The quote is from Ricky Gervais. He’s referring to his reply to theists who question his atheism.
“…they are nearly as atheistic as me.”
I have been having more and more conversations with believers now. I am in the business of trying to challenge ideas. My ideas, their ideas, all ideas. Put them on the table and let’s talk about them. Recently, a pastor friend of mine asked me this question.
“I would ask you the why is disbelief a virtue? What do we benefit from it?”
My response was probably not very convincing, and I am very critical of myself. I always second guess the way I convey ideas because my goal is to convey them concisely, directly, and clearly. I don’t think I did a very good job of that.
“Oh we benefit so much from skepticism. Even you, the faithful Christian! Haha. How much trouble have you saved yourself from being skeptical of all God claims. You benefit from being skeptical about Zeus, Buddha, Allah. You benefit by not believing in Santa and fairies and all sorts of things.
The way in which you benefit is that beliefs inform how we behave, so by you not behaving as if these things all exist, you behave more sanely. You act in a way that is more consistent with reality. You behave more rationally. You buy your kids presents because of your skepticism of Santa. Without that, your kids would be pretty upset.”
But I think that this point is a valid one. We are all skeptical. We all live in the realm of skepticism to a degree. It’s because skepticism works, whether we have admitted it or not. It worms it’s way into our decision making by the very virtue of it’s use.
The default position of non-belief is virtuous because it keeps us from believing every claim that is presented. There are more ways to be wrong, and therefore more wrong claims that can be made, than there are more ways to be right. So we should measure claims with a very accurate ruler.
And we see this in reality. We see that there are many many many contradictory claims, specifically between the different religions, but even within them. The different sects, and different theologies. This doesn’t mean that none of them are right, but it does show that a whole lot of them are wrong just on the nature of the claims and the amount of them that contradict.
Theists would have to agree too. Maybe even more strongly than I feel about it. They believe so strongly that their God is the one true God that they disbelieve all other God claims on the basis of contradiction alone.
Skepticism makes two basic assumptions that I think are valid:
1. We exist in a reality with properties.
2. Our perceptions about this reality are sometimes right, and sometimes wrong.
But there are those that would claim absolute certainty of an idea. Ideas that don’t have good enough reason to believe in, let alone claim certainty over. Those that claim certainty of an idea are incorrect. Not in the idea they believe in, but in the way in which they believe it. Absolute certainty doesn’t exist, and even the Pope can be wrong about things.
It’s this acceptance that allows us to examine ALL ideas for truth, and consistency within the reality we inhabit. In my 2nd blogpost I spoke about the nature of truth.
The second point I brought up in my response was that beliefs inform our actions. What we believe has huge impact on how we behave. For example, if I believed that Link for the Legend of Zelda was a true story, I might be inclined to take up my sword, go into the woods and try to help him out! But this is nonsense, and my actions won’t do anything good or useful.
In the same way, religious beliefs that are false have consequences. Religious beliefs are also extremely influential. It’s important that we are skeptical of religious claims until they’re proven themselves correct.
This is why I encourage anyone that believes in a God to seriously question your beliefs. When I was a Christian I believed in doing this to bolster my faith. It turned me into a stronger skeptic, and someone with a firmer grip on reality, in my opinion.