Of Teapots, Santa Claus and Doubt
It was pointed out to me in a comment this morning about Bertand Russell’s Teapot, that theists dismiss the ideas of Santa Claus and The Celestial Teapot outright because of the silliness of the ideas and the incredible unlikeliness that they exist, but fail to see their own shortcomings in judgement about their belief in god or Gods along the same premise. I see why this is, after all, who in their right mind would believe a Teapot could be orbiting the sun? The proposition is ludicrous of course, and it is untestable, unfalsifiable, and not least of all, completely fanciful.
The problem as I see it is that, while the proposition of God is just as untestable, unfalsifiable and fanciful as the idea of a Celestial Teapot, the God believers have has this idea rammed down their throats by society for their entire lives, and been told not to question it by the same authorities and religious texts that make the claim in the first place. Like I said in my last piece, if something like Russell’s Teapot were taught in every school to every child, and referred to by parents and others alike, there would be no doubt that it would be accepted as fact that the teapot actually exists. The difference here is of course that the teapot serves no purpose, whereas the God appeals to some of the very basest fears we have about our lives, deaths and the future. People also claim that we owe our very existences to a god or gods, and that by his very own divine words that we should never question that fact. But unlike the teapot, people make assumptions about the world based on the apparent certainty of God’s existence, where he teapot only exists in philosophy and atheistic argument.
If we were to apply the same level of scrutiny to gods as theists apply to Russell’s Teapot, the answer would be that there is no proof for his/her/its existence. But even when this is pointed out, it is never enough to convince the true believer. And this is because of the problem of faith.
As CJ Werleman pointed out in my interview with him last weekend, most people who claim to be Christians or Muslims, while they may be familiar with their holy books, have never bothered to try to place these books into an historical context, or question why an author may have written certain passages in a certain way. Who wrote it? What was their intention at the time of writing it? Has it been presented to the reader in these contexts, or has it been interpreted to the reader, either by translation or by a preacher? And if so, what is the likelihood that these texts have been manipulated to suit the wants and needs of the person interpreting it, or the authority over the religion?
People fail to ask these questions of the one thing they claim guides their lives. Surely if something were as important as so many claim in their lives as religion, there would come a point that the questioning of what it really is should come up, but people are told that the victory in this situation is to believe regardless of facts, regardless of doubts and regardless of any historical or social context that may be presented. That’s right, the victory over doubt is to ignore the doubt and continue on as if it had never been raised. Name any other situation in life where this is considered to be a virtue. In most cases where doubt surfaces the situation is analysed until either the doubt has proven to be either warranted or unwarranted, but not so for faith. Faith goes against all better judgement of the mind, and it depends upon unerring acceptance of a ludicrous proposition, that just because a person believes something that it is therefore true. If I truly believed that Russell’s teapot existed, what would you say about my mental state, given everything else you take as reality in the world?