Today we are going to discuss another reason why believers believe in the dumb shit they believe. Let’s start with an interesting example.
I know a nurse (RN) that worked at an inner city location for a while. It would be an understatement to say there was a lot of teen pregnancy in the community. It was fairly normal for 12 and 13 year old girls to be admitted for labor. This is quite concerning, of course, and so she started trying to figure out what was going on. As it turns out, these young teenagers simply believed that when a woman got to a certain age, they just started having babies.
Yes, feel free to dwell on that for a moment, and when your eyebrows come back from your forehead, we will discuss.
All their life in this neighborhood, young women of the age of 12 or 13 just started getting pregnant. It was the norm. And since they had no other reasonable answer, they simply understood that at a certain age, women just started getting pregnant. I mean, they ate food before, walked around town before, danced before, had sex before, listened to music before…. the obvious conclusion is that early teen women simply get pregnant at that age!
I use that example to illustrate the point that assigning something a cause does not mean it is a cause. Even if your entire community thinks it is the cause, and you really, really believe that is the cause, it doesn’t mean it is the cause.
Let’s call this “false agency,” or the belief that something is doing something that is not actually doing it. No matter how many times your other friends start maturing and just start getting pregnant, mere physical maturation does NOT actually cause pregnancy. If you believe this, you are wrong.
False agency is the way people “see god.” They found their car keys because… god. They got a promotion because…. god. They got help in their time of need because… god. They were able to turn a bad situation into an okay situation because…. god. They are eating a good meal because… god. They feel happy because… god. They are generally healthy because…. god. Bad shit happens because…. god. Well, god’s plan, or some such shit.
And after you have been told thousands of times in your impressionable years that something causes something, and something happens, you assume that the first something caused it. Just like those inner city teenagers believing you just start getting pregnant at a certain age, religious people just believe that god did the thing. And they continue to give him the credit, despite not earning any of it.
This is exactly why children believe in Santa Claus, because yeah! There is our shit! But that alone should point out the problem. Giving credit where it is not due is nothing but fooling yourself.
I get it, Christians. You assume your god does stuff, and stuff happens. Therefore god, right? Nope. It doesn’t work that way. The gods don’t cause thunder, earthquakes, lightning, you finding your car keys, or any of the other things that happen. Lots of people work really hard to make stuff happen, like doctors. You didn’t recover from that disease or surgery for nothing, that doctor spent years of their life learning how to save yours. How about you quit giving your imaginary friend credit for everything, and give credit where it is actually due? The doctor literally chopped out your appendix that was poisoning you. Your god didn’t do that.
When you survive a storm, thank the weather scientists for predicting the storm so you could prepare, the engineers that built a solid structure in which to shelter, the politicians and professional groups that design and enforce building codes so your structure was built correctly, your municipal government for updating the utilities to resist storms, thank the police and fire responders that took care of bad situations before they got worse, the tech and communications companies for providing internet and phones for all parties, the nerds in California for making computers and smart phones cheap and accessible so you knew the storm was coming, the grocer for ensuring adequate stock of food and supplies for the last-minute pre-storm shopping, the truck drivers for getting those products to the stores on time, the entire farm and food network for getting food from ridiculously long distances into your local store, and the on-call linemen that made speedy repairs to ensure power stayed on.
Without those people, you might not have survived the storm. Thank them, and give them credit. Your god didn’t do a damned thing. But I know, you still want to believe in your god. So maybe god didn’t literally cut out your appendix. But he must have something, something magical, to guide the doctor’s hand, right? Again, no. The doctor used their own initiative and drive to learn and practice so they got good at doing their job. But god must have something, something magical to help them learn, right! Again, no. People learn things in ways that we know of, by reading, watching, and trying. The first time they aren’t so good, then they get better. Surgeons and drug dealers all learn like this, and I assume you don’t credit god for the drug dealer’s exceptional skill.
But TSA! God must have something, something magic so the knowledge was there! Once again, no. “God” hung around for almost 100,000 years and did nothing, but people started realizing that all the squishy stuff inside us did different things, and they started experimenting and digging up dead bodies. Then through trial and error, doctors started figuring out how to do stuff to help. It was a long, complicated, and sometimes dangerous learning curve. But what it wasn’t was magic. It was a hard fought, human achievement.
I’m not going to bother to keep pushing back the miracle any more steps. For the religious, god’s help is always one step before their own knowledge. Said another way, their god fills the void of ignorance. But this has always been what god was. God always did the magic something something to explain what they don’t understand, and they gave him the credit. The more you know, the less ignorant you are, and the less space god has to work in.
So let’s all just grow up and quit trying to pretend our imaginary friend is pulling any strings. Let’s actually do stuff, and thank the people that did the stuff. Can we try that?
The Spartan Atheist