I have a religious friend who often states he does not accept the Catholic church and thinks that religion is bullshit. However, this very same friend thinks that prayer helped his grandmother to regain her sight rather than the doctors who did the real work. We've often argued about religious matters, and as he's a close friend, I've soft-balled him and not challenged him overmuch. I need to get my thoughts straight before I start burning that bridge.
Faith. You want me to accept things on faith. You want me to accept things with no evidence on faith. Going with Christianity, as it's familiar to me, let me show you exactly what you want me to accept on faith...
1. There is an invisible, magical man in the sky.
2. The invisible, magical man in the sky is benevolent and all powerful.
3. There is a place called hell where the damned are tortured for eternity and I will go to if I do not accept the magical man in the sky.
4. There is a place called heaven which is my eternal reward for believing in the magical man in the sky.
That's the basis, yeah? Let's go through this.
1. Ok, there's an invisible magical man in the sky. Where is he? What is he? Why is he a he anyway? What evidence do you have to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he exists? Things that are, for all intents and purposes invisible to me, germs for instance, I can accept as real because evidence exists to explain them, what they are, and how they work. The idea that tiny little things I can't see cause me to get sick would be a ludicrous claim, as ludicrous as the demons cause diseases claim, if not for the evidence that the germs exist. An exorcist has never proved that a demon exists and an exorcism has never proved to be useful in getting rid of the common cold. Scientists did prove that germs exists and scientists did prove that antibiotics can cure certain diseases. You have no proof, so why should I believe you?
2. If your magical man is benevolent and all powerful, explain Africa to me. Explain the starvation, genocide, AIDS epidemic, and so forth. How is any of that benevolent?
3. Your threat to me that I will burn in agony for an eternity if I disagree with you about the invisible, magical man in the sky would be more of a threat if you could prove that hell does exist. But there are no pictures of hell, no way to get directions to hell from here, no proof that it exists. That makes the threat of eternal damnation not really hold much water.
4. Heaven is my promised reward, but what is it? A vague understanding of being in the clouds, with all my dead relatives, for eternity? I get to be close to the magical man in the sky? Ok, sure, maybe that's a good thing. Where is heaven? How do I see it? How does this magical place explain how everyone is somehow alive and healthy again? Has anyone ever returned from it? No. There is no proof this supposedly wonderful place even exists.
So accept on faith that god exists, a claim with no evidence. Then accept on faith that god is all powerful and benevolent, a claim with evidence to the contrary. Then accept that hell exists as my punishment, another claim with no evidence. Then accept that heaven is a reward, another claim with no evidence.
Before I answer all those questions, I have one for you... Why are you Catholic? Islam has everything your religion has: heaven, hell, a supposedly all powerful and benevolent creator... Why not believe in Allah? Billions of people, I think, believe in Allah; why don't you? Why won't you accept on faith that what they believe is right? Their claims have as much evidence as your claims, that is, none, so why pick what you have picked? What reason do you have to accept your claims on faith but not their claims on faith? I reject their claims, yet you don't have a problem with me rejecting their claims. What sense does that make?
So, no, to all of your claims. You have faith in the unproven. I do not. I will no more accept your claims of the magic man any more than I will accept claims of UFOs, the loch ness monster, or bigfoot. Without evidence, you have no compelling reason for me to believe what you believe. And, yes, I am comparing belief in god to other favorite skeptics topics. I do so because the general conclusion of skepticism applied to religion is atheism, or at least a loss of faith.
And I know you'll call me arrogant for saying this. But let's look at that closer. You won't change your mind; despite the lack of evidence, you will continue to believe. You have faith. Nothing will change your mind. I know what it would take to change my mind: evidence. If you came to me with incontrovertible evidence of your magical man tomorrow, I would convert on the spot. You say I'm arrogant for being closed-minded, when I am keeping an open mind to any faith with evidence; I say that you who have made a decision and know nothing will change your mind, you are the arrogant one. Go look up arrogant and see who you think the word really applies to.