Open your mind!

Sometime, when discussing religion with a believer, a peculiar accusation comes up: ‘you are so closed-minded’.

Personally, I find that statement to be a near-insult. Deep down I feel that what this person really thinks is ‘You should think like me’, not that I should be open-minded. The fact remains that my mind is open to the possibility of gods – that’s why I ask for proof instead of rejecting the notion out of hand.

In a rational world we are convinced about the existence of things. We don’t really ‘believe’, we merely assume something to be true. These assumptions can easily be invalidated without crushing our self-esteem. Unfortunately, we colloquially often use ‘I believe’ when we mean to say ‘I’m convinced’. Believers latch onto this linguistic imprecision and assert that since we believe these things to be true, science is also a religion. But even if science was a near-religion, the differences between religion and science are staggering:

Let’s assume I’m convinced of a certain assumption: earth is flat. Along comes someone with incontrovertible proof of a different view. A short while later (hopefully) I’ll have accepted the new view on reality and integrated it into my own.

Wishful thinking? No, this happens regularly. Here are two of the most spectacular changes from the past 100 years: Einstein’s theory of relativity over Newtonian Physics and the current model of continents drifting on lava over the Monolithic Earth model. Each time new evidence is found, it is examined, and when a new model fits better, the old one is discarded.

Contrast that with religious thinking: The Bible is the unchanging truth, any evidence that does not fit the ‘truth’ is rejected or laughed away as ‘theory’. Somehow believers sucker themselves into believing that their minds are open when they, on the same grounds that they accept theirs, reject the notion of another god. That is pure dogma – as closed-minded as you can get.

The ‘open your mind’ line is almost as stupid as the other old chestnut ‘you should be more humble’.

Professor Strangelove

The bible tells the story where the Israelites, after vanquishing the Medianites, murder all male children, and all non-virgin women. They then take all virgins (Numeri 31:35 boasts that their number was 32’000) as their (sex) slaves. A little later, after again being victorious – this time against the Canaanites – the Israelites kill all survivors: women, boys, girls, even infants.

No-one in their right mind would argue today that these are morally defensible acts.

Enter Professor William Lane Craig. He argues – in writing – that the wholesale slaughter of infants, women and children was essentially their salvation, not murder. Not content with spouting this horrifyingly twisted madness, he then goes on to argue that the massacre was hardest on the Israelites who had to murder all these defenseless, terrorized people.

This is, by the way, the same professor who argues that without a god there would be no objective morals. Color me immoral, but I want nothing of this celestial morality.

What bothers me most, though, is that Craig is by no means stupid. In fact, he’s much more intelligent than you and me combined. If someone this smart can rationalize away religious terror, mayhem and murder, we don’t need to explain why stupid people do it.