Nine ways to stay emotionally healthy

1: Daily enjoy the beauty of simply being alive. Humbly acknowledge there are likely millions of humans who, due to circumstances beyond their control, do not enjoy the freedoms and pleasures daily available to you.


2: Meet at least one new person every week, and explore their emotional perspective on life. Compare it to your own emotional disposition to assess whether you can make improvements. 


3: Weekly assess the extent of your emotional development over the years. Acknowledge both your progress and deficiencies. 


4: Take regular inventory of all your more negative emotions (especially bitterness and jealousy), and decide whether their existence will be beneficial to you in any way in the future. 


5: Give something to a stranger every week, preferably someone in need. This can be a heartfelt compliment to someone looking down, or perhaps a bit of cash for someone you suspect is homeless.


6: Eliminate inessential relationships with everyone who emotionally fatigues you. This includes anyone who attempts to “guilt” you into accommodating their desires, and those whom you’ve attempted to emotionally help, to repeated failure. 


7: Cry unashamedly in compassion for real people at least once every week. This can be accomplished through the real stories of your friends, great historical movies, podcasts such as “This American Life”, or written stories. 


8: Find someone to love (romantically or platonically) without the expectation of anything in return. If you discover you are expecting favors from them in exchange for your affection, make the necessary changes to your emotional disposition. 


9: Include several persons in your life with whom you can honestly exchange humble advice on how to make personal improvements. These friends will be essential to your emotional growth.


Inference to the best explanation

Inference to be best explanation” is an illegitimate epistemology.

Abduction, sometimes called “inference to the best explanation“, is appropriate as a tool within science for identifying and submitting hypotheses for testing and potential falsification, but it is falls far short of the rigor required for epistemic integrity.

Consider a robbery in which a heavy safe has been removed from a normally locked office. One hundred individuals have keys to the door of the office. The strongest among those one hundreds individuals is Bob who can lift slightly more than the others. All else being equal, Bob becomes the best explanation. Within an epistemology that considers “inference to the best explanation” a legitimate reason to arrive at epistemic conclusions, Bob took the safe.

This abductive reasoning (also called retroduction) is the foundation of the epistemologies of a significant minority of Christians, if not the majority. Instead of mapping the degree of mapping certainty along the epistemic gradient to the degree of evidential certainty along the evidential gradient, Millions instead simply identify the most likely conclusion, and flip a switch from disbelief to an unnuance belief.

But rational belief is gradient. Identifying the best explanation, and making a binary conclusion that this best explanation is the explanation we will adopt is irrational. Rational belief requires that we do nothing less than map our degree of belief to the degree of the relevant evidence.

Yet millions, especially within theism, are taught that if explanation X is the best explanation, they are warranted in adopting that explanation as a binary conclusion.

Inference to the best explanation” is only legitimate as an experimental design tool, and has no place in the epistemology of a rational mind.

Moral and Magical

Most times you hear “That’s immoral!”, the goal of the speaker is to evoke negative emotions in their audience.

The goal is not to encourage the audience to recognize the act in question as falling into any actual perceptible category of immorality within some universally accepted moral scheme.

In this way, calling something “immoral” is parallel to calling something “magical”.

To say “That’s magical!” is normally to attempt to evoke positive emotions in the audience, the same emotions the speaker feels.

There is no actual realm of magic necessary to accomplish the goal of evoking these positive emotions.

Proclaiming some action “immoral” successfully accomplishes the goal of evoking the negative emotions that might serve as social pressure to stop the behavior, all without needing to justify the actual existence of a moral realm that would legitimate such utterances as actually referring to an immorality as real as a real magical moment in which laws of nature are violated.

This is a common equivocation employed by those hoping to impose their emotionally-derived values on others.

Perhaps it is merely a slight dishonesty, often committed subconsciously.

But I find it most often indicative of a lack of actual intellectual integrity, and an impediment to any productive discussion.

The Failure of the Biblical Notion of Salvific Belief

This post will demonstrate that the binary notion of salvific belief (belief leading to salvation of the soul) found in the Bible is logically absurd.

You may love both 1) pizza and 2) your children, but you wouldn’t abandon your children as you might a pizza during a catastrophe.

You may spend money on both 1) a pizza and 2) a house, but I would hope the prices you pay for each are vastly different.

You may believe both that 1) your young son will attend university and that 2) your young son will live to see tomorrow, but those two beliefs are very likely at very different degrees of certainty.

Loving, spending money and believing are all gradient concepts.

Gradient concepts are sometimes represented with low-resolution paired binary tags such as “hate” and “love”, “cheap” and “expensive”, and “disbelief” and “belief”.

These tags, in spite of their binary linguistic essences, do nothing to change the gradient essences of the concepts they are recruited to represent.

Modifiers such as “very”, “slightly”, “absolutely” or “tend to” are often attached to the basic tags in an attempt to add precision to the actual degree of loving, spending or believing one wishes to convey.

Most humans have no trouble understanding the intrinsic gradient nature of loving and spending, but have much more difficulty perceiving the concept of believing a gradient concept.

We have a psychological impulse and social pressure to either believe or disbelieve any given proposition. Even those deeply schooled in science often deviate from the degree of scientific certainty to epistemically gravitate to one of the poles of either disbelief or belief.

But, once again, neither the binary nature of the linguistic terms employed to reflect a gradient concept, nor the psychological impulse to sort propositions into one of the low resolution buckets of disbelief or belief are reasons not to map our degree of certainty to the degree of the relevant scientific certainty.

Rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of the relevant evidence as one perceives it.

Because evidence for inductively assessed propositions normally arrives incrementally to the assessor of the evidence, adding to or subtracting from the balance of evidence with each bit of confirming or disconfirming piece of evidence, the scientific certainty for such a proposition can be at any point upon the evidential gradient for any assessor of the evidence..

And because a rational degree of certainty must invariably map to the current degree of scientific certainty, the rational mind updates its epistemic degree of certainty upwards or downwards with the introduction of each new bit of confirming or disconfirming evidence.

This notion of rational belief as intrinsically gradient is not controversial, and this notion sets the stages for our discussion of the salvific belief found in the Bible.

Salvific belief treated as vague or binary

John 3:18 says…

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Imagine a stranger knocks at your door and says…

“Give me money. If you do, I’ll reward you with everything you’ve ever dreamed of. If you don’t, I’ll inflict upon you every misery you can imagine.”

Wouldn’t this be not just a little bit strange? The stranger has not specified how much money will result in reward and not misery.

This is the first absurdity. The demands for belief in Jesus found in the Bible are presented as demand for a binary belief: either you believe or you don’t. Nothing specifying the degree of belief accompanies the demand, yet the consequences are highly nuanced and as polar as one could ever imagine. It is almost as if these passages were written in an age that had not yet conceived of the necessary nuanced degrees of certainty we easily recognize as essential to a rational epistemic position in this age of science. It is as absurd as our stranger demanding an unspecified amount of money without including the threshold at which the reward will be granted, and the misery avoided.

I’ve been quite interested in the various degree of belief at which Christians place this threshold absent in the Bible. There seems to be four very different positions on this.

1. Any degree of belief greater than zero.

2. Any degree of belief greater than 50%.

3. Any “high” degree of belief.

4. Only 100% certainty.

This list of vastly diverse opinions on salvific belief serves to highlight the absurdity of treating belief as if it were binary. Salvific belief is the only way to redemption, yet it is presented so vaguely as to completely confuse the very Christians who seek that redemption. They disagree on the threshold in incomparable ways. This vague treatment of the belief at the core of salvation is not the modus operandi of a rational god who wishes to present the method of salvation in an unambiguous way.

This becomes more salient when you imagine “believe” replaced with another gradient concept, “love” in our scenario of the stranger at your door.

Imagine the stranger at your door demanding that you “love” him to be rewarded and avoid unimaginable misery. We recognize instantly that, while we might love the stranger as we would any other human, we probably do not love him to the degree that he expects. So also for the the amount of money, and so also for the amount of belief he might expect as we shall soon see.

Now imagine the stranger at your door says…

“I am your king. If you believe I am your king, I’ll reward you with great pleasure in my kingdom, but if you disbelieve, you’ll be tormented for a very long time in my dungeons.”

Now that we have introduced belief into the scenario, we can see how absurd the demand is. The two possible choices and their consequences are unambiguous, yet the degree of belief is unstated. Belief is not binary, yet the Bible treats it as such with no gradient nuance introduced in any of the hundreds of passages referring to salvific belief.

(Some Christians attempt to suggest that salvific belief is binary since it involves the binary choice of following or not following Jesus. This is misguided. Imagine you are forced to cross an old bridge because a bear is chasing you. You assess the bridge to be 50% likely to hold your weight. You make the rational choice to cross the bridge since your chances of fighting off the bear are very small. As you cross the bridge, would you then increase the original 50% degree of likelihood the bridge will hold your weight to near 100%? Of course not. Yet the Bible absurdly presents such a move away from the actual evidence a virtue as we shall see next.)

(Another objection I’ve heard is that we can not easily place a highly specific number to the degree of belief. This is often true, but rationality only requires that the epistemic agents feels they have honestly mapped their degree of belief to the degree of the evidence, even though those degrees may be quantitatively imprecise. This will be dealt with in the next section.)

Salvific belief encouraged with no reference to the degree of the evidence

The absurdity deepens. Not only do we have an alleged God of the Universe unable to clearly state how much belief is required, we also have hundreds of passages referring to salvific belief without the slightest suggestion that the degree of belief be mapped to the degree of the evidence.

As we’ve already established, rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of relevant evidence. Imagine the stranger at your door says…

“I am a king. If you believe I am king, I’ll reward you with great pleasure in my kingdom, but if you disbelieve, you’ll be tormented for a very long time in my dungeons.”

In this circumstance, it is not hard to imagine a majority of those so confronted simply conjuring up belief in the stranger as king just to avoid the negative consequences were the stranger is telling the truth.

However, how could any actual king be just? Would not a perfectly just king honor only epistemic honesty from you?

Let’s review John 3:18.

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

Here we have the bald affirmation that Jesus is God’s one and only son. There is no requirement to map your degree of belief to the degree of the evidence. In fact, you will unlikely find any promoter of Christianity suggesting that believing in Jesus to a degree not warranted by the perceived degree of relevant evidence is improper.

(This would be an interesting study. Ask church leaders the following question: “Is believing in Jesus to a degree not warranted by the perceived degree of the evidence a virtue? Is it epistemically dishonest?” I suggest you’ll find yourself up against the most vigorous attempts to evade this question.)

Let’s modify our scenario a bit.

Imagine two strangers arrive at your door, each claiming to be the actual king (let’s ignore the fact that neither may be) that will reward you immensely if you believe, and torture you horribly if you disbelieve. Each offers you a letter allegedly certifying their right to the thrown. Each asks you to look deep in their eyes as evidence of their honesty. Yet, each stranger continues to emphasize that you’ll be tormented horribly if you do not believe one or the other is indeed king in spite of the evidence that each is the actual king being equivalent in weight.

Is this an unrealistic scenario? Not at all.

Imagine a young girl with a Muslim father and a Christian mother. In her honest little mind, based on the teaching of each parent, she holds it equally likely that the Muslim God and the Christian God are actual…yet she must choose only one according to both the Koran and the Bible. And neither book leaves open the option of simply and honestly not choosing either. Both books affirm that, if she fails to choose, that is tantamount to rejection, and worthy of eternal damnation.

Is it here not clear to the rational mind that neither alleged God could be just? For how could any just God condemn epistemic honesty?

Nowhere in the Bible do you find the notion that rational belief is a degree of belief that maps to the degree of relevant evidence as perceived. And the Bible’s demand for a degree of belief unmapped to the evidence is quite ample grounds for its rejection. Just gods don’t encourage you to become epistemically dishonest by detaching your degree of epistemic certainty from the scientific certainty. And just gods certainty do not damn humans who, out of epistemically honesty, refuse to choose one of two or more evidentially equivalent options.

Not only does the Bible ignore the rational epistemic commitment to mapping your degree of belief to the degree of the relevant evidence, it encourages belief beyond the evidence, and classifies doubt a character flaw rather than as a rational response to the evidence.

Look at the following verses.

“For we live by faith and not by sight.”

“διὰ πίστεως γὰρ περιπατοῦμεν, οὐ διὰ εἴδους”

2 Corinthians 5:7

“Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Ἔστιν δὲ πίστις ἐλπιζομένων ὑπόστασις, πραγμάτων ἔλεγχος οὐ βλεπομένων”

Hebrews 11:1

Note these verses contain no suggestion belief (πίστις) is a gradient act rationally mapping to the degree of the evidence. Explore the many other reference to belief in the Bible. You’ll find the consistently irrational form of belief you see in these two verses encouraged. (http://biblehub.com/greek/4102.htm) There is one notable exception.

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

“Λέγω γὰρ διὰ τῆς χάριτος τῆς δοθείσης μοι παντὶ τῷ ὄντι ἐν ὑμῖν μὴ ὑπερφρονεῖν παρ’ ὃ δεῖ φρονεῖν ἀλλὰ φρονεῖν εἰς τὸ σωφρονεῖν, ἑκάστῳ ὡς ὁ θεὸς ἐμέρισεν μέτρον πίστεως”

Romans 12:3

This verse is not dealing with salvific belief, but with a post-redemptive belief related to the assessment of one’s worth. Note that, rather than the measure of belief depending upon the measure of the evidence, the degree of belief is absurdly dealt to individuals by God. This frees the Christian from the obligation of aligning their degree of belief to the degree of the evidence, and instead associates virtuous belief with whatever degree of belief God grants. If you find yourself believing more than the evidence warrants, it can be, according to this verse, be attributed to the grace of God, and that would be, if not rational, at least virtuous, right? Of course not.

The absurdity in this can be seen if adherent to religion X considers the identical form of belief of the adherent of religion Y. If religion Y also states belief comes from its particular God, and their own God-belief is, as a result, honest and virtuous, no adherents of either religion can be considered irrational. And since no just God would damn someone for an honest and virtuous form of belief, your own religion is in error if it condemns those who have “honestly” and “virtuously” arrived at their God-beliefs through the same process you employ.

This perverse severing of the degree of belief away from the degree of the evidence is made even more clear by the Bible’s treatment of doubt.

“But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For that person must not suppose he will receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

“αιτειτω δε εν πιστει μηδεν διακρινομενος ο γαρ διακρινομενος εοικεν κλυδωνι θαλασσης ανεμιζομενω και ριπιζομενω. μη γαρ οιεσθω ο ανθρωπος εκεινος οτι ληψεται τι παρα του κυριου. ανηρ διψυχος ακαταστατος εν πασαις ταις οδοις αυτου.”

James 1:6-8

Those who doubt, according to the Bible, are not simply mapping their degree of belief to the degree of the evidence, but are “double-minded” and “unstable in all [their] ways”.

The facts are clear. The Bible wrenches the degree of belief away from the degree of the evidence, and makes a degree of belief exceeding the evidence virtuous, and any doubt a character flaw. The Bible is therefore not representative of any God who encourages rational belief.

And this abandoning of the mapping between belief and evidence becomes even more apparent based on the history of Christianity. Martin Luther stated “Reason is a whore.” Turtullian proclaimed “credible est quia ineptum est” (“I believe because it is incongruous”). Kierkegaard spoke of a “qualitative leap” of belief above the evidence necessary to follow God. This notion that salvific belief is rational in some way is a recent invention. Nothing in the Bible suggests that its God requires a mapping of the degree of belief to the degree of the relevant evidence as honestly perceived. The Bible introduces not the slightest reference to the standards of evidence and tools of rationality we successfully employ today in the sciences and in our personal lives.

(One exception cited is the Bereans in Acts 17:11 who “…received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” But this is was simply their comparing the account of the life of Jesus to Old Testament prophecies that the New Testament writers had access to before they wrote down the account of the life of Jesus. Imagine being able to invent and/or tweak the life of a god-man based on a multitude of well-known vague messianic prophecies the public held in high anticipation.)

And even those who claim their belief in Jesus is rational do nothing to discourage those who believe in Jesus irrationally. Children in churches the world over are encouraged to believe long before they are taught standards of evidence or the tools of rationality. Many adult Christians, even as they claim they believe based on various evidences for an intelligent creator and an actual resurrection, know they did not become a Christian based on these evidences. A substantial majority of Christians become Christians long before they are taught to think rationally, and older Christians will invoke as virtuous the innocent unschooled belief the little child places in a salvation story motivated by emotions, most predominantly, the fear of eternal damnation. At the same time they will consider the belief of a Muslim child, identical to Christian belief in all but its object, worthy of damnation.

This attempted reformation of salvific belief into something somehow rational transparently transgresses the Bible, Christian history, and the actual practices found in Sunday Schools around the world.

Conclusion

The Bible’s notion of salvific belief can be safely rejected as nonsense for the two reason argued above.

1. The Bible, instead of treating belief as gradient, treats it as a binary act, making no reference to any sort of nuanced position.

2. The Bible, makes no reference to the evidence in the context of salvific belief, encourages a degree of belief above the degree of the evidence, and disparages doubt as a character flaw.

Any ideology that encourages a perversion of rational belief is false. For the rational mind, the degree of belief in any proposition must be honestly mapped to the degree of the relevant perceived evidence for that proposition. The Bible fails in this respect, and can therefore be dismissed as nonsense.

Jehovah’s Lawyers

In a recent podcast, I heard a Christian apologist attempt to explain away the killing of the Canaanites. The following are the primary points made. 
1. Not that many people were actually killed since the “cities” were actually villages. (This is to tacitly admit it would have been somehow morally wrong if more people had been killed.)

2. Because there were not that many people killed, it was not all that immoral. (An argument made just a few minutes later suggested that the Canaanites had to be killed since there were too many to be assimilated.)

3. Only combatants were killed since the noncombatants had already fled. (Though the issue is actually whether Jehovah commanded noncombatants be killed…and he did. And are we to imagine the elderly and infants were all able to flee prior to the slaughter?)

4. The number of people claimed to be killed was exaggerated as exaggeration was the custom of books written in that day. (In addition to avoiding the actual issue of whether a just and loving God would order the slaughter of all the Canaanites the Israelites encountered, it exposes the fact that the Bible does not have the fidelity and style if written by a God of Truth.)

5. The order by Jehovah to kill infants was “hyperbole”. (Is this the “Word of God” we are talking about, or just another book written with the human style of exaggeration common to that time?)

6. Jehovah’s order to kill everyone must have been hyperbole. “In the cities of the nations the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely destroy them — the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites — as the LORD your God has commanded you. Otherwise, they will teach you to follow all the detestable things they do in worshiping their gods, and you will sin against the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18) (Except that Jehovah here clearly gives the reason to kill all of them.)

7. The reason to kill infants was that Jehovah knew they would grow up to be like their allegedly wicked parents. (Would we today ever employ this silly argument when dealing with the children of criminals? Would not the adoption of infants and children by loving Israelites parents have made them just as righteous as Israelite children?)

What is perhaps most mendacious is that fact that, in this podcast and another dealing with this issue I’ve listened to recently, both over an hour in length, neither one ever mentioned the fact that God commanded infants to be killed. This is like arguing a murderer was not actually illegally parked during the murder, completely ignoring the most egregious act committed that day.

(Exodus 23:28-33, 33:2, 34:11-16, Numbers 33:50-56, Deuteronomy 7:1-5, 9:3, 11:23, 12:2-3, 20:10-18, Joshua 3:10, 13:6, 23:5)

Is a presupposition of cause-effect a legitimate requisite to honest inquiry? 

Recently I had someone claim the following.

Acceptance of premise ‘X’ on the basis of evidence ‘y’ demonstrates your acceptance of the principle of cause and effect, logically prior to the observance of those regularities.

This is misguided. 

Observation is needs no commitment to any cause-effect paradigm. It could be the case that observed regularities lead to no predictive power. No commitment to a cause/effect paradigm is logically necessary, and, in fact, woud be epistemically dishonest. 

The rational mind will commit to cause/effect only after there has been some validation of that notion. The validation of cause/effect is the predictive and explanatory power that is noted after the observation of regularities. 

Most of us go through this stage of validating cause/effect when we are very young, when the validated expectation of cause/effect is deeply sublimated, leading many to assume cause/effect is a necessary presumtion for exploration of the world to get off the ground. It is not. It is entirely possible that the regularies we perceieve have not predictive poweer, thus making the notion of cause/effect impotent and essential false. 

Most of us have rationally determined, without presuming, that cause/effect is a justified belief due to its predictive and explanatory power. But because the predictive and explanatory power legitimating accepting cause/effect comes after the observation of regularities, it would be epistemically dishonest for anyone to begin a quest for truths with a mere presumption that cause/effect existed. 

One might be tempted to claim that this is self-defeating in that finding predictive efficacy itself requires an unlegitimated commitment to cause/effect. Nonsense. Rationality is simply following what we perceive to work to the degree that it works for as long as it works. Irrationality is following what we perceive not to work. To observe a corrrelation between A and B, and to observe that the greater the correlation, the greater the chance of C, is not presuming cause/effect. It simply observing the necessary correlation that legitimates belief in the efficacy of the notion of cause/effect.

Imagine you find a metal detector laying on the beach. You don’t need to nor should you presume that metal detector is accurate and well calibrated. You test its signal against its successes detecting metal. The same holds for the potentially useful notion of cause/effect. If we are to remain rational, we test it for predictive power before placing confidence in it.

This notion that scientists and rationalists must hold presuppositions is a common tactic of theists who would like to level the playing field with tu quoque arguments. It is a dishonest attempt to make religious belief equivalent in quality to scientifically established belief. 

To the degree that theists do this intentionally, to that degree they are dishonest. To the degree that they do it unintentionally, to that degree they are ignorant of the nature of rational belief. 

No presuppositions are necessary. Only follow what you honestly percieve to be providing predictive power, including fundamental notions such as cause/effect. 

Nancy Pearcey – Not Finding Truth

The following is a response to a post by Nancy Pearcey to promote her book Finding Truth. She claims five points found in Romans chapter one serve as a foundation to address other worldviews. 

The life-diminishing blunder of following a holy book instead of honestly examining reality is never more salient than it is in Nancy’s 5 points she extracts from Romans 1. 
1. (Identify the Idol) Calling an appreciation of reason (after finding it quite reliable after a lifetime of testing) an “idol” or god-substitute is as absurd as the liberals calling George Bush a “Hitler”. This intentional linguistic distortion to poison the well speaks directly to the degree of dishonesty Nancy and other apologists are willing to employ, absurdly to defend a “god of truth”. 
2. (Identify the Idol’s Reductionism) If you eliminate possible conclusions from your quest for truth as unacceptable, then you are not an honest seeker. Your psychological longing to have more intrinsic dignity than other animals is evidence of nothing. If it feels “dehumanizing” for you to be merely the product of a materialistic reality, and you, as a result reject that conclusion, you most certainly can not claim to be an honest seeker. No presuppositions are allowed for the honest seeker. 

3. (Test the Worldview) Excellent! This is correct! But no cherry-picking. If you have never seen something uncaused, and you therefore conclude both that 1) the universe is caused and that 2) there is an uncaused god, you are cherry-picking. Pay honest attention to all the things you have never seen including a) a disembodied mind, b) life after death, and c) the mechanism that something “spiritual” could manipulate the physical world. If you find inexplicable contradictions on both sides, be willing to say “I don’t know”. And test well the claims of Christianity, not the least of them the Romans 1 claim that the unevangelized have enough information to make them culpable to a degree that would deserve hellfire. Test the power of prayer against the vast bodies of statistical data we have today. Test the wisdom granted by the Holy Spirit against wisdom after a good education. Assess how many logical fallacies those with the Holy Spirit commit against those without the Holy Spirit. Statistically the data for the power of the Holy Spirit in respect to divorce rates, obesity rates and crime rates in areas in which the Holy Spirit is claim to be most powerful. Yes! Test your worldview! 

4. (Test the Idol) Nancy claims that every reductionist worldview contradicts itself. Yet here I remain, willing to answer questions about my worldview so that any contradictions can be exposed. Fire away. If you ignore the coherent statements of the many individuals with non-religious approaches to the world, and hunt for ideologies that are incoherent or inconsistent, you’ll find them. It’s like finding a mistake in Tommy’s equation, then claiming your own equation must be therefore correct. This is probably the biggest deception among apologists today; demonstrate someone is wrong and imply you are therefore correct.

5. (Replace the Idol) Yes, if you can find someone who is wrong, you can then dishonestly suggest your own ideology is therefore correct. And this is done all the time. Demonstrating someone else’s god (idol) is made of clay does not make your own iron god anything more than iron. This move is both irrational and dishonest.

Critical thinking is great! But let’s not pretend motivated reasoning billed as critical thinking is anything less than dishonest.