Reach Out and Touch Reality
Here’s a neat trick: define religious faith as “an irrational attachment to a pre-existing idea regardless of any evidence that contradicts it” and then ask if religions that rely on faith are equally out of touch with reality. Well, yeah, if you define faith that way, as Greta Christina does, then by definition religions fundamentally rely on an irrational attachment to ideas about reality that evidence clearly indicates are false, and so they’re clearly not reaching out to touch reality. And they’re irrational, by definition. Case closed.
Christina’s on slightly more solid ground when stating that “any belief in a supernatural world that affects the natural one is equally implausible, equally the product of cognitive biases, equally unsupported by any good evidence.” Here she speaks of evidence not supporting, rather than contradicting, the religious idea. I’m assuming she knows the difference even though her writing seems to conflate the two. She asserts that “all of [religions] contort, ignore, or deny reality in order to maintain their attachment to their faith.” Her example of the Eucharist, however, which she charmingly calls a “magic cracker” that “literally becomes the body of their god when they eat it,” involves no contortion, ignorance, or denial. The doctrine presupposes a supernatural occurrence beyond the empirically verifiable or indicative—Christina’s limited standard of having touched reality—but nothing empirically verifiable can contradict it. Oh, and by the way, Christina’s use of the word “when” in describing the Eucharist betrays her fundamental ignorance of the religious idea. Come on! At least get the idea right before you dismiss it.
Religious faith presupposes an encounter with reality beyond the physical senses. Clearly some religions make claims about the material world that science and other disciplines have contradicted, but not every religion disrespects non-religious disciplines in such manner. Christina seems to take it as a fault that some particular religions have rethought their understandings of the world in light of new discoveries and new evidence, but this willingness to rethink speaks of religion’s respect for science and for reality. And do I have to point out the scientists have also rethought their fundamental ideas about reality when new evidence comes to light? I suppose when scientists reform their ideas, they’re not “presenting a plausible face and shoehorning their beliefs around reality.”
Science has given religious people cause to reconsider reality and their own religions, especially in cases where their religion speaks about the material world; but as science has developed, it has also given non-religious people cause to rethink reality and the ways they understand it. This shared reformation of the mind doesn’t really interest Christina, though, because from her perspective, any talk of a world beyond that which is perceivable by the senses is unequivocally crazy talk.