Monday, April 15, 2013

On Atheism and Converting Me

I've been reading a lot of blogs I've never read before, and, after several hours of hopping from one blog to another (starting on Brietbart, I think, before moving to Salon, then Greta Christina) I came across this linked in a post by Greta Christina. It presents a question for theists, and another one implicitly for atheists that the writer answers himself. The question for theists is: "What would convince you that you were mistaken and persuade you to leave your religion and become an atheist?" The implicit question for atheists is: "What would convince you that you were mistaken and persuade you to convert to a religion?" I intend to answer the question for atheists.

So, what would convince me to convert to a religion? The short answer is simple: Nothing. The short answer is also highly misleading, so, before anyone calls me close minded or unable to consider the other view, let me explain.

I don't consider this to be a one part process. To convince me to convert to a religion, two things would be required: First, I would have to be convinced that the religion is correct in its metaphysics, that is a christian would have to convince me that the abrahamic god is real and that Jesus really existed and died for are sins (as well as some other stuff, but that's the basics of it). Second, having convinced me of the metaphysics, the theist would have to convince me that a) it is beneficial for me to worship like the theist and b) whatever the theist worships is worthy of said worship. The reason it is not possible to convert me to a religion is not the first part (that is convincing me of the metaphysics), but, rather, the second part (that is convincing me to join the religion). To me, the two things that the theist would be required to convince me of that would convince me to worship the same thing, whatever that thing is, are incompatible. Any thing or things that would benefit those that worship it or them are, in my opinion, not worthy of any worship, and same to any thing or things that would harm those that do not worship it or them. Requiring worship or punishing the lack thereof  is a narcissistic act and worthy of nothing but disgust. This applies equally well to people as it does to gods or spirits. Similarly, any thing or things that would be worthy of worship would never provide a benefit to those that worship it or them nor harm to those that don't. As a result, I would have no reason to want to worship the thing or things as worshipping it or them would be putting the thing or things above me and accepting it or their authority, which I would never do.

Now, I'd like to answer the question that is required for the question for atheists: What would convince me to believe a particular religion's metaphysics? I have a similar answer to the writer of the blog I linked, but I'm decidedly more strict about the evidence I would accept.

First, things that would cause me to update my beliefs on the spot to be consistent with the metaphysics of the specific religion:

  1. Aliens with the same metaphysics: Not necessarily aliens that have the same religion, but has the same metaphysical beliefs. Belief in the same god. Belief in the same mythical figures. Belief in a way the world works that is exactly the same as the human religion. This would have to match up perfectly with the metaphysics, or close enough to be accounted for (so saying that Jihadists would get one less or more virgin in the afterlife is acceptable or variations based on biology are acceptable, such as creatures with multiple minds in the same body believing in a number of souls greater than the metaphysics of the human religion believes in is acceptable) and confirmation that those metaphysics were developed independently.
  2. Any direct manifestation of the divine: The divine would have to be consistent with the divine of the religion's metaphysics and confirm the religion's metaphysics when asked or on his/her/its own. This would have to be confirmed to not be a hoax within a reasonable standard of evidence.
Now, things that would cause me to accept parts of the metaphysics as true on the spot:
  1. A lack of a particularly high failure rate when it comes to prophecies: Rather than looking at prophecies that come true for acceptance of a certain set of metaphysics to be true, I would look at the failures. If a religion has 1000 prophecies and 980 of them are false while 20 are true, and the successes meet the criteria set by the author of the blog I linked, I would not convert, but, if, instead, the religion has 20 prophecies meeting the criteria set by the author of the blog and all 20 are true, then I would accept the prophesying abilities on the spot. (I should note that I would consider scientific knowledge far ahead of its time to fit under the category of prophecy.)
  2. Consistent miracles in a way consistent with the metaphysics of the religion: This is similar to the author's miracles requirement that the miracles be consistent with the metaphysics of the group. Thus, if the group believes that prayer causes miracles, then prayer should cause miracles. If the group believes disbelief causes divine wrath (a subset of miracles), then disbelief should cause divine wrath. This would cause me to accept the miracles claim on the spot.
Things that would cause me to give the metaphysical beliefs more thought:
  1. Consistency: If a holy book and all beliefs were completely consistent, or consistent within an acceptable margin of error, I would give the metaphysical beliefs more thought.
  2. Historical accuracy: It must be independently confirmed by contemporary, secular sources
Things I would not accept:
  1. Lack of immoral behavior: If the followers of the metaphysical beliefs have never done immoral stuff, good for them. However, that's not evidence for the validity of their claims.
  2. Speaking in tongues and other "scare quote miracles": "Scare quote miracles" are things that are "miracles" or "miraculous." This includes faith healing that does not pass a double blind test, speaking in tongues, things that would be explainable by the placebo effect, "bible codes," or other such "miracles."
  3. Subjective experiences: This includes conversion stories. Subjective experiences aren't and never will be evidence, to me. Not even my own subjective experiences. Such experiences would cause me to question myself before questioning any metaphysics.
If someone does manage to convince me of his/her metaphysical beliefs, the first thing I would do in most cases would be to rise up in active rebellion. The problems of the state and capitalism and other such stuff is small potatoes compared to the problem of something placing itself above humanity. Of course, with stuff such as buddhism which has no such figure, I'd just update my beliefs, then continue as is.

That is why you shouldn't even attempt to convert me. Convince me of the validity of your claims, and you will have made an enemy for your god or change nothing about how I act. You will not help yourself, your religion, or any god or other such being you may worship by attempting to convert me. You might, however, help me by telling me of a tyrant I must fight, so, by all means, attempt to convert me. I welcome your attempts. I want to know if I must rebel against your god. God isn't dead, but that's just because I haven't had a go at him, yet.

I challenge you, my dear reader, to answer the questions provided or to attempt to convert me in the comments. Enjoy. I know I will. :)

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