Religion and the Madness of Crowds

January 5, 2011

Skepticism towards religion is a sign of sanity. Religious believers think that their crowd has common sense, but that crowd has uncommonly stopped thinking.

Let’s think about skepticism for a minute. Skepticism about something is a state of doubt, an inability to believe it. Not all doubt is automatically sound, or wise. Skepticism can be reasonable, or unreasonable — it all depends on whether a person has a reasonable justification for being skeptical about something.

Here is a sample list of unreasonable justifications for skepticism towards something:

That just feels wrong to me.
I don’t want to believe that.
None of my family or friends believe it.
I’ve never heard of that before.
Lots of people don’t believe it.

Is skepticism towards religion reasonable? What about the way that going against the crowd feels so unreasonable?

Religion can’t claim that going along with everyone else and going along with common sense is enough to confirm religion’s sanity. Common sense really can’t help religion much at all. Common sense is only sensible if it is truly common: if it is widely applicable and workable for all people in all areas of life. An example of common sense is ordinary basic logic: it is part of common sense since anyone can rely on it, for any area of their life. We must watch out for “the madness of crowds” — we must beware when a crowd believes something for reasons that could never commonly be acceptable under other circumstances.

Religion is exactly the sort of thing that uses “the madness of crowds”. Religion is not a fulfillment of common sense, although it pretends to be. Religion is not a reasonable basis for belief, although it tries to hide its fraud. Religion demands common belief based on “evidence” that would never be accepted in any other sphere of daily life. Religion accepts “explanations” requiring violations of basic rules of ordinary reasoning that would never be tolerated in any other sphere of daily life. Religion calls out for skepticism. The reasonable justification for doubting religion is that it demands violations of common sense. Religion is essentially a form of deception, and leads to delusion.

In contrast with religion (and all ideology), science values the fulfillment of genuine good sense. Science cannot support any ideology. Too many other notions alien to science would have to be added to science to distort it into looking like an ideology. Science respects all evidence and logic, its open methodology values criticism and correction, and its knowledge progresses by reliably working better and better for everyone. Science should be much more common, indeed. We need to support common sense as our common cause, for humanity’s sake.  

Stay away from the unthinking crowds — there is only madness in religion’s methods.