

If too many believers are in fact believing in God to meet certain needs what if that God is a spiteful entity who loves punishing and sending people to Hell? All who promote the Christian God must take responsibility if some hearers respond to their teaching that way. They can't order people what interpretation to take.

Lindsay makes out that atheism is not a worldview or philosophy but just seeing the obvious.

Comment: Lindsay contradicts the truth expressed by Sam Harris, “Atheism is not a philosophy; it is not even a view of the world; it is simply a refusal to deny the obvious. No one ever needs to identify himself as a non-astrologer – atheism is a term that should not even exist.”  Lindsay however writes, "Anyone who doesn't believe in God is automatically an 'atheist' by default.  Because it's the default, we cannot really 'end atheism.'  Obviously, this isn't what I mean.  I like to think of it this way.  If theism were to go away, technically everyone would be atheists - if everyone on earth rejected theism, we wouldn't call anyone atheists because we wouldn't need to.  We'd just call them people."

The author contradicts himself for we read, “Stop pretending that theism deserves serious rational consideration.”  Theists do think it is reasonable to assume God or believe.  A guess is an attempt to be reasonable in the sense that you only guess what you think is possible.   So if they think its reasonable when it is not and is as absurd as thinking salt can substitute for sugar in your tea then it is a delusion. 

As reason is seen as a gift from God if you assume there is a God or believe you must respect him by honouringgand using and trying to use your faculty of reason.  There is a link between God and reason so if theism is unreasonable then the theist is delusional. and using and trying to use your faculty of reason.  There is a link between God and reason so if theism is unreasonable then the theist is delusional. 

Lindsay:  "If theism had any real evidence to support it, it would never make arguments for why it doesn’t need evidence, relying instead on other kinds of non-epistemic warrant, for example, as claimed by Reformed Epistemology.”

Comment: Not all systems argue that evidence is not needed.  The non-epistemic warrant is compatible with having evidence.  You can say that nothing makes sense without a theory and still look for evidence for that theory.  This is one of the worst lines ever to appear in an atheist book.

We need reason.  Many think they cannot trust their reason unless it is set up by a God who can be trusted.  This creates an incentive to need God.  If we need to think there is a God so that we can feel looked after in this universe that is just as biased as looking for a God to satisfy your need for reason.  Without reason there can be no co-operation.  So reason is socially important.

If God is based a bias and is a bias believers cannot ask us to favour their bias over any other bias.  Bias by its nature is considered a bad thing.

Lindsay “A satirist mocking a set of beliefs is not mocking an individual. The individuals who hold those beliefs may feel insulted, embarrassed, sheepish, or humiliated for holding those beliefs, but that is the very point of satire and the reason it is effective.”

Comment: Good point!  Believers argue that God is intimately connected with them in an unimaginable way and that as creator God is closer to them than they are to themselves. Jesus said that though man is not God to see man as God which is why he said that to hurt a person is to hurt God.  It is obvious that the right to satirise or laugh at religion say as part of a comedy act exists.  Thus faith in God implies that right is wrong.  The belief is a threat to freedom of expression.  We have a right to be offended by somebody merely having faith.

Lindsay "God is a mythological object and thus emphatically not best treated philosophically because philosophy takes the idea too seriously in the wrong way. We should address ‘God’ in terms of what it actually seems to do for people. We should also recognise theism as pseudo-philosophical position instead of a properly philosophical one.”

Comment: But we all do philosophy even if we do it badly.  There is no such thing as pseudo-philosophy.  It is bad philosophy.

Lindsay: Forensic psychiatrist J Anderson Thomson JR is approvingly quoted, “Religion, while not an adaption in itself, derives from the same mind-brain social adaptations that we use to navigate the sea of people who surround us.”

Comment: So if religion is just another way of social contact is religion really religion?  If superstition were just a placebo it would not be really superstition.

Lindsay "Atheism is a non-position, or more accurately a pseudo-position, a position that pretends to exist, a word that pretends to mean something, only because so many people insist on embracing a belief in God that isn't there."  

And

"People who do not believe in God are people, just like people who do not play golf."  Calling them nongolfers is "both awkward and pointless."

Comment: But they are nongolfers!  The non-position argument is untenable!  Atheist is a legitimate word!  Even if atheism were a pseudo-position it needs a name.  It makes no sense to say there is no alternative to belief in God.

Lindsay "Atheism paradoxically maintains theism.  This surprising effect is strongest with philosophical (strong) atheism, but it is true simply by the fact that atheism only really exists as a counterpoint to theism.  In order for atheism, as the kind of thing one can hold or be good at, to have meaning, theism must have something going for it.  That is, just as theism implicitly defines atheism by negation, this kind of atheism defines theism by negation too.  Atheism, by asserting, 'God does not exist', immediately causes us to seek meaning in theism.  This invariably leads to trying to understand 'God' as a kind of being."

Comment: Atheism can only indirectly lead people to belief in God or the supernatural.  It says you must consider if they are real and decide and it decides that there are no grounds to think they are true.  Not all atheists or atheists systems think that the idea of God is so important that it needs a lot of vigorous refutation.  It may just happen that some atheists spent a lot of energy attacking faith in God but that is not because they think God is a good or plausible idea.  People do battle bad rubbish ideas.  One reason for their zeal is that they see God as an undermining of science or as something that does not deserve the prevalence it gets. 

Lindsay "Agnosticism - is a kind of nonbelief.  By saying, 'I don't know' entails a certain kind of open-minded non-belief."  He mentions ignositicism which is the doctrine that nobody can know what is meant by God.

Comment: God is described by the rather intelligent religionists as unknowable.  They say that God is not literally love.  They use univocal language which says that God should be referred to indirectly.  So he is not fair or loving.  He is just not unfair or unloving.  He is described in reverse.  Ignostics are more common than they realise.

Lindsay: Lindsay points out that all of us what to have values and purposes for life that they turn into an "immovable core."  They want these things to be the place inside that nothing and no one can ever touch. He feels believers externalise this by assuming a God who represents and lives for those values. 

Comment: Obviously the danger with that is once you turn your principle in a fixed God you will not revise any of the bad principles.  Even a good principle is bad if you have the attitude, "If it were bad or dangerous I'd still stand by it."  That is really caring about the rule not what is right.  It explains why religious superstition can be very solidified and immune to refutation and criticism.  Catholicism being a man-made not God-made system never did it much harm.

Lindsay mentions Daniel Dennett's observation that many believers in religion are in fact believers in belief first and foremost.  They think it is somehow helpful or virtuous to believe.  To say it is a virtue to believe say in God is a way of saying you believe in belief.

Comment: That implies some things and none of them good.

It is possible that all believers are really believers in belief.  It is possible that even if they are not everybody is a lot of the time.

It implies condemnation of those who do not believe or cannot believe or know they should not believe.

It is arrogant to turn an opinion or belief into a virtue.  Virtue is not about what you think about anything other than virtue.  It degrades virtue.

It is bigoted to argue that belief in belief in God is good for it suggests that as God alone matters and is important that this is the most important belief in belief of all.

Belief in belief is a refusal to let evidence and reason help you decide what to believe.  It is a commitment to refusing to let the evidence speak to you and let it help you revise wrong beliefs or even discard them.  Even in weak believers they are at risk of being too invested, emotionally or otherwise, in belief to change their minds and care about the truth and those who serve the truth.

Even if belief in God does not have to be a superstition or a delusion, belief in belief turns it into both.  Lindsay reminds us that delusion is a belief that is immune to all strong evidence or proof that it is wrong.  Psychiatrist Karl Jaspers wrote in General Psychopathy that delusions are present when there is "certainty, incorrigibility, and the impossibility of falsity of content".  Lindsay thinks that believers because there is so much talk about God in the world easily think they believe so they are not deluded but are mistaken.  That might seem to be true but it is certainly not true for those who pursue religious vocations such as priests and evangelists and prophets.  They are downright insane for their religiosity surpasses the average.  Mistakes get fixed but if believers make mistakes with faith matters they still persist in those beliefs and faith-related matters and that is where the problem is.  Why do faith mistakes get away with it?

Nothing but religion or belief in God insists on belief in belief.   Science and medicine could not function if they operated on a belief in belief basis for each person would be getting in the way with their divergent and sometimes mutually exclusive beliefs.

Belief in belief is then based on cherry-picking and dishonesty and is not a virtue but a vice.

Lindsay argues that atheism needs to stop being seen as a thing or a belief for not believing in God does not amount to another kind of believing - that is believing that there is no God.

Comment: Atheism is the absence of belief in God according to Lindsay.  True but it, by default, implies rejection of God for you are saying God by definition is that which has supreme importance as creator and friend

Lindsay points out that those who tell you that God is responsible for giving your life purpose and meaning are fuzzy for they never tell you how this works.

Comment: True - they are trying to hide how useless their faith is.  They try to get you into a system of religious society and belief and faith to keep you occupied so that you do not see that.

Lindsay says that the God idea expresses the belief that death is only losing a part of you but you exist so there is strictly speaking no death. 

Comment: If so that would explain why believers so cheerily slaughter heretics and others in war.

Lindsay "Religious fundamentalism - is a preference for religious attributions over natural ones when naturalistic ones are available.   It specifically manifests as adhering to a set of false beliefs about the world with such tenacity that established and available countervailing attributions are denied or rejected in an attempt to prevent revision of the beliefs.  That these beliefs are maintained in order to meet or ignore psychosocial needs that certainly are met in other ways should qualify it as a kind of pathological mental state, fundamentalism as a subtype of delusion."  Also, "On the claim that fundamentalism - qualifies as delusional, note that it satisfies Karl Jasper's three criteria for that state: falsity of belief, conviction, and incorrigibility.  The existence of nonfundamentlists, in fact the majority, proves that the needs can be met in other ways.  Incidentally, quasi-religious beliefs held with similar tenacity would be grounds for an indential psychopathology."

Comment: Good!  But notice how all believers in God are fundamentalist in the sense that they want to think God gives them what they have and not down to nature at all for nature is not nature but a mere instrument of God.  Fundamentalism starts with God and ends with God. 

Lindsay: Lindsay lists the attributes of God as,

moral as in an effort to explain moral values

teleological to try and understand the purpose of our lives

phenomenological - trying to explain things that happen as being down to the action of God

abstract - God

spiritual as in feeling supported so that you transcend the troubles of life

psychosocial - how religion takes you feel about others and your place in society and leads to formation of a community

Comment: Not all agree with any one of those things.  They are not about God but why you might want to believe.  They show that believers are in fact

Lindsay: The book says that to make sense of God without understanding God to mean a real being we must think about active control and passive control and how they relate to the God idea.  Active control is about the actions we take to manage what happens to us.   When believers are faced with something unthinkably bad and seemingly unavoidable they may pray to God to do something and that counts as an attempt at feeling they are in active control.  Belief and religion help people feel safer and comforted which is why religion is so powerful in the world even today.  Prayer shows the person wants to control what they cannot control and wants supernatural help to effect that control.   Passive control is when we do nothing for we think of the world as controlling itself or being controlled for us.  It is a form of control in the sense that you gain control by resignation.  Letting something be is a form of control.  The book mentions self-control as well and argues that God deals with that for God is a symbol of what we should do and should refrain from.  The book argues that control is really what the interest in God is mainly about.  And sociality and morality are so close together and one cannot be had without the other so unless you are part of society you cannot really be called moral in any sense.  It is really people you need before you can be moral.  It is not God.  When talking about God, believers "are talking about how they resist feelings of powerlessness".

Comment: This is an excellent argument and shows that God is not about God but about you wanting control.  Doing good to others when it is about feeling in control is using them and shows you are a self-deceiving fake and hypocrite no matter how charming you seem to be.  Atheists want control too but believers take it to a new level - a higher one.

Lindsay: "The sense of control many people derive from their religious beliefs relies upon both sociality and the various attempts people make to attribute causes and effects in the world.  Specifically,  attributing an earthquake to an angry God in the hope that its propitiation will prevent future tremors utilises attribution (the God who can be propitiated and his wrath as the cause of earthquakes) and sociality (community rituals, actions of propitiation, and ethical standards that prohibit behaviors believed to likely anger the deity) to enable the sense of control (prevention of future calamity)."

Comment: Correct.

Lindsay: Part of the attraction an all-powerful and all-good real God has is that it makes people hope this is the best possible world or sometime will be.  Otherwise like atheists they are just going to have to see many evils as just plain hopeless useless evils that have no meaning.  Talk about a perfect God means that as you want God to be the enforcer and creator of your moral values you want to see them as perfect in principle.  "By qualifying one's morals and beliefs as perfect, reality and any hope of effective communication are left completely behind."  God is seen as unquestionable - his ways are also seen that way.  Thence lies the problem.

Comment: To see God as unquestionable really means, "My view of God that I externalise is unquestionable."

Lindsay warns about religious faith, "faith is inherently closed to belief revision, which means that any bad moral guesses it has made are very likely to be slow to change." 

Comment: Notice that a liberal believer is closed to belief revision as well for she will not see if in fact there are doctrines and principle that cannot change to suit the times.  Liberals care more about fads than truth and that is far more oppressive than anything that is an enthusiast for truth.  Liberals are fundamentalists in their own way and end up turning their causes into substitute gods.  Sam Harris is right that moderate religion is not worthy of praise any more than fundamentalist faith is.

Lindsay: Humanism is the outlook that we can live happy lives and be fulfilled and good to each other without a God or belief in God.

Comment: Explicit belief in God is definitely not needed.  Believers say that anybody who does good is implicitly connecting to God and recognising him without realising it.

Lindsay: The book discusses the moral foundations theory.  It argues that each community has moral foundations that may differ from the moral foundations of another community.  It explains how morality arises.  The community needs or feels it needs its rules and principles.  But Lindsay warns, "The chief weakness of moral foundations theory, however descriptive it is of how people's moral values take shape, is that it lends itself naturally to some degree of moral relativism."

Comment: Good!

Lindsay: "Morality, central as it is to the human experience, is confusing and anyone who has read moral philosophy knows that our seemingly best thinking on the matter only makes it worse.  Religion simplifies morality by providing the heuristic of making it the desire of a deity.  Attributing moral salience to 'God' makes morality seem real, which makes it more concrete and thus acceptable, and it also makes morality absolute and final, which is to say simpler."

Comment: That explains one reason why God has so much appeal.  If we make moral mistakes we expect him to reward us by averting too much damage.  We expect him to tell us or inspire us what to do.

Lindsay points out later that believers try to turn God into an explanation for why we need morality and why morality is a duty.  But the explanation cannot be understood so it is not an explanation.  The main reason God is popular is because people think the idea helps them make sense of morality and why right and wrong matter.

The logic is that if we do not have God's law on the basis that God has not ever given any law perhaps because he does not exist then we have only man's law which we have no duty or obligation to obey though it tells us we do. 

Lindsay argues that to see God as being essentially morality means that to say morality grounds God and God is the reason morality exists is to say, "Morality is real and obligatory just because it is real and obligatory."  To say God makes morality real is just to say that morality makes morality real for morality is just another word for God. 

Lindsay observes that when believers ask us to think God when the question arises, "Why is there something rather than nothing?" they mean that all things exist just because God wanted them to.  So this takes us to a more basic and important question. "Why did God want to?"

Comment: Excellent!  It shows the religious are tricksters with that question.  They cannot tell you why God made the vast useless empty galaxies.  They just say, "He just did."  That is not an answer.

Lindsay: It is interesting how, as Lindsay said, people may see enjoying ice cream as good for the soul but will not see making a budget for the next six months that way.

Comment: How holy are people deep down?  How altruistic are they?

Lindsay: Lindsay points out that if everything is evidence or proof for God then nothing is evidence for God.  The reason is that the questioner is left with nothing that can undermine the idea of God as real.  It is refusing to let evidence against God speak.  It is meaningless.  The doctrine that all is evidence is evil and arrogant and bigoted and dishonest - the complete opposite of what God is supposed to be really about. 

Comment: Turning everything into evidence for God is a sign of desperation and accusing doubters and disbelievers of being insane or dishonest.  You cannot put down blindness as an option.  Not when the evidence is everywhere and is there every time. 

Lindsay points out that when God is believed in you tend to see him as working in your church so the Church and your believer friends in fact colour what you think God is.  To fit in you will resort to costly sacrifice for God for that makes you look sincere.  What you are doing is making a costly sacrifice of yourself for the Church.

GOD-IDOL

The gist of Lindsay's thinking is that God is an idol pretending it is not an idol.  Believers are idolaters and pretending they are not.

If belief in God has its risks and can turn so much as one person out of a million into a terrorist then believers have an indirect but real link with the crimes.  The risk will be worse if belief in God is a form of idolatry.  Even if God could exist, faith in God could still be an idol.  It is a case of you being God over God - that is telling yourself God agrees with you.  It is really about you.

Conclusion:

Atheism is a valid word.  It describes a person who lacks faith in God and by implication shows he more than just not believes but rejects God.