In a recent comment thread, a particularly devout believer whom I will identify as TJT responded to a post as follows:
TJT: “It has not been demonstrated objectively that God does not exist. This means that a belief in God is not irrational, as you try to claim.”
Me: “An attempt to shift the burden of proof. The Flying Spaghetti Monster has also not been proven NOT to exist. Or any other wacko apparition that somebody proclaims to be real.”
TJT: It is not an attempt to shift the burden of proof. Also, the flying spaghetti monster is a contingent being, unless you are just giving a different name to what is commonly called God.
ME: God, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Cookie Monster, any other imaginary being dreamed up by mythicists. It is all the same.
TJT: They are not the same. People do not dream up God.
ME: Of course they do. All throughout human history they have dreamed up all kinds of gods. You just think YOUR god is different.
TJT: You do not seem to know much about history or religion.
ME: This much I know. The followers of every religion think theirs is the only “true” one.
The discussion continued, but we will stop here.
What is it I need to understand about history and religion? I understand that many religions have arisen and disappeared. Here’s a list of ten that I found with a quick Google: Olmec, Vedism, Ashurism, Tengriism, Manichaeism, Mithraism, Minoan, Atenism, Canaanite, and Finnish Paganism. There are many more, including an uncountable number from prehistoric times. They all had devout believers who were convinced that their religion was the only right one. They were apparently wrong. All of those religions, and their gods, have been added to the large and growing trash heap of discarded religions.
Many of those ancient religions were wiped out by military conquest, often by Christian nations. Does superior military force indicate that the Christian god is the one true god? Does might make right?
Some believers today would probably reply that Christianity has been around for a long time. About 2000 years. Judaism has been around about twice that long. Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and Confucianism are all older than Christianity. Islam is only a few hundred years younger than Christianity, and it is growing faster than Christianity.
Other apologists would note that 32% of the world is Christian. Islam is next with 23%, Hinduism with 15% and Buddhism with 7%, with others following far behind. There are two ways to look at this: The glass is half-full (or in this case one third) argument is that more people have accepted Christianity than any other religion, so it must be the real one. The two-thirds empty argument could rebut by noting that a large majority of the world population rejects Christianity. As noted earlier, many nations were conquered by armies from Christian nations. Their religions were obliterated, and often the population was converted to Christianity by force. Does this demonstrate that the Christian god is the one true god?
The number of Muslims in the world is projected to be about the same as Christians by 2050 if current trends continue. This is in spite of the growth of Christianity in Africa, the continent with the highest birth rates. This should give pause to those arguing that the number of adherents is how we should decide on the one true religion.
All religious believers agree that all but one of the world’s religions are frauds. They just differ on which one isn’t. Nonbelievers and believers are in even closer agreement on that. We think they all are frauds.
Wait! Omigod! Could it be? Could all those believers be as wrong as all those ancient people who believed in their now-extinct religions?
No study of history or religion will give us any indication of which one, if any, is the true religion. Believers should think about the fact that almost all of the religions ever invented are extinct. What logic or evidence can they offer that proves theirs will not join all those others on the trash heap?
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