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You Should Only Believe True Things

I’ve been thinking a lot about religion lately. I’ve actually been trying to put down some thoughts about specifics. But a conversation with a friend last night got me thinking about it more generally. My problem with any sort of dogma is pretty fundamental and likely irreconcilable.

Different denominations have different teachings, and while conversions happen, generally you are expected to stick with the group you were born into. Once you decide which group you belong with, you must at least pay lip service to your sect’s teachings. The Catholics in particular are explicit about this. They have a whole speech you need to memorize called the Profession Of Faith that lays out the minimum believes required of a member in good standing.  Still, all religions have similar expectations. The problem is that this goes against what I believe to be a very common sense idea. In fact, if I told you this idea, you likely wouldn’t hesitate to agree. The idea is simple: You should only believe true things.

At first glance, this seems obvious. The idea of knowingly believing false things seems almost contradictory. But being a card carrying Theist requires you to believe all sorts of things that are pretty questionable. If you’re an Evangelical, for instance, you’re required to take the Christian Bible as the literal truth. Including the contradictory parts, I assume. Not sure how you pull that off, but the real question is why would you even try?

There’s a reason you want to believe in true things. The search for truth is the engine of human progress. Folk tales give us a very approximate model of how the world works. We’ve been able to refine our view of nature and have ended up cutting out a lot of cruft. We no longer need divine intervention to understand things like disease and weather.

True things can be elusive. You’ve never going to be able to weed out all the wrong ideas in the world. But if you agree, even in theory, that true things are more desirable than false things, I don’t see how you have any choice but to leave religion behind. Truth is an entirely separate path from dogma.

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