Societies functioning in such a way as to increase the well-being of their members generally have several things in common, and religion, though it can not claim all of the credit, did and still does offer (at least for its members or likely future inductees) some sense of community. While it’s true that I am against the notion that religion is a net good for society (to minimize any collective backlash from possible emotional and psychological confusion, I do believe that we would do well to rid ourselves of it gradually, as it seems we are), I can admit that throughout our history as a conscious species, our self-invented (inflicted?) religions have offered us several things in the ways of comfort. Some highly regarded religious figures say that religion has offered answers to the most compelling questions ever pondered by humans. Of course, each religion claims to have the only correct answers, which they each refer to as the ‘Truth’. And in turn, many people listen, and they believe, and they obey, and (sometimes not without harmful effect) they act. Because these Truth claims, logically, can not all be correct due to being in direct conflict with one another at a fundamental level, religions have an obvious major problem to sort out amongst themselves. And so ensues the long standing ‘My Religion is Righter Than Your Religion’ debate.
These disputes between religious members, at least from my own point of view, could be avoided by the simple means of admission in the phrase: “I don’t know.” Apparently, this is a much less appealing phrase to some humans than I thought it could be. Personally, I use it quite often, so I don’t really see the problem. Wait. Yes, I think I do. At least part of the trouble is revealed when considering the arrogance of religious Truth claims, asserted sans evidence, and the rather copious amount of Faith required to believe such postulations as the truth of gods and their interactions with their creations.
Bolstered by Faith, the human mind may permit itself to believe literally anything at all and still feel as if they have their view of reality intact. For example, the Truth claim:
‘Jesus was born of a virgin.’
This is a statement to which adherents of Christianity must pledge belief, taken directly from the Apostles Creed. Christians must, in turn, believe that this statement is true. What must one do in order to convince themselves that this notion is true and somehow represents reality? In just this one claim, there are several boundaries that the rational mind must disregard to make this a possibility. First, because we have no good evidence whatsoever for the validity of this assertion, the human mind must invent a reason in lieu of evidence (faith), in order to trust that these written words have a certain amount of credibility. Once this is established as an acceptable possibility at least from the point of written history, the limitations of biology and the laws of physics begin to come into question. One must then coerce themselves into either believing that a one-off biological anomaly occurred, rendering it possible for one Jewish girl to become pregnant without one of her eggs being fertilized by male sperm (which is not necessarily a divine notion, but very unlikely nonetheless), or that there was a single momentary suspension of the laws of physics, insofar God was able to breach the threshold of the metaphysical realm and our physical reality, and insert by some purity-retaining method, a God-human-embryo version of Himself into the womb of a Jewish girl. It seems that the leaps required to clear the hurdles of non-common sense continue to increase in extremity the further we inquire into the validity of this one claim.
One would think that this ‘delving into’ of the nature of the claim would serve to slowly unweave the blanket of comfort received by any disciple who is steadfast in their position of belief. Sometimes, fewer times than I’d wish, it actually does, the scrutiny acting as a means of exposing and exploiting the chinks in the armor of Faith. But the Bible warns it’s readers against this deviant known as reason, and recognizes rational inquiry as an enemy. Alas, this is the way religious Faith is designed, making common understanding of these claims amongst groups of like-minded humans more than just a possibility. It makes these claims, even when they are appropriately analyzed, scrutinized, and pitted against rationality, capable of being True. To be a Christian, one can not, must not say ‘I don’t know’ when considering the claim of Jesus’ virgin birth.
Personally, I do believe that it is more likely (at the very least, it operates within the natural laws of our universe) that the Jewish girl, under the influence of pressures imposed by society and conformity, simply lied. This, apparently, is still up for debate, but I’m thankful that taking a definite position on this is not an actual necessity. When one does not adhere to the confines of the Christian tenets, nor does one rely on faith to replace good evidence to warrant belief, one has no need to eliminate, or even minimize the amount of rationality from the process leading to, or away from belief. The less comforting but more rational non-position of suspended belief serves just fine until proper evidence is presented.