Proof #7 - Understanding religious delusion

Let's imagine that I tell you the following story:

This, of course, is the story of Santa Claus.

But let's say that I am an adult, and I am your friend, and I reveal to you that I believe that this story is true. I believe it with all my heart. And I try to talk about it with you and convert you to believe it as I do.

What would you think of me? You would think that I am delusional, and rightly so.

Why do you think that I am delusional? It is because you know that Santa is imaginary. The story is a total fairy tale. No matter how much I talk to you about Santa, you are not going to believe that Santa is real. Flying reindeer, for example, are make-believe. The dictionary defines delusion as, "A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence." That definition fits perfectly.

Since you are my friend, you might try to help me realize that my belief in Santa is a delusion. The way that you would try to do that is by asking me some questions. For example, you might say to me:

These are all quite logical questions that you have asked. I have answered all of them for you. I am wondering why you can't see what I see, and you are wondering how I can be so insane.

Why didn't my answers satisfy you? Why do you still know that I am delusional? It is because my answers have done nothing but confirm your assessment. My answers are ridiculous. In order to answer your questions, I invented, completely out of thin air, a magical sleigh, a magical self-cleaning suit, magical chimneys, "timelessness" and magical invisibility. You don't believe my answers because you know that I am making this stuff up. The invalidating evidence is voluminous.

Now let me show you another example...

Another Example

Imagine that I tell you the following story:

Now, what would you say to me about this story? Even though I do have a book, in English, that tells the story of this lost Jewish civilization, and even though I do have the signed attestations, what do you think? This story sounds nutty, doesn't it?

You would ask some obvious questions. For example, at the very simplest level, you might ask, "Where are the ruins and artifacts from this Jewish civilization in America?" The book transcribed from the plates talks about millions of Jewish people doing all kinds of things in America. They have horses and oxen and chariots and armor and large cities. What happened to all of this? I answer simply: it is all out there, but we have not found it yet. "Not one city? Not one chariot wheel? Not one helmet?" you ask. No, we haven't found a single bit of evidence, but it is out there somewhere. You ask me dozens of questions like this, and I have answers for them all.

Most people would assume that I am delusional if I told them this story. They would assume that there were no plates and no angel, and that I had written the book myself. Most people would ignore the attestations -- having people attest to it means nothing, really. I could have paid the attesters off, or I could have fabricated them. Most people would reject my story without question.

What's interesting is that there are millions of people who actually do believe this story of the angel and the plates and the book and the Jewish people living in North America 2,000 years ago. Those millions of people are members of the Mormon Church, headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. The person who told this incredible story was a man named Joseph Smith, and he lived in the United States in the early 1800s. He told his story, and recorded what he "translated from the plates", in the Book of Mormon.

If you meet a Mormon and ask them about this story, they can spend hours talking to you about it. They can answer every question you have. Yet the 5.99 billion of us who are not Mormons can see with total clarity that the Mormons are delusional. It is as simple as that. You and I both know with 100% certainty that the Mormon story is no different from the story of Santa. And we are correct in our assessment. The invalidating evidence is voluminous.

Another example

Imagine that I tell you this story:

What do you make of this story? If you have never heard the story before, you may find it to be nonsensical in the same way that you feel about the stories of the golden plates and Santa. You would especially feel that way once you read the book that was supposedly transcribed from Gabriel, because much of it is opaque. The dreams, the horse, the angel, the ascension, and the appearances of the angel in the flesh -- you would dismiss them all because it is all imaginary.

But you need to be careful. This story is the foundation of the Muslim religion, practiced by more than a billion people around the world. The man is named Mohammed, and the book is the Koran (also spelled Qur'an or Qur'aan). This is the sacred story of the Koran's creation and the revelation of Allah to mankind.

Despite the fact that a billion Muslims profess some level of belief in this story, people outside the Muslim faith consider the story to be imaginary. No one believes this story because this story is a fairy tale. They consider the Koran to be a book written by a man and nothing more. A winged horse that flew to heaven? That is imaginary -- as imaginary as flying reindeer.

If you are a Christian, please take a moment right now to look back at the Mormon and Muslim stories. Why is it so easy for you to look at these stories and see that they are imaginary fairy tales? How do you know, with complete certainty, that Mormons and Muslims are delusional? You know these things for the same reason you know that Santa is imaginary. There is no evidence for any of it. The stories involve magical things like angels and winged horses, hallucinations, dreams. Horses cannot fly -- we all know that. And even if they could, where would the horse fly to? The vacuum of space? Or is the horse somehow "dematerialized" and then "rematerialized" in heaven? If so, those processes are made up too. Every bit of it is imaginary. We all know that.

An unbiased observer can see how imaginary these three stories are. In addition, Muslims can see that Mormons are delusional, Mormons can see that Muslims are delusional, and Christians can see that both Mormons and Muslims are delusional.

One final example

Now let me tell you one final story:

This, of course, is the story of Jesus. Do you believe this story? If you are a Christian, you probably do. I could ask you questions for hours and you will have answers for every one of them, in just the same way that I had answers for all of the Santa questions that my friend asked me in Example 1. You cannot understand how anyone could question any of it, because it is so obvious to you.

Here is the thing that I would like to help you understand: The four billion people who are not Christians look at the Christian story in exactly the same way that you look at the Santa story, the Mormon story and the Muslim story. In other words, there are four billion people who stand outside of the Christian bubble, and they can see reality clearly. The fact is, the Christian story is completely imaginary.

How do the four billion non-Christians know, with complete certainty, that the Christian story is imaginary? Because the Christian story is just like the Santa story, the Mormon story and the Muslim story. There is the magical insemination, the magical star, the magical dreams, the magical miracles, the magical resurrection, the magical ascension and so on. People outside the Christian faith look at the Christian story and note these facts:

In other words, the Christian story is a fairly tale, just like the other three examples we have examined.

Now, look at what is happening inside your mind at this moment. I am using solid, verifiable evidence to show you that the Christian story is imaginary. Your rational mind can see the evidence. Four billion non-Christians would be happy to confirm for you that the Christian story is imaginary. However, if you are a practicing Christian, you can probably feel your "religious mind" overriding both your rational mind and your common sense as we speak. Why? Why were you able to use your common sense to so easily reject the Santa story, the Mormon story and the Muslim story, but when it comes to the Christian story, which is just as imaginary, you are not?

Try, just for a moment, to look at Christianity with the same amount of healthy skepticism that you used when approaching the stories of Santa, Joseph Smith and Mohammed. Use your common sense to ask some very simple questions of yourself:

No one (besides little kids) believes in Santa Claus. No one outside the Mormon church believes Joseph Smith's story. No one outside the Muslim faith believes the story of Mohammed and Gabriel and the winged horse. No one outside the Christian faith believes in Jesus' divinity, miracles, resurrection, etc.

Therefore, the question I would ask you to consider right now is simple: Why is it that human beings can detect fairy tales with complete certainty when those fairy tales come from other faiths, but they cannot detect the fairy tales that underpin their own faith? Why do they believe their chosen fairy tale with unrelenting passion and reject the others as nonsense? For example:

Yet, when Christians look at their own religion, they are for some reason blind. Why? And no, it has nothing to do with the fact that the Christian story is true. Your rational mind knows that with certainty, and so do four billion others. This book, if you will let it, can tell you why.

A simple experiment

If you are a Christian who believes in the power of prayer, here is a very simple experiment that will show you something very interesting about your faith.

Take a coin out of your pocket. Now pray sincerely to Ra:

Now flip the coin. Chances are that you won't get past the fifth or sixth flip and the coin will land tails.

What does this mean? Most people would look at this data and conclude that Ra is imaginary. We prayed to Ra, and Ra did nothing. We can prove that Ra is imaginary (at least in the sense of prayer-answering ability) by using statistical analysis. If we flip the coin thousands of times, praying to Ra each time, we will find that the coin lands heads or tails in exact correlation with the normal laws of probability. Ra has absolutely no effect on the coin no matter how much we pray. Even if we find a thousand of Ra's most faithful believers and ask them to do the praying/flipping, the results will be the same. Therefore, as rational people, we conclude that Ra is imaginary. We look at Ra in the same way that we look at Leprechauns, Mermaids, Santa and so on. We know that people who believe in Ra are delusional.

Now I want you to try the experiment again, but this time I want you to pray to Jesus Christ instead of Ra. Pray sincerely to Jesus like this:

Now flip the coin. Once again, after the fifth or sixth flip, the coin will land tails.

If we flip the coin thousands of times, praying to Jesus each time, we will find that the coin lands heads or tails in exact correlation with the normal laws of probability. It is not like there are two laws of probability -- one for Christians who pray and the other for non-Christians. There is only one law of probability because prayers have zero effect. Jesus has no effect on our planet no matter how much we pray. We can prove that conclusively using statitical analysis.

If you believe in God, watch what is happening inside your mind right now. The data is absolutely identical in both experiments. With Ra you looked at the data rationally and concluded that Ra is imaginary. But with Jesus... something else will happen. In your mind, you are already coming up with a thousand rationalizations to explain why Jesus did not answer your prayers:

One rationalization that you may find yourself developing is particularly interesting. You may say to yourself: "Well, of course Jesus doesn't answer me when I pray about a coin toss, because it is too trivial." Where did this rationalization come from? If you read what Jesus says about prayer in the Bible (see this proof), Jesus does not ever say, "don't pray to me about coin tosses." Jesus clearly says he will answer your prayers, and he puts no boundaries on what you may pray for. You invented this rationalization out of thin air.

You are an expert at creating rationalizations for Jesus. The reason you are an expert is because Jesus does not answer any of your prayers (see this proof). The reason why Jesus does not answer any of your prayers is because Jesus and God are imaginary.

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